This is the 3rd installment of Scrappy’s Story. In Part 1: Descent I explained what brought Scrappy to my house for work on some issues. Part 2: Recovery described how we helped Scrappy interact better with people and other dogs. Although he became a much more confident and relaxed dog, he would still occasionally revert back to his old behavior. I reluctantly decided that we could not never put him up for adoption. So I agreed that he could stay with me.
After a while BoBo and Shaggy moved on and Scrap and I shared the house. Scrappy continued to improve, letting go of his tension and anxiety. He started to play more with me. I’d toss one of his toys and he would pounce on it with excitement and bring it back for more. I’m sure he used to play once upon a time. So it was like witnessing someone’s lost memories come back to them. What pleased me most was seeing the shiny eyes that showed how much more he was enjoying life. After several months of gradual progress I figured he had gone about as far as he was going to.
But sometimes life takes you places you don’t expect.
I hadn’t thought much about Scrappy meeting other dogs. I felt fortunate that BoBo and Shaggy and Scrappy coexisted peacefully. That was enough for me. Bringing in another dog seemed like asking for trouble. But circumstances change and we must change with them. Marley was a newcomer at HB that was so terrified in the kennels that we thought he might bite out of fear. I brought him to my place where it’s much less intimidating for a scared dog. I don’t remember exaclty why we introduced Marley and Scrappy but we did. They got along well. Then Scrap met Lucy who had a story similar to Marley’s. They were fine together.
I don’t believe Scrappy ever actually played much with Lucy or Marley. They mostly hung out. Scrappy probably ate lots of grass. That’s fine — it’s beneficial just for dogs to be together even if they don’t interact much. Plus, it opens up more opportunities for adoption if we can place them in a home with another dog. But even with these successes, I had no inkling of what was to come.
Remember Yule, my paramour? A completely awesome dog. Except that he really, really didn’t like other dogs. When he came to HB he was pegged as a dog who could never be with another dog. Yule stays with me a lot — his Mom, a wealthy heiress, travels frequently. I really wanted Yule to be able to stay in the house. So we worked on approaching other dogs at the fence without him getting so bent out of shape. Eventually I decided to try and introduce him to Scrappy. I had low expectations. Naturally, I called on Kathryn of Golden Rule Dog Training to insure we had a safe introduction. As you can see below we were successful. Yule now spends his boarding time inside with Scrappy and me.
That was a pretty big “win” for Scrappy. He was the key to our success because he remained calm and nonthreatening without responding to any of Yule’s unpleasant behavior. Now Yule and Scrappy are good friends and play together like little ruffians. I was impressed.
It was only after Max that Scrappy’s reputation as a “Healer” started to spread. Max, like Yule, was a highly reactive boy that I worked with for a long time. He’s big and strong and sometimes even scary if you don’t know him. Inside he’s really a little boy that wards off potential danger with excessive displays of bravado. I thought about Yule’s transformation and decided to test Scrappy’s prowess again. It took a couple tries and a walk or two around the pond but the result was the same. Scrappy helped open the door for Max to be with other dogs. Scrappy was now 2 for 2.
We started to use Scrappy to test some of the new HB residents for dog reactivity. Scrap performs well in this role. No, he wasn’t perfect but just a few months before I would never have imagined him doing it at all. Sometimes we get reactive dogs in bunches. They may not react negatively to all dogs but they do get riled up with one or more of them. The cohort of Gunther, Bear, Jackson, and Finn had a complicated set of interrelationships. It was sometimes difficult to track who was the mortal enemy of whom.
One by one they all met Scrappy and were the better for it. Gunther, voted the dog most likely to need a one-dog home, played nicely with Scrap before an open-mouthed audience. He was later adopted by some folks that had a regular canine visitor, a dog that is now Gunther’s best friend.
Bear, a backyard dog with little or no canine socialization, didn’t interact much with Scrappy. But they spent sveral sessions together peacefully, an experience which builds confidence in a dog like Bear.
Jackson was hit or miss with other dogs but successfully playing with Scrappy smoothed the way for him to meet other dogs at HB. That, in turn, made it easier for him to get adopted.
And Finn was a mixed-up little boy who worked hard to keep Scrappy at a distance. But we kept drawing them closer and closer until Finn could tolerate being a few feet from Scrappy and take turns receiving treats.
I don’t mean to leave the impression that Scrappy has been perfect in his new life as a healer. Sometimes I am disappointed that he plays with some dogs and not with others others. But perhaps I am the one not seeing the whole picture. Just maybe Scrap ignores the dogs that need to be ignored for a while. And maybe I need to trust that Scrappy knows what he is doing.
I can say that Scrappy has altered my way of approaching reactive dogs. In retrospect, I spent way too much time working with Max the way I did. Now I try to get them together sooner rather than later — if we can manage it safely. For that change of perspective I have Scrappy to thank. And I tell him that nearly every day.