For the past new months, Sarah and I had been discussing adopting a second dog. On 18 Sep 04, we did just that.
After talking about what kind of dog we wanted, we started looking around at the local shelters. After all, that was where we found Dalla, our first dog. Since none of the dogs there struck our fancy, we expanded our search using Petfinder.com. Some time later, we decided to drive up to Baraboo, WI and visit a dog named Sammie at the Highway of Hope rescue there.
After contacting the shelter, we bundled Dalla into the car, and drove up to meet Sammie. The rescue was nothing special. It is run by two women out of their homes. We met Sammie in the fenced backyard of one of the women. He was a nice looking dog, black with tan and white on his chest.
We spent probably a half-hour in the backyard with Sammie, the woman who ran the rescue, and Dalla. The dogs got along okay for the most part, with the expected jealousy from Dalla the only real exception. We were planning on taking Dalla for a hike at Devil’s Lake State Forest, so we asked the woman who ran the rescue is we could take Sammie with us, as well.
She agreed, so the the four us went for a hike at Devil’s Lake. It quickly became obvious that Sammie had never seen the opposite end of a leash before as he was all over the trail, weaving back and forth and tugging against the leash. However, he clearly enjoyed himself and we enjoyed having him with us. After our hike, we drove back to the rescue and told the woman running it that we wanted to adopt him. Some short time later, after filling out some paperwork, we were on the road back to Madison with two canines in the backseat of the car instead of one.
The first couple of days after we got Sammie home were interesting, to say the least. Dalla clearly was the alpha female and she laid down the law about what Sammie was and was not allowed to do. Sammie was also adjusting to the rhythms of our household. We normally take Dalla for a walk morning and evening. Some days, we take her to the dog park, instead of walking her around the neighborhood. At the rescue, Sammie was let out to run around the fenced backyard with the other dogs. Since we do not have a fenced yard, he could only be let outside on the leash.
We took Sammie to the dog park with Dalla on Sunday. While we generally did not have any problems, he was aggressive towards a beagle that jumped up on Sarah to solicit some attention. This was disturbing, but not unheard of as Dalla was also protective of us and jealous of dogs that she felt were horning in on “her” people.
Monday, 20 Sep 04, we took Sammie to the vet for some shots and to get him microchipped. While we were at the vet, we noticed some spots on his muzzle. The vet thought that perhaps they were old scars.
On Monday, I also tried taking Sammie to a dog park within walking distance of our house. We got to the dog park, but he attacked a beagle-mix that came within range of him while he was on the leash. He also barked incessantly at the other dogs. So, he was never let off the leash, and we walked back home.
Walking both dogs at the same time was something of a trial as Sammie was all over the sidewalk. If one person tried to walk both dogs, he quickly tied himself and the person walking him into a knot. Dalla would often get run over as he swerved side to side, seemingly without care. Given that he was so difficult to manage on leash, Sarah and I were forced to each walk a dog which immediately doubled the man hours spent walking dogs each week.
By Thursday, the bumps on Sammie’s face had leaped out into high definition. Another trip back to the vet got him a prescription for anti-biotics since the vet thought he had a bacterial infection. She also found that Sammie had roundworms, so he was given a wormer to take care of those and an anti-diarrheal because the wormer often causes diarrhea.
About this time, Sarah and I decided to change Sammie’s name to Chili. We knew of three other Sammy’s or Sam’s at the various dog parks. In addition, neither of us was crazy about having a dog that shared a common name used by people.
Friday, Sarah took a plane to visit her Grandmother in Pennsylvania while I took the dogs with me in the car to visit my parents in South Dakota. Whenever I stopped the car at a rest area, Chili would bark fiercely at the dogs outside the car.
After a weekend in South Dakota, there were no signs that Chili’s temperment or bacterial infection were improving. Another trip back to the vet yielded more bills and more tests. Finally the diagnosis came back: ringworm.
The treatment for Chili’s ringworm was to bathe him every five days with a special shampooo, use a post-shampoo antifungal conditioner, give an oral antihistimine twice-a-day, and use a topical antifungal twice-a-day. We would have to do this for the next six weeks. In addition, we needed to start bathing Dalla with the antifungal shampoo to prevent her from getting ringworm.
While all of this was going on, we noticed that we were having trouble getting Chili enough exercise. We couldn’t walk him very long because he was so frustrating to have on leash. In addition, he would eventually see or come upon another dog, and he would lose it: barking, lunging, and growling. We could not take him to the dog park because he had a track record of attacking other dogs at dog park. We could not take him to many of the unofficial dog parks around town because he might attack dogs there, as well. So, we were forced to start seeking out those fringe areas were we could run him, but generally not expect to see other dogs. In a somewhat larger city like Madison, those areas are harder to come by than you might think.
While it was a nightmare to get exercise for Chili outside, we was a pleasure to have when he was inside. He got along swimmingly with Dalla after those first few days. They could eat side-by-side and share the same water dish. They would chase each other around the house, mouth wrestling, jumping, growling, and playing tug-of-war with a pair of old socks. Chili was very affectionate towards us. He loved nothing better than to jump into bed with us, no matter what time of day or night it was. We often had to kick him out after he would try and sneak in to the bed late at night.
Chili loved to play tennis ball and he didn’t care who threw it or where, as long as he could go get it and bring it back. Dalla refuses to play with Sarah for some reason, so Sarah loved having a dog around who would play with her. Chili had clearly been taught to release the tennis ball at his last home because he sometimes dropped it into a hand held below his mouth; other times, he would put it down and push it towards people with his nose.
We loved having another dog in the house with a different personality than Dalla’s. Not that there is anything wrong with Dalla’s personality, but variety is always nice. However, we were constantly worrying about getting Chili exercise and what might happen if he got out of the house by running out an open door.
Finally, that worry and hassle became too much for us to handle. Despite our best efforts, we just could not get him the exercise he needed. His extreme aggression towards other dogs made it just too difficult to take him out into the world.Earlier today, I brought him back to the rescue in Baraboo. Doing that was a very difficult thing to do, but it was also the right thing to do. If we never had to take him outdoors, Chili would still be here. However, we like to take Dalla out for walks around the neighborhood and to dog park. We like to take her for hikes in spring, summer, and fall. In the winter, we like to take her out on the frozen lakes. We just could not envision doing that with Chili.
While we may have been able to manage his aggression with some intensive training, we could never hope to “cure” it. We would most likely always be worrying in the back of our minds. “Is this the time he loses it and rips some other dog apart,” the little voice would be constantly asking. In addition, that training would have been very resource intensive. It would have taken money and time we don’t have.
We miss Chili. The house is quieter without him and Dalla tearing it up. Coming home is a bit less of an event with just one wagging tail instead of two. But, we do not miss the worry and the aggravation his unfortunate upbringing instilled in him.
Good luck out there, big guy. We both hope you find a nice family with a fenced yard out in the country. That is really where you will fit in best.