Saturday, April 16, 2005

Angel Face


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There is a term used amongst people who adopt greyhounds called "chipping". It refers to the old Lays potato chip ad, "Nobody can eat just one". Of course, we are not EATING greyhounds, but the idea is that you always want another.

We adopted Kelso in February of 2003, and by July we were ready to "chip". A friend directed me to the website of a NJ group where I saw a picture of the most angelic grey I'd ever laid eyes on. She was in a foster home waiting to be adopted. I made the call. They told me that Rosie had suffered from heat stroke when she was transported from the Plainfield track in CT to south Jersey, but unlike some of the other dogs she made it through ok. (the dog haulers do not have to be airconditioned, and this one got stuck in traffic in the middle of summer). I spoke to the foster "parents" who told me that she was an amazingly loving dog...great with kids, easy to walk, affectionate. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive to get her, but I knew Rosie was the pup for us. Even Kelso seemed to like her, although she wasn't too sure about him at first.

Lucas fell in love with her immediately, and the feelings were mutual. Although Kelso had been a great dog, he was not a cuddler...Rosie could not get close enough. She was everything we were told she was.

In early November, about two weeks after Tony died, I was walking both dogs and we encountered a man who lives in the same complex who is slightly retarded. Rosie went crazy...barking and pulling like she wanted to kill the guy. I thought it was kind of weird, but figured it had to do with the fact that he walks funny. Still, it was behavior very uncharacteristic of greys. They rarely bark at all.

As the days went by, she began to bark at anyone who approached us. It became impossible for me to walk the dogs together, so in the dead of winter I was having to take each one out separately. (argh) Rosie and Lucas developed an amazing bond, but when my daughter Emma would come to visit for a weekend Rosie began to bark viciously at her as soon as she arrived. She'd calm down until Emma tried to go upstairs (which was weird, because the dogs don't use the stairs...it's a spiral staircase), and then she'd go crazy again.

At first I thought the barking was just that: barking. But the next time Emma came, she made a sudden move and Rosie lunged to nip at her.

I called a trainer that was recommended to me and she began to work with Rosie, but she was quickly aware that she was out of her league. She brought in another woman who tried using a bitter apple spray in the dog's face when she barked, throwing chains to startle her, and at one point she attempted to make the dog sit by pushing her butt and Rosie bit her. Drew blood. The woman wasn't upset, and admitted that she had been too aggressive with the dog. After spending about a thousand dollars, I knew we were getting nowhere.

I was at my wits end. By February of '04, Lucas could not have friends over. I couldn't go out, because I couldn't have a babysitter in. Emma refused to come to the house. Finally, I was walking Rosie one day and a neighbor approached to give me something she had found of ours. I told her not to come any closer, but she said "Oh, I work for a vet. I know animals." and kept on coming. Rosie got quiet, but as the woman got close enough she lunged and ripped a hole in the idiot's sweatshirt. I couldn't believe it. She insisted that it was ok, she was ok, and not to worry.

I knew better. I called the condo president and said I was taking Rosie to the vet for a thyroid test. That night, the neighbor went to the condo president with the sweatshirt. This was getting serious...I could lose my homeowner's insurance, and worse...Rosie could hurt someone.

The thyroid test was normal. Our vet works with hundreds of greys, and told me to call Mary Ellen Walsh who would know what to do.

Mary Ellen arrived and Rosie greeted her in the usual Cujo fashion. I kept Rosie on a leash, by my side, and she calmed down. We sat to talk about the problem, but Rosie would make a deep gutteral growl every single time Mary Ellen spoke to me. Then, when I'd speak, she'd gaze up and stare at me lovingly. Finally, the trainer said "I love dogs. I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of dogs with all kinds of behavioral problems, and can usually find a technique that works. This is not the case here. This dog has a dysfunctional attachment to you. I don't know how else to describe it. What I can tell you is that you are a prisoner in your home, your child can't have friends in, and your daughter and your neighbors are at risk. AND, there's no telling if she will decide that, as much as she loves him now, LUCAS is in her way as well. You need to return this dog." We also talked about the heat stroke, and she agreed that it could have left Rosie a little "off" in the brain.

I was crushed. I knew that Lucas would be crushed. But I also knew that she was right, and that I could trust her unquestionably. The eerie part is that the behavior started soon after Tony's death...a person who had a dysfunctional attachment to me. [insert Twilight Zone music here]

When a greyhound adoption does not work out, the dog MUST be returned to the adoption group. They don't want these dogs to end up in the pound, or with someone who doesn't understand the "rules" of keeping one. Poor Lucas was beside himself when I told him what had to be done. He had just lost his dad, and now was going to have to lose his "heart dog". I had to explain that Emma could be hurt, or we could lose our home if she bit a neighbor. I told him that Rosie would have to be put down if she bit a child. That sealed it for him...he knew we had no choice but to bring her back.

Incredibly, an amazing young woman that I knew only through a greyhound bulletin board drove 2 hours to my condo, to accompany me another 2 hours to the group's kennel. She knew how difficult a drive this was going to be. I couldn't have made it without her. And thank god she did, because the people at the kennel could not have been colder and acted like I was totally irresponsible for bringing Rosie back.

In the end, she was placed in a home way out in the country with a woman who has five other greyhounds. I email periodically to get updates, and it seems that she has done well. For whatever reason, our home was not the right one for her.

Since she has been gone, Kelso has become a snuggler and Lucas has become closer to him. Still, there was something about Rosie...

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