Monday, January 16, 2012

A New Family Member

As previously noted Kathy and I have been assisting with the rescue of 27 Bullmastiffs that were in a horrifically neglectful situation in Las Vegas. The dogs began to be moved from Vegas to a temporary shelter in Phoenix begining two weeks before Christmas. The following weekend Kathy and I flew to Phoenix to meet the dogs and decide if one of them was right for us.

What a decision!?!? All of them were sweet and happy to receive positive attention. But each of them have a share of problems due to their previous situation. Most with entropian, many with other physical maladies, few spayed or neutered and all of them un-vaccinated. The one we kept coming back to was "Snort". Terrible name for a dog, but rather descriptive as he does snort when sniffing and when he's happy from getting affection.

He's the second generation of dog that had never:
  • Been in a house.
  • Been in a yard.
  • Been on a leash.
  • Been socialized with humans.
  • Been fed a routine diet appropriate for a large-breed dog.
  • ...or been vaccinated.
Consequently he's terrified of everything;
  • Scared of being in the house.
  • Scared of being in the yard. 
  • Scared of the car.
  • Scared of going through doorways.
The only thing he isn't freaked out by is other dogs...the only thing he knows is other dogs.

He is 1/2 the size he should be for a nearly 2yr old Bullmastiff. He should weigh about 130 pounds or more. He tips the scales at just under 70lbs. He'll get a little thicker as a result of regular diet and exercise but his growth is permanently stunted as a result of his malnutrition as a puppy. His previous "owner" was feeding the dogs once...every other day.

Further, as soon as he received his first vaccination he immediately came down with Parvo. The same happened to numerous other dogs, 3 of which died, "Snort" was lucky and survived the onslaught.

We brought "Snort" home on January 3rd. The first thing we discovered was his exceptional timidity. He's absolutely afraid of everything. Because he's never been in a yard, our expansive back yard is intimidating to him. He never seems comfortable and paces constantly. The same is true of being in the house. Our house isn't HUGE, but our living room is a "Great Room" configuration which is still a bigger space than he's ever been in. He tends to hang out between the couch and the TV since it offers a bit of shelter from the rest of the open space.

He's afraid to go in or out through a doorway. Because he's never done so...... Think about that for a second.

The first few days he was with us he had a tough time on a leash as well. So many new smells, sounds and odd looking things were overwhelming to him. He was like an unguided missile on the end of the leash. Completely overstimulated and unable to focus on anything. He's gotten much better in the last week or so and now is capable of walking on the leash comfortably and confidently for about 30min.

The only place he seemed comfortable and reasonably content was in his crate. A sad state for a breed of dog that is characteristically very confident, strong, affectionate and engaging with humans.

He is getting better in the yard and the house though incrementally so. Baby steps. We attribute much of the change to what we both thought was a pure "snake-oil" product. Kathy had seen the infomercials for "Thundershirt" CLICK HERE and the claims seemed too fantastic to be true. Our dog training adviser recommended it and since we were otherwise at a loss for how to deal with his anxiety, we decided to give it a shot. Two words: It works.

Within 30min of putting the shirt on him he became visibly more calm and significantly more focused and responsive. Rather than pacing the back yard nervously he was sitting calmly and checking out the scene around him. Rather than cowering in the corner of our living room, he was approaching us from time to time and engaging us looking for pets. Rather than spinning wildly on the end of the leash unable to focus on anything but the overwhelming onslaught of new stimulus he was able to heel and walk calmly at my side.

It's not a magic bullet though and the results above aren't 100% consistent, but most of the time he is vastly improved.

We’ve been told and agree with the premise that a rescued dog should get a new name along with their new life and since it’s better that a dogs name be two syllables to contrast with single syllable commands we have decided to change his name to Guinness. We began using the name exclusively as soon as we got him home. He didn't respond to his old name at all. I suspect because nobody ever paid enough attention to him for him to learn it. Yesterday he began responding to Guinness. We were overjoyed at the connection that has begun to develop between us.

Sorry for the lousy cell phone pic quality, but here is a photo of Guinness, resting in apparent complete comfort in our living room last night.

If you've any interest in helping some of the other Las Vegas Bullmastiffs, or in adopting one for yourself please check out this blog CLICK HERE or visit the website of The American Bullmastiff Association CLICK HERE to submit an adoption application.

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