August 02, 2006

the unexpected dog

I've mentioned this a couple of times now, so I probably should explain.

We have a new dog. This was not the expected dog. The expected dog should come home with us sometime in the next week to 3 years. There are some issues there. That will put us at four. And none of these a small dogs. Hell, we don't even have any mediums. Jeffrey is a pit bull-Sheppard mix. Matchbox is a Husky-Lab mix. Waiting for us in Wyoming is China (the name will change, I'm sure of it) an Aussie-Malamute mix.
The unexpected dog is a Great Dane. We've always wanted a Great Dane. Well, Ensie always wanted a Great Dane and I eventually came around. We realized that we wanted a third dog when we had Herky the Houseguest. Ensie found China in Wyoming, and made arrangements for us to get her. We're still working on that. There was also a notice in the Tacoma paper about how overcrowded the Humane Society is right now.

We really should just skip over such articles. But we're not nearly that smart. We decided to visit.

Just to visit, right?

We weren't -as we kept telling ourselves- looking for a dog. I don't think either of us believed that.

Ensie found him first. An elderly Great Dane. How much chance does this poor guy have to be adopted? He was scary-thin, like Nicole Richie-post-coke-jag thin. His back legs bowed underneath him, and he had trouble standing. His eyes were slightly glazed, and his fur was falling out in tufts. According to the info sheet on his kennel, he was a stray, not an owner turn-in or anything. The Humane Society didn't have a name, and wasn't sure about his age. The vet estimated it was about 13. Thirteen for a Dane is about mid-twenties for a smaller dog.

Great choice for a pet, huh?

Not all was bad though. He was more alert than you might think, and he did lick my hand through the cage door. He'd probably been a pet before. He was fixed, and seemed to have some basic obedience training. More than anything though, he just wanted to lay down. His behavior study showed disinterest in just about everything. Again, how much chance does this old man have to be adopted?

Getting better everyday, apparently.

We adopted him. We hoped -and still do- to give him a family and nice, stable home for his last years. Or year. Or days, as it seemed at first. We named him Pharaoh before we left the Humane Society. Actually, we dubbed him Pharoah, which means we're going to get misspelled tags any day now. Our issues began before we left the parking lot. We had the Tribeca, and it was obvious that this old dog wasn't going to be jumping in the back. The good news? It sure seemed he wanted to get in the car with us. When I went to lift him, he struggled at first. Then he snapped at me. Ensie kept his jaw closed with the leash, and I was able to lift him into the car. We stopped at the pet store on the way home. He let me lift him down, but he snapped at me again. Walking he was fine, but when we stopped at the pet store his back legs would cross, catch at the knee and he would fall down. We picked up an extra-large muzzle for him. He didn't have any problem wearing it, but he wasn't pleased when I lifted him back in. Both Ensie and I were nervous the ride home. Maybe this dog didn't have as much left him as we thought. When we arrived back home, he jumped out of the back before I could lift him. His back legs collapsed under him when he landed.

We did the Jeffrey Meeting first. We were outside and on neutral ground, with both on-leash. Jeffrey got really excited and tried to jump on Pharaoh, who snapped back at him. I pulled Jeffrey off of him and made him submit. Eventually he did... sorta. He was never really relaxed, but he came closer than Pharaoh. He snapped at Jeffrey whenever he came near. We brought out Matchbox. Same story. Matches handled it well, but Pharaoh snapped at him. This was puzzling, since he shared his cage with another dog. We figured it was as much the stress of the day and the pain in his legs as much as anything. It was really hot that weekend, so we didn't worry about him sleeping outdoors for a night. We set up a bed outside and gave him a big bowl of senior-dog kibble that he steadfastly refused to eat. Ensie and I visited him during the evening and night, just to check up on him. He seemed to relax a little, but we both realized that he didn't want his back end touched at all. It was not a good start.

Had the Humane Society been open on Sunday, we probably would have taken him back.

Sunday forced us to work with him. We bought him soft food, which he gulped down. We slowly reintroduced Jeffrey and Matchbox to him. Jeffrey was much better the next day. He wasn't so interested and he wasn't threatening. More importantly, Pharaoh was feeling better. He could stand for longer periods, and actually wanted to walk around the yard. We just left the three of them out there for awhile. We still weren't entirely sold, but we decided to let Pharaoh in the house. Just for a bit. He did okay. Jeffrey left him alone, but he had serious problems navigating in the house. He was constantly bumping into walls and couches. There was also an issue with the cats: He was scared of them, and lashed out because of it. We bought some soft food and he managed to eat it. He stayed with us thought Sunday evening, but slept outside again. Now we had a choice to make: Do we take him back, or do we -based on the day's improvement- keep him. There wasn't any choice, really.

We wanted to make this work. Ensie took him into the vet's office first thing Monday morning, and he was surprisingly healthy. His teeth and gums had issues, he was seriously underweight, but she didn't find any hip dysphasia. He was also more alert than he'd been during the weekend. We kept him inside the house, and he slept in our bedroom like the other dogs. At this point we have Jeffrey on the bed with us, Matchbox on the floor on my side and Pharaoh on the floor next to the Missus. I haven't the foggiest idea where the fourth will sleep. That was 10 days ago, and the improvement Pharaoh has made is remarkable. He's appetite is healthy, he's getting along with the dogs and cats, he even goes on a daily walk. He's even seemed to figure out who Ensie and I am. He wags his tail when we come home and follows us around the house. He's our dog.

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