It is a constant battle, a struggle...a never ending war. I am not perfect and sometimes I fail. Sometimes things are beyond my control and out of my grasp...I am only human.
Sometimes, these mistakes...in the blink of an eye become catastrophes...they become tragedies. I take blame...I feel extreme guilt. The public criticizes, they condemn, they spread untruths and rumor. They know best, obviously, they were right here experiencing it, too. They were right beside me. They would have done this and that and everything would be brownies and cupcakes, you know.
I learned my lesson and I stopped sharing. Things were hidden and as you may have noticed, Tad and I became a lot more private. I have not updated Tad's blog in over a year because of this.
It was better this way...for a long, long time.
Lately, in my news feed and private messages...dogs are being threatened with euthanasia, new homes, and other 'alternatives' due to their aggressive behavior. The dog bit this guy, the dog growled at the grandmother, the dog snapped at the husband, he attacked a dog, or any other variation that could be considered normal dog reaction.
I feel rage inside reading these posts. I feel anger. It is not for the dog...I feel complete and utter sorrow for the dog...the victim. He is misunderstood...he is singled out and labeled for a normal reaction to a perceived threat. But, Granny isn't threatening...nor is my baby...well, yes...actually, both of those two are absolutely terrifying to the right dog.
I want to tell you all a few things...a few things about Tad and I. I want to delve deep into the secrets that never grace your Facebook because the 'public' can't handle it. These are things that have come and gone and they have taught Tad and I things we didn't know about each other and things we needed to know.
Every single moment of your life is a lesson. It may not always be clear to you right away, but just know that there is something to be learned with every passing second. I try to remember this when tragedy strikes. I try to remember that even though we have stumbled, we are going to get up and keep marching on. Such is our way.
It is dedication. It is a dedication that I never knew I had. It is a fight that I may never win, but I will never surrender. I have been around dogs my whole life. I have worked hands-on with dogs for nearly 10 years. These past few with Tad...not even three years...I have learned so much. I don't know it all...and I definitely don't know enough. But, I am always learning...always trying.
When I stopped on Calvary Road in March 2011, I didn't know what I was getting into. At that point, I felt that all dogs were grateful to be rescued. They were forgiving and loving. Up until Tad, I have apparently been blessed with angels. I've never had a 'bad' dog...until Tad.
I was...horrified when Tad started to come out of his shell. My tried and true methods of training were not working. The dog was becoming more and more aggressive despite 'positive reinforcement' and 'treats'. I would come to find out that I was 'reinforcing' those aggressive tendencies and I was helping to create the monster.
The thing about dog behavior is that everyone thinks they 'know it all'. It seems everyone is selling themselves as a dog trainer because they know this and that about dogs. Let me tell you something, there is not one method that works for every dog. Tad's trainer, Michael Baugh, and I kept having to back track. We would learn a method and apply it only to have it backfire.
I became so frustrated and defeated. I was nearing the end of the rope.
By this time, Tad had left a small puppy with staples across her forehead, he had bitten a good number people, he had broken teeth in fights, he had viciously attacked numerous dogs and cats, he lunged at people regularly, he charged full speed across a parking lot to surround a terrified man, he had needed stitches multiple times, and he even assisted other dogs in leaving a cat in intensive care and requiring bone surgery.
I considered euthanasia. I was done. I could do no more.
Sure, it'd bring me some relief...it'd save a lot of time and trouble...but, could I live with myself? I saved this dog's life just to kill him off in the end?
I battled for days and I spoke to no one. Maybe I'm stubborn, or maybe my subconscious knew someone would talk me into it and that's not what I truly, deep down, in my heart wanted.
Tad and I took a hard fall around that time. He and I had always had a very tight bond. It was gone. It had dissipated. Disappeared into nothing and felt like it never existed.
I started watching all of Tad's original videos. I saw us and I saw what we had. He believed in me. For the first time, I bawled at his condition...I was heartbroken. I felt sick. I felt anger. All those feelings you all felt back then, I was feeling. It was too much. I couldn't handle it.
Here is this dog who believes I hung the moon and I want to kill him off because I just 'can't handle' his behavior. Excuse my French, but what the fuck?!
I couldn't do it. I just couldn't.
So, I paid more attention to detail. I took more time to just watch. If I was going to fight back, I needed weapons. I needed to find his triggers and I needed to catch them before he fired.
I think this is where most people fall short with these dogs. They only see the 'response' and not the trigger. The bite is not a trigger, the bite is the LAST fail-safe. If you're at the bite, you've been oblivious for too long. Is that harsh, maybe...but the truth hurts. It killed me, I know.
I cannot take the place of an accurate behaviorist/trainer. I can however offer advice through experience. I can tell you that there is no overnight fix. There is no cure. You will always have a reactive dog. This is one of the hardest lessons for Tad and I to learn. This behavior...it doesn't go away.
You must remain in control and on top at all times. If you cannot do that, then you must avoid it. No half-ways. One or the other.
If a service person comes to my house, Tad and I meet them somewhere away from my house first...somewhere that Tad has never been. If that is not possible, Tad is removed from the property and 'hidden'. It's out of sight, out of mind, for him. Tad does NOT go in public without me. Ever. He is never 'left' with anyone, or under the supervision of someone else that has not worked exclusively with him. He does not go out with 'the pack'. He does not run free at the clinic. He is given pheromones to 'chill out' and he is constantly under surveillance. I do these things because I know these are what work. I know that these steps avoid and/or bypass his triggers.
Is this crazy? Over the top? Ridiculous? You can label it however you want.
I call it dedication. I call it loyalty. I owe this to him.
If you are struggling and suffering as I have with Tad, I offer you this parting advice. I don't care about his past and I don't care about where he came from. Right now is important; right now is what matters. You can't live in the past, you can't feel pity for 'what was', all the time. Pay attention, CLOSE attention...find those triggers. Learn them, tattoo them on your forearm, I don't care. Once you have them, things are going to be a lot easier for you. If you can't control the 'trigger', avoid it. No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes...either control or avoid. Only then will you get ahead.
Control or avoid. You owe this to him.
...a very, very special thanks to Michael Baugh who, despite butting heads with me a few times, has never given up on us. He continues to offer advice and motivate me. He has given me the tools I need to help Tad, and inspiration and guidance that I can never repay. Thank you, Michael. Thank you.