I was going to do a much longer blog post about this later, after this housework is completed this weekend, and post briefly on Facebook, what happened with the dog…. but holy crap this is already so long, I’m just going to put this on the blog.
So, here we go.
Ripley has shown signs of fear since the beginning. Fear of being in the car. Fear of loud children in the PetSmart that Val and Lala and I took her to the day I adopted her. An adoption that I have to be honest, I had my doubts about because of how fearful and timid she was at the interview. I can take on a tough case dog, but depending on HOW tough? This year might not be the best year for me to do that, my reserves are a little low right now. As much as I’d love to love on and help make a sad dog better, there are some things, as we’ll find out, I just can’t functionally have the space for right now.
So. Fear of cars, loud noises, thunder, rain, y’all know about that, I’ve posted about it. Barking at my reflection in the mirror, getting more aggressive to the reflection if I move closer to myself, instantly calming down if I move so that she can’t see my reflection in the mirror.
When I adopted her, Val and Lala met me at PetSmart. She loved them. Jeff was staying with me that week, so we had four or five days all together, the three of us, and she was absolutely fine with him. Would lay between us on the couch begging for pets.
Maybe three weeks ago, she barked her head off at Tim’s Uncle Joe when he came by to talk to me about the shed.
Two weeks ago, when Jenn and Duane came to drop off the swing, she barked at them for about half an hour while they were in the house, until I put the leash on her. I was planning on leading her into my bedroom and crating her until they left, but she calmed down enough that I let her stay in the living room. She stayed on the leash and didn’t bark at them again, although she did growl.
Last week my friend Lydia came by. Lydia is a dog person; knows dogs, knows problem dogs, is not upset by barking dogs. We sat with Ripley and Lydia fed her treats while Ripley barked as if longer and louder barking would make Lydia go away. She’d take the treat, and bark as she was eating it. She would take absolutely no correction from me. When Lydia got up to go to the bathroom, Ripley tried to bite her on the leg. It didn’t go through the jeans, but y’all, I was shook.
The other night… Tuesday? I took her with me to pick Jeff up at the train station. I didn’t think she’d have any bad reaction to him, since he was staying here when I got her. And she barked once at him at the station, until he got out of the shadows and close enough. Then she was fine. And fine in the car. And then we got into the house, and as he was trying to take his stuff back to the guest room, she lunged at him and tried to snap/bite at his legs. He’s a dog person, so he handled it well. But as we sat in the living room and tried to catch up, she got worse and worse. I tried to sit between them, to show her that he was my person, was in my pack. She got worse. I put her on the leash. She still got worse. We decided to call it a night, he got up, I stood up between them, and in a heartbeat she got around me and lunged for his face.
That night she stayed in my bedroom, where Jeff said he could still hear her barking at him, for over an hour, all the way at the other end of the house. I stayed up all night crying and throwing up.
The next day (Wednesday? it’s all blurring together now) I kept her secluded in my bedroom all day, taking her out on a leash to walk every two hours. If she saw Jeff or anyone who was delivering something that day, she would bark and growl. We went into Gainesville to run errands and had dinner with Jenn, whom I’d been texting with during all of this to say holy shitballs, I don’t know what to do. I was telling them that I felt like I couldn’t deal with this right now, I was just going to keep her in my bedroom all week, while the house work is being done; Jeff leaves Saturday or Sunday, I’ll figure out what to do with the dog next week. I’d been texting also with Val and Lala, who suggested a particular dog trainer that I’d heard good things of, so I contacted them, and also my vet to bring Ripley in on Friday for an emotional evaluation.
But in talking about it at dinner, when asked what my heart wanted to do – if nothing was going on in the house, if it was my regular life week, what would I do? And honestly… I’d look into returning her to the Humane Society. Even knowing that if they can’t train her out if it, she may have to be euthanized. Even with how much I would feel like a failure for having to return her. She loves me, clearly. And she’s a sweetheart. Around me. But one of the biggest goals I had when Tim died was to NOT ISOLATE MYSELF. And if I have an aggressive dog, I’m going to have to isolate a lot while working through that. Or forever, if I can’t. So…? I’ve never, ever returned a dog before. I mean, even with how Corwin and Lindy fought (and yes, maybe some of my reaction to Ripley attacking Jeff was PTSD from that), I still kept both of the dogs and worked with them. Y’all know that. But do I honestly have the emotional reserves to work with a dog like this? Is it fair to her if I don’t? Is it fair to me if I don’t? Perhaps the best thing all around, best for her, best for me, is if we … break up. If she’s picking up on some residual anxiety I have from Tim and Barbara dying within months of each other, and that’s making her feel protective, and her protectiveness makes me anxious, and then she picks up on my anxiety and gets more aggressive, I mean… it’s just the two of us feeding off each other in the most negative of ways. She deserves to be happy. I deserve to be happy. If I was willing to live alone, in solitude, and never have anyone over, and always worry that she’ll transfer her aggression onto a cat and kill it…. but, if I’m honest… I’m not willing to live like that. I just can’t. I would love to be the person who could, but I am not.
Then yesterday morning, as I was walking her in the front yard, she lunged against the leash to get to Jeff and the dirt delivery guy. I wouldn’t let her. She snapped at the back of my legs and tried to bite me.
I called the Humane Society in tears and left a message. I understand that there’s a process, that to rehome they have all these resources and you have to go down them before they’ll take a dog back, they absolutley will not take walk-in returns… I said I understood all of that but that her aggression is escalating exponentially and I don’t think she’s re-homeable.
They called me back, and let me tell you, I was SOBBING. This is embarrassing. This is heartbreaking. This is hard. I was fully expected to be treated like shit.
Instead? She said immediately that she would call the previous fosters to see if they would take her back.
There was just one problem… they are currently fostering a seven-month old, very dumb but happy puppy, who … just had her left hind leg amputated. This was highly unusual, very unorthodox, but if they were willing to take Ripley back, but felt it would be safer for the puppy to not be near her if she’s aggressive, would I be willing to foster the puppy for two weeks?
So in the middle of every other thing that was happening yesterday morning, I drove into Gainesville. I tearfully handed over Ripley (now being renamed Justice again) and signed the surrender paperwork. Then I filled out foster paperwork, and came home with… Peppa. She’s going to live with me for two weeks, while not being on the Humane Society website. In two weeks, I can decide. If I’m not ready, we can put her back up for adoption. But if we’ve fallen in love with each other and neither one of us is a screaming lunatic, I can adopt her. But I’m not even thinking of two weeks from now. I’m thinking one hour at a time. And I’m trying to not berate and belittle myself for not being able to be Ripley’s person. I’m trying to enjoy Peppa, and trust that Ripley/Justice (who I just heard had no problems with her previous foster parents overnight last night) is going to have her best life, wherever she lands.
Here are a few pictures of Peppa, who is already getting the nicknames of Pepper Potato, and Hey DumbDumb. She is not burdened with an overabundance of deep thoughts, she’s extremely respectful of the boundaries set by the cats (even though she’d love love love to play with them if they wanted to), she’s good in the crate, she’s good at letting me know when she has to go potty, and she can’t stop licking our faces. Well, my face; Jeff is faster at getting his face out of her reach. But she already seems to love us both, so even if this is just a foster situation, I trust that Peppa will have zero problems getting adopted.