Monday, February 24, 2014

Bella really is a good dog. Seriously.

I can't imagine what some of you think of my crazy dog after last week's post. But let me assure you, Jan and I are not living in fear here in our house terrorized by our dog.

By almost every measure one uses to determine what makes a dog a good dog, Bella passes the test.
  • She doesn't counter surf.
  • She doesn't get into the garbage.
  • She doesn't pull on the leash. (Well, at least she doesn't for me. She and Jan are still working on that.)
  • She doesn't beg.
  • She doesn't incessantly bark. (Understandably the postman would debate that point.)
  • She doesn't chew stuff up. (Although she steals stuff, she does not ruin it.)
  • She comes when 'chicken' is called. (It's our recall word. Don't laugh, it works.)
  • She does not have accidents in the house.
  • She doesn't jump up on people. (Although that may be changing. We'll work on it.)
  • She's not destructive when left home alone.
She does dig but we've learned that as long as we give her a sanctioned place to do so, she doesn't dig where she's not supposed to.

She does sometimes resource guard but you might be surprised to discover that she does not resource guard her food. In fact, Jan and I often have to tempt Bella to eat her breakfast by hand-feeding her. I can take her bowl away from her while she's eating if I forget to put her medicine in her food without any hesitation at all. Does that surprise you?

Bella is a bright, curious and enthusiastic learner. Everyone who meets her from passersby to vet techs, trainers and interns absolutely falls in love with her. (They've even written comments on her intake/release notes telling us how charming she it. I kid you not.) She is a sweet and even sometimes cuddly dog. Who just happens to have some trust/fear issues.

When she attacked me in December, I admit it shook me up. She and I avoided each other for a few days.

It hurt, too. Emotionally, I mean. I thought she trusted me...

But the fact is, it's not personal. Bella isn't 'attacking' out of any emotion other than pure panic. In her mind, I believe, Bella thinks she is fighting for her life.

Over the coming weeks I intend to cover:
  1. What happened the night she attacked me, and why what I did played a huge part in making it worse than it should have been,;
  2. Our visit to Dr. Dodman, what we talked about and how he was the first person to hear what Jan and I were saying in the 2+ years we've been working through these issues with Bella,
  3. The options we were given for possible treatment plans,
  4. What plan we selected and what we've been doing to address Bella's issues since, and
  5. How she's doing on the new protocol.
After that I'll go into why we decided to see a holistic vet and talk about what that has meant for Bella's physical health. And how and why we think it may help her mental health down the road as well.

I will tell you everything I think you should know. But let me know in the comments if you have specific questions and I will make an effort to answer them.


  1. Admire your courage and fortitude.

  2. Bella! Your plants are beautiful!! We can't wait to read these posts. Otto, a rescue, goes nuts when he sees dogs or horses when on leash. The other day we were walking, on leash, and he sort of alerted. I spoted a horse further ahead on the trail. I turned around and walked the other way. I could FEEL his relief through the leash. He's fearful, not a jerk head!

  3. Otto knows, doesn't he? Thanks for the support. It's nice to know folks out there with good dogs get my little girl.

  4. Living with a challenging dog (mine is different then Bella), I understand the 2 sides to the dog. The great, wonderful, amazing side, and then the other (which is the problem). I am very interested to hear about your journey.

  5. She is one lucky pup as many people would have just "gotten rid of her". It is great that you are all working on the problem and I know she loves you and you her. It can really only get better. If you want to send her to my house, we can teach her to counter surf, beg and jump on people. Just let me know ;)

  6. I so hope everything can be sorted out.

  7. I can't wait to hear about all of it!

  8. Your list totally cracked me up! Emmett, my "good dog," counter surfs, pulls, gets in the garbage if given the chance, jumps on people he loves, etc. Lucas, my "bad dog," does none of those things. Not one. He just wants to maim things he's scared of. Joking aside, I love that you portray the two-sides-of-the-coin with this post. It's SO important to remember, recognize, and celebrate all the things that make our dogs so wonderful, especially/even if they suffer with fear.

  9. Pamela | Something WaggingFebruary 25, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    I'm so glad you're sharing these posts. You're making yourself vulnerable. As we know, people love to judge and second guess.

    Since a bite so often results in a death penalty, I appreciate that you're willing to share so many details with us. I'm really interested in learning more. I have a feeling this is going to be a series of blog posts that will really advance my understanding of fearful dogs.

    Thank you.

  10. :-) AW- BLESS... well I dig.. only on Beaches :-) HEY SPECIAL GIRL.. I think personally and who am I :-) ? Your one special dog :-) LOADS OF Luvs Freya Rose Blossom. Cat Flap Cavalier... the blinkin cat thinks the same :-) xxc

  11. You definitely can't judge a dog - or a person - by their actions in one bad moment. Sure, it reflects a part of them - a part when pushed to specific circumstances - but you really can't (or shouldn't) make generalizations based on that. I like how you've made this clear with your list.

  12. I don't have specific questions yet, but who knows as the tale unfolds. Thanks for letting us all know it's okay to ask...I'm glad you're able to talk about it now.

  13. You are a good dog! Amazing. Ruckus can be naughty randomly but usually that's the sapiens' fault!

  14. Jan K, Wag N Woof PetsFebruary 28, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    I am very interested in hearing the rest of the story. I admire that you and Jan stick it out with Bella, so many people wouldn't. I'm just glad you're on the better side of things and ready to share your story.
    I imagine some things are similar to when we had fights between our dogs....we had to learn what set them off and how to avoid it happening again. We never took sides or blamed either dog, but rather just learned to manage their issues. I got caught in the crossfire one time and know only too well how painful a dog bite can be....and I have a feeling yours was much worse.

  15. LOL. Well, Jan is the indoor plant guru. I take them out twice a year, clean the area and spray the dust off of them. Other than that, they're Jan's babies. (A few of them are upwards of 20 years old.)

  16. I actually go more into panic mode with dogs fighting than with this. I figure I've at least got one human in the fight who can reason and understand instructions. ;)

    And yeah, that's largely what it comes down to with Bella as well: understanding and managing her issues.