Approx. 3 years old
Blackie's temperament was the direct result of a human not understanding natural dog behavior and not taking the time to fulfill the instincts within a dog. Adopting a dog is not like adopting a human being; they are animals with instincts. Owners who do not understand the animal within the dog can sometimes end up with behavior issues such as Blackie’s. These issues can be resolved as soon as the dog begins to instinctually receive what he needs as that animal, but it does take someone with experience to rehabilitate them.
On Monday morning, April 7, 2008 I awoke to an unfamiliar dog barking and whining outside. I looked around and realized that the noise was coming from my neighbor’s run down and junk filled garage. I investigated and found Blackie. She was in a rusty metal crate that was too small for her to comfortably stand up and turn around in. She acted fairly cage aggressive when I approached so I kept watch for my neighbor to come home from work so I could get the full story as to why this poor dog was in a dilapidated crate in his garage.
That evening the owner of the dog came over to feed her. He had her out of the crate on a rope and I went over to meet her. I fell in love with her immediately. She was so incredibly cute and sweet. It was obvious that she needed some training and socialization. She wanted to jump up and be a little unruly. I decided to walk her and discovered that she was completely unfamiliar with a leash or a walk. The owner told me that Blackie had been living in his basement for more than a year. She had lived in the rest of the house with two Beagles, but then she attacked one of the Beagles and he put her in the basement after that. He went to the house once a day to feed the dogs, but he wasn't staying there. He knew for months that he had to evacuate his home, but he never made the effort to find placement for his dogs.
Over the next couple of days I spent time with Blackie and worked on teaching her how to walk on a leash and how to not jump up. She was already excellent with sit and lie down. I also wanted to evaluate her temperament to determine how I could help her. She was stuck in that crate most of the day. She was lucky if her owner came once a day to care for her. One morning he came over and gave her food and water but never took her out of the crate to potty. I was watching him from my window. I confronted him and his response was “Well, there’s only so much time in the day.” I was furious. Luckily I was bringing her over to my yard to run around several times a day and I was washing the filthy blankets in the crate and keeping her food and water fresh.
I determined that Blackie was aggressive towards other animals. Although she acted aggressive toward my dogs through my back door, she was very responsive to my corrections. When my dogs settled down, she settled down and turned her back toward them. When they got excited, she became aggressive toward them again. At one time she bit at the siding of my house out of frustration because my dogs were being hyper on the other side of the door. I was standing right next to her and gave her a correction. She never tried to bite me even though my leg was right next to her mouth. Every time she acted aggressive I would give her a sharp, quick jab into her neck and she would turn around and sit in front of me and look up at me as if she was waiting for my next instruction. She also responded well to being ignored when she was too hyper. After a few minutes of blocking her and turning my back toward her she would settle down and sit and wait to be petted. She was also learning to enjoy taking walks on a leash. I also tested her for food aggression. I put my hand in her bowl while she was eating and grabbed some food out. She backed away and I offered my handful of food and she ate from my hand. I sat down next to her while she ate from my hand and she began to lick my cheek and nose and covered my face with half-chewed dog food. It was gross and sweet at the same time. It was as if she had been waiting her whole life for someone to tell her what was expected of her and be consistent.
Things were going well between me and Blackie. She listened to my every correction and hung on every word. She desperately wanted direction, affection, love and attention. She was very affectionate toward me and I lavished her in kisses and hugs. I determined that she could be placed in a home as an only pet with a responsible and very active person with a secured yard. I made several phone calls to local rescues and no-kill shelters trying to find placement for her. The Washington Area Humane Society agreed to take her after I explained her situation. I spoke with Blackie’s owner and he felt it was too far to drive (he was full of excuses), but it was a no-kill option and I felt it was her only option that was working out at that time and I offered to drive. On Wednesday, April 9, Blackie’s owner took her to Animal Friends and they were turned away at the door. Then he took her to the Beaver County Humane Society and while entering the facility she tried to attack another dog. She was turned away from there as well. Her owner brought her back and put her in the crate in the garage.
On Friday, April 11, my neighbor’s kids came over for the weekend. I was in the garage with Blackie on her leash and her owner. My neighbor and his kids approached Blackie and she could not get away. The garage was clutter filled and her owner and I were blocking the only area to back up. She tried to get behind me, but was unable to. She snapped at my neighbor. I was shocked since she had never shown me any type of aggression or fear. She did not actually bite anyone; it was a warning. Sadly I realized that Blackie was fear aggressive and I had to reconsider where she could be placed. My neighbor told the owner that Blackie could not stay there and that if she bit his kids he would shoot her. I asked both of them to give me more time. I put Blackie in my yard for some exercise and asked my husband to come out and see how she would respond to him. Blackie was fearful of him and ran into my yard and barked a few times. He offered her a treat and she cautiously came to him and took it and then retreated back into the yard. She never snapped at him, but she had the space to get away from him. The strange thing is that Blackie was never fearful of me which was why I was so taken aback when she began to display her fearful reactions toward other people.
On Saturday, April 12 I had to take my car to the garage for repair work. When I came home I called the Washington Area Humane Society to explain what I had discovered and to see if they would still be willing to take her. I left a message and went next door to take Blackie for a walk. She was gone.
I waited and watched for what seemed like forever to see anyone come home next door. Finally her owner showed up and I asked him where she was. He told me that he took her to the Western PA Humane Society and that she snapped at the staff members and they were going to put her to sleep. I grabbed my keys, my husband, and we took off to the shelter to see if they would relinquish Blackie to me.
We arrived at the Humane Society where we were put into a room and three staff members were sent in to speak with us. We were told that Blackie was very aggressive and that she could not be sent back out into the public. They told me that she snapped at them and even bit at the door and she tried to attack a dog that was being walked by her. I knew that Blackie was terrified and her defense was to snap. I was also very aware that she was dog aggressive. She did NOT actually bite anyone. They told me that she was being aggressive in the kennel and they had to put a top onto the kennel because Blackie was trying to jump out. I asked to see her and they refused. They told me that she would be evaluated by a behaviorist but she would probably be “humanely euthanized” because she was so aggressive. I argued my case quite clearly, but they were not going to let me take her home. I was told that I needed to speak with Dara, the Director of Customer Services if I still wanted to fight for Blackie.
Personal Note: I don’t see anything humane about killing a young, healthy dog that is terrified out of its mind and acting out accordingly. If the staff is afraid to handle the dog they will more than likely use a catch pole to secure the dog. The dog would freak out and bite and scream at the person dragging it to a room where dogs can sense the death. More people would be waiting to restrain the dog, freaking the dog out even more. This causes a tremendous amount of stress to that animal. Then the dog is held down with force while it is killed. Tell me what is humane about that process? Humane euthanasia should be used for animals that are terminally ill and suffering to the point where their quality of life is diminished. I will also note here that I am not opposed to killing a dog that is so aggressive that it viciously attacks people, is unpredictable, and simply cannot be safely put back into society. That kind of rehabilitation can take years and even then sometimes fails. I do understand that open door shelters cannot offer a dog that they deem aggressive the kind of rehabilitation they need. Perfectly adoptable dogs are killed in shelters every day for space because no one comes to their aid. Blackie was not one of those cases.
I left the shelter that day feeling like the world was crashing down around me. I knew Blackie had so much potential. I saw how she opened up when she was with me. I saw how happy and affectionate she could be. I knew she could be rehabilitated and did not need to die. At first I felt defeated, but then I came home and knew I couldn't give up yet.
I started making phone calls to trainers to see if anyone would be willing to help me. I found a trainer that volunteered as a trainer at the Western PA Humane Society! SCORE! She was willing to give me a behavioral evaluation and work with Blackie for a discounted fee. She also gave me the names of some kennels that might be willing to house Blackie during her rehabilitation. I found one on my first call. He was willing to house Blackie in a row where he could put kennel space between Blackie and other dogs. DOUBLE SCORE!
On Sunday, April 13, I went back to the Humane Society with the names and phone numbers of the trainer and kennel. I was hoping that they would see that I was prepared to take this on and I had made provisions so they had no reason to kill Blackie. I was willing to sign any legal agreement for liability reasons or do whatever else I needed to do. I was told that there was no one there that could speak with me and I had to leave and call back on Monday. I waited for a few minutes and lo and behold, the person that I spoke with the day before and the Director of Customer Service (the person I was there to see), snuck out of the office, looked around the corner, saw me, and took off into another back area. I was furious. But no one would speak with me and I had no choice but to leave.
On Monday morning, April 14, I called to speak with Dara. I was put through to her and I gave her the information I had and asked if they could turn Blackie over to me. I was told that she could not be relinquished to me because I was not her owner and that only her owner could pull her from the shelter. I spoke with Blackie’s owner when I saw him that day and asked him to please call the Humane Society and ask them to relinquish his dog to me or go there and pull her. He told me he would call, but he never did. He didn’t want to be bothered with going back down there to pull her either.
That day I also composed an e-mail to send to several rescues throughout the United States including every Shar Pei rescue I found online, Cesar Millan and Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.
Here is a copy of that e-mail.
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 10:59 PM
Subject: Shar Pei Mix due to be PTS, Need Help ASAP
Attachments: IMG_0959.jpg; IMG_0961.jpg; IMG_0963.jpg
Last week my neighbor’s friend put his Shar Pei mix in a small dog crate in my neighbors garage and left her there. If she was lucky, she was walked once a day. The crate was too small and she could not comfortably get up and move around in it. After speaking with the man I found out that he was evicted from his foreclosed home and had no where else to take his dog. Before that, she was locked in a basement for the last couple of years. She’s only 3 years old. I began to walk her daily and started work on training her. I began to try to find alternative boarding for her and then behind my back he took her to the Western PA Humane Society where she freaked out and snapped at a staff member. They have deemed her vicious and if she does not pass their behavior test she will be put to sleep in the next couple of days. So far, they are expecting her to fail their test. I have been trying to pull this dog but they will not let me since she is not my dog and since they have decided that she is aggressive. She has never received veterinary care and I am willing to cover as much as I possibly can. I even found a trainer that was willing to work with her at my expense.
Here is more about her and why I’m trying so hard to save this dogs life…
The good…she is awesome. I have been walking her and spending time with her over the last few days. She wasn’t good on a leash at first, but is getting much better. She needs and wants direction. She wants to please and I can easily roll her over into a submissive position with no problems. She’s just happy to get a belly rub. She likes to jump up, but after a couple of soft knees in her chest she gets the point and will then sit at your feet and wait for attention. She is not food aggressive at all and takes treats gently. I was able to giver her kisses on her cheek while she was eating and at one time she kissed me back, leaving a gross streak of chewed food on my face. She craves attention and affection and constantly seeks it out. She is hyper at first, but if you ignore her, she settles down and respects the space you ask for. She does easily get excited and has the attention span of a fly, but is easy to redirect. She never has directed any aggression towards me. I had her in my back yard and she was well behaved. She didn’t dig or try to jump my 4 foot fence. She ran around and lounged on my deck. She just wants to be a dog. She never really had that opportunity.
The bad…she is fear aggressive and dog/cat aggressive. She saw my cat in the window and her hair went up and she started to bark. However, with one good jab (just to get her attention) at the neck she was easily redirected and came back to me for attention and then ignored the cat. We tried to introduce her to my dogs through my back door. At first she was really aggressive and began to bite at my siding. Then I jabbed her and she turned around, put her back to my door and sat and looked up at me. Once we got my dogs settled on the other side of the door, she settled down and ignored them, but if they got excited, she became aggressive towards them again. Also, she does act cage aggressive, but I can open the crate and then she starts wiggling with excitement to get out. She sounds mean, but she has a strong bark and someone that did not know that would mistake it for aggression. She has shown fear aggression to my neighbor. She did snap at him when she was backed into the garage and couldn’t get away from him. She did try to get away from him first, but there was no room. My husband was able to give her treats and then she retreated into the yard and didn’t want to come back to him until I came back outside. Then she came over to me and looked to me for direction and protection. She never snapped or was aggressive towards him. She had the space to get away and she did.
That dog could have bit me at any time and she never even tried even when she was biting my siding out of frustration. She never redirected that aggression onto me and I was standing right next to her. She was so appreciative of all the love and attention she received from me. She also showed me that she wants direction, someone to tell her what is expected of her. I did not put up with any inappropriate behavior from her and she was okay with that.
I am willing to do whatever I can for this dog. I just want her to have a chance. She never received love, socialization, or proper training and now she might die confused and terrified. I really believe this dog can be rehabilitated. I would not be so persistent if I didn’t believe in her. I don’t think for a second that she is vicious, just scared and frustrated.
Since they won’t release her to me, I am hoping to find a rescue group that they might be willing to release her to. If anyone is willing to help me, you can contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. I will pay for her vaccinations and spay. She only has another day or so before she will be put down. I understand if because of what you have heard you don’t want to get involved. Not every rescue has the resources to deal with a dog that needs rehabilitation and training.
I also began to make several calls and only got voicemails so I left messages. I was hoping that since the Humane Society was not willing to relinquish Blackie to me, they would be willing to relinquish her to a reputable rescue. I was willing to use my entire tax refund and stimulus check to transport her anywhere within the U.S. I began to contact various animal transport groups to see if any would be willing to transport Blackie if we found a group to take her.
Most groups I contacted did not respond to my e-mail. A couple of groups gave me names of other contacts and one group was willing to speak with the Humane Society to try to get Blackie relinquished to me.
On Tuesday, April 15, Best Friends Animal Society contacted me with this e-mail.
From: Best Friends
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 4:27 PM
Subject: Shar Pei Mix due to be PTS, Need Help ASAP
Thank you for contacting Best Friends and for all you've done to help this sweet dog in need. She certainly is a cutie.
From your description, it does sound as if she is showing aggression out of fear. Not surprising considering how she was living before.
Please have the Western PA Humane Society contact us directly and we will do what we can to help this girl. If they email, have them use my direct email and our main office email.
Thanks Melanie, I'll let you know if I hear from them.
Animal Help Specialist
Best Friends Animal Society
"A Better World Through Kindness To Animals"
I was so excited. I took that email to mean that Best Friends was willing to bring Blackie into their facility and work with her there. I thought I finally found a way to save Blackie’s life. I immediately forwarded the email to Dara and Lee, the shelter director. There was a lot of phone and email tag between me, Best Friends and the Western PA Humane Society through the rest of the week.
On Tuesday, April 22, I received this email from Troy at Best Friends.
From: Best Friends
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 12:45 PM
I just wanted you to know that Dara and I were able to connect via email. I sent her some resources and suggestions and asked her to keep me posted on the outcome.
She had forwarded me your email saying that it had been confirmed that Best Friends could take Blackie, but this was never an option due to space availability. We consistently work with organizations in similar situations and try to help them find placement for dogs with behavioral issues, this is what I did for Blackie.
I truly appreciate your persistence to help Blackie and sincerely hope that something can be worked out for her.
I'll let you know if I hear back from Dara.
Animal Help Specialist
Best Friends Animal Society
She forwarded me the email that she sent to Dara at the Humane Society on April 21.
From: Best Friends
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 6:00 PM
Subject: RE: Blackie
She must have misunderstood my email, but you can see that I offered to what we could to help Blackie. Thanks for emailing me, sorry for all the phone tag. I just tried one more time to reach you by phone, but was not successful.
I have a few questions. First how is Blackie doing and do you feel she too aggressive for placement in a home? I certainly understand the liability issues that go with a dog that has shown aggression. Does she seem to seek out attention, does she enjoy petting from people? Have you also witnessed any dog on dog aggression with Blackie? Melanie described what sounded to me like fairly severe dog on dog aggression. Is Western PA Humane Society open to Blackie being placed in a sanctuary setting if possible?
You may find that that most sanctuaries and rescues cannot accept dogs with a history of aggression because of the risk they present to volunteers and staff. Additionally, most organizations don’t have the resources to give dogs like this the regular training they need to control or transform their behavior, nor can they afford consultations with a behaviorist who can help identify the triggers of the dog’s behavior. Frequently, the aggressive behaviors of dogs in rescues and sanctuaries worsen over time due to their isolation from people as well as the over-stimulation of being surrounded by many other animals. If Blackie is indeed dog aggressive this will most likely be the case with her.
We have a number of dogs with issues similar to Blackie's here at Best Friends, and even here, depending on the severity of the aggression, many dogs live in an isolated area, where they are kenneled in separate runs and can only interact with one or two highly skilled trainers and handlers. Since Blackie is very young, it’s possible that she would live many years at a sanctuary, with limited human contact. I'm hoping that Western PA Humane Society will be able to determine if this kind of setting would suit Blackie.
For a listing of sanctuaries, please go to www.worldanimal.net.
We also invite you to post a message on the new Best Friends Network website at http://network.bestfriends.org which is an online community where you can either join a pre-existing community either by “topic” or by “state” or you can start your own community dedicated to your topic of interest. If you are indeed looking for another organization/sanctuary that would be able to work with and rehabilitate Blackie then please specify this in your posting.
To post a message, please follow these easy steps:
Go to the following link: http://network.bestfriends.org/Pennsylvania
Click on the box near the top right hand of the screen to join the Network
Once you are logged in, click on the “Forums” tab, then click on: “Working Together for (your state name) Animals”
Choose “New Topic” from the choices next to the title of the community
Post your message
Check back daily to see if other members have responded
Please let me know if you have any questions Dara or if you would like to discuss this further. I sincerely hope that something can be worked out for Blackie and would love to know the outcome. I will also let Melanie know that I was able to contact you through email.
Animal Help Specialist
Best Friends Animal Society
I didn’t know what else to do or where else to turn. I called and emailed Dara and asked her if Blackie was still alive and she told me that they could not give me that information because I was not Blackie's owner. I asked Blackie’s owner to at least call to see if Blackie was still alive and he told me that he didn’t want to know about Blackie and that he should have never gotten her, but his daughter wanted a dog. I will never understand how someone could be that way about a life that was their responsibility in the first place.
I emailed Dara to request Blackie's body if they euthanized her so that I could properly bury her instead of her being dumped in a landfill somewhere. I received this email, but they never actually told me if she was euthanized or not.
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 1:17 PM
To: 'Melanie'; 'Lee'
Subject: RE: Blackie
Hi Melanie –
I understand your attachment to Blackie and I am sure she is grateful for your efforts. In response to your request, we are unable to release Blackie to you since you are not the legal owner of Blackie.
Director of Customer Service
Behavior Enrichment Coordinator
Western PA Humane Society
It took me two weeks of calling and emailing the Humane Society to finally get through to someone to find out the status of Blackie. I finally got through to Lee and she informed me that Blackie was killed on April 22. I was heartbroken and I think about Blackie every day. I will never forget her.
I MISS YOU BLACKIE!
Personal Note: I have been a huge supporter of Best Friends Animal Society for many years and I am on their mailing list and receive updates and notices of their latest big rescues. Best Friends is known for rescuing animals with severe behavioral issues and rehabilitating them. They took in several of Mike Vick's Pit Bulls. They have taken in dogs with severe aggression and fear aggression. I watched Dogtown and saw them take in dogs with terrible behavioral issues from a puppy mill. I can't help but wonder if they would have taken Blackie if the media was involved. I was willing to pay for her medical care and spend my last bit of money to get her there. Don't get me wrong, Best Friends does a LOT of good for animals all over the world. Why couldn't they have done more for Blackie? They were her only hope. Blackie could have been rehabilitated and placed into a loving, responsible home. I have no doubt about that. She deserved this chance. We all failed her. She didn't deserve to die.
If you are currently having issues with your dog, before you take him to a shelter, where he may suffer the same fate as Blackie, stop and think about your issues and why they are happening. If all of a dog's instincts are satisfied, the issues will cease to exist. Are they getting enough exercise? Are they being walked in a way that satisfies their migration instinct? Are you the pack leader? Do they have separation anxiety? Are you giving them rules to follow and limits as to what they are allowed to do? Are you properly communicating to your dog what you want of him or her? From Tea Cup Chihuahua to Pitbull Terrier, they all have the same instincts.
Looking for a dog? Consider a shelter dog. Since dogs do not think about or dwell in the past, nor think, worry or dwell about the future, you can get a dog from a shelter and start over as if their entire life starts the day you bring them home. They may have some bad habits, or things no one ever told them were unacceptable, however the dog can be rehabilitated into what you want them to be. It is much easier to rehabilitate a dog than it is a human, because to a dog, it is all about the present moment. Make him understand what you want with proper communication and voila, you can have yourself a brand new dog. Not every dog in the pound will come with issues. If you bring a dog home and do it right from day one, you may never notice, or may never understand why anyone would have given the dog up. Learn natural dog behavior and then go find your new friend!
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