Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Daphne's story.

I saw a nice looking female Rottweiler on a Rottie rescue website. I went to the Ingham County shelter (sad place) to check her out...she was avoidant and squirrely so I sadly put her back in the pen and went looking at the other Rottweilers there (lots, unfortunately.) Daphne was small, extremely skinny, covered with diarrhea and at the back of the pen, hackles up, barking and showing teeth. So naturally I opened the door and went in! I could tell she was terrified, not aggressive. I sat down and she threw herself on my lap, belly up. So, I took her home January 4 2002.
She was emaciated with a raging staph skin infection. We got her a bit healthier before getting her spayed; the vet said her uterus was deformed, good thing she never got pregnant. She was maybe a year old.
AC said she'd been tied out on a short chain, no food, water or shelter, in Michigan winter. They had to shoot her with a tranq dart to get to her. She had never been in a house and everything scared her - doorways, running water, furniture. She is not a mentally strong dog and still gets anxious about new things.
She had horrendous seperation anxiety at first and had to be crated every time we left the house. You think the photo of the couch is bad? Ha! That's nuthin. The damage she did was awesome and really expensive. She was in the truck once when I went in to pay for gas, less than three minutes gone. Came back and she'd almost destroyed the passenger seat. Merely walking out of a room could set her off into a destructive fit. She has wrecked more things than I can even count. I called her the Destructo-Rott.
She has a congenitally poor immune system and airborn & flea allergies, which means she gets rashes, gunky ears, UTIs and random alarming swellings in the summer. Benadryl Is Our Friend. She has a small crate of supplements (which don't do squat, I have learned over the years) and medications (which do.) I monitor and manage. It took almost 3 years to finally get rid of her persistent, recurrent staph infection which at its worst was a raw, crusty scab from her chin to her vulva. Poor dog! She has been blood, thyroid and lord knows what else tested and "on paper" is quite healthy. Twice her kneecap has dislocated - luxating patella is common in small dogs, rare in big ones. Luckily it's only been twice so surgery isn't indicated but it's extremely painful for her. She is stressed by pain and will refuse to move. Thank doG for modern meds and good pain control!
She is prone to visually-triggered obsessions. The TV is the worst, good thing I rarely watch TV. She will get within 3" of the screen and go absolutely rigid. Her body starts to quiver, her eyes go blank (you could stuff a hot dog up her nose and she wouldn't react) and drool literally starts pouring out of her mouth. Of course I don't give her the opportunity. I think she would literally dehydrate to death if she was left alone in a room with a TV for long enough. It's very similar to photosensitive epilepsy. Mirrors and aquariums can set her off too. At one point I had all the mirrors in the house covered. Noise - fireworks, thunderstorms - don't bother her at all.
Small dogs can push her into this condition too. And puppies, which is aberrant adult-dog behaviour. She is absolutely unsafe around little dogs and would kill. She has tried. Weirdly enough, she isn't like this with cats and has a low prey drive.
The office floor is often littered with cardboard and paper that I give her. She must chew. If she cannot rip something up, she isn't interested in it. She can deconstruct an "indestructible" black Kong in short order. I think it's an anxiety-reducing behaviour. She never, ever swallows things like this or she'd either be dead, or even more expensive, from repeated obstruction surgeries by now.
She can go for months without destroying anything important, then something will set her off and there goes a rug, or a couch. Luckily she only does this to things on the floor, or the "dog couch." I do not have many rugs on the wood flors - only cheap ones, if at all. I can't have any dog beds. Poor Cooper. He'd love a dog bed.
Crate her, you say? She has suddenly "gone off" and started ripping the edge of a rug when I am right there in the room. I have no idea what triggers it and probably never will.
She has an anxiety wrap, though I'm not sure it works. She spent several months on Clomicalm. It made her extremely submissive and she started with the submissive peeing again; which was also a problem when I first got her.
She has been through obedience classes and I tried her on agility. She was too stressed to learn much, and then there was the little dog thing. Unfamiliar or busy situations make her a stress mess.
I've talked to behaviourists who couldn't offer any advice beyond what I already do.
I exercise her as much as I can. When weather is nice, I bike with her leashed. The dogs get frequent early-morning off-leash runs at the river park. In hopes that weraring her out will help. The dogs love all the exercise. However one morning after a run & three-mile walk I brought the dogs home, then went to the grocery store. Came back a short time later to a ripped-up rug. Overstimulation? Understimulation? Haven't a clue.
She loves going for car rides, though often I harness her. Because she pants and bounces from window to window and licks the glass, which is just annoying.
She has a very, very hard time learning new things, it's like she operates from her lizard-brain rather than socially. She doesn't know good dog-etiquette and wants to fling herself all over guests.
I try to be patient and calm when teaching her things and she eventually gets it. Usually.
Maybe if I'd been more savvy when evaluating and interacting with her at the shelter, I could've picked up on some of her issues?
Once, I considered euthanising her. Because she can be so difficult to live with. And, I wondered, how happy is she, really? I just couldn't imagine doing it, though. Just couldn't.
I can't imagine anyone else wanting to take her on either - if there was another place, a different owner, who she would be calmer and happier with, I'd do it. But is there? Maybe Cesar Milan; probably him!
I put a huge amount of energy into this dog - my wonderful vet says the next step is finding a veterinary neurologist/behaviourist but this could be expensive, almost beyond my capability. And no guarantees!
As long as her environment is managed, I believe she's quite happy most of the time.
She has never, ever exhibited aggression towards humans. She adores children. She is very, very sweet and cute much of the time, actually.
She is frantically happy when she gets to run at the river park.
She loves her cat.
My friends like her. Though when I jokingly say "then take her home with you" they all say "hell no!"
She is pretty and has great teeth. :)
I think she actually might have some pitbull in her mix, not that it makes a difference either way. She is small and light-boned for a Rottweiler. Who knows, she was a ghetto dog.
She is a good watch dog; barks and makes a fuss when she hears strange noises. She'd probably hide under the bed peeing in fright were someone to break in though!
Other than that, she is quiet and doesn't bark.
So, Daphne stays and I'm sure I've learned from her - you learn more from the challenging dogs.
But, were she to keel over from a brain aneurism or heart attack or something, a part of me would be relieved. I would be very sad, but relieved. Damn dog will probably live to be a 17 year old Rottweiler though. (Oh, I hope not.)
Phew. That was a long post.


Anonymous jan said...

You are a dog saint. Daphne is most everything someone doesn't want in a dog and yet the love you have for her shines through the post.

I love dogs, but I'm not sure how I would do with a dog like this since I've never been tested and patience is not my long suit. I hope I would be like you.

A very powerful post. Thank you for your honesty.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Challenge dogs.

You have certainly found one of those. It's good that she found you, or that you found her.

I love that she loves the cat. How strange. Maybe it's something totally outside of 'dog' that she finds soothing.

I wonder if your ghetto dog was encouraged to fight to kill when she was a puppy. If the only time she got food... it would be a hard imprint to break. Puppies and small dogs.

She sure puts my nippy rat terrier in a different perspective. (We're working on it, really... )

12:43 PM  
Blogger yellowdog granny said...

wow..i don't know who i want to hug first..you or the dog...as we say in Texas..bless her heart..and bless your's for loving her when most either couldn't or wouldn't..

2:13 PM  
Anonymous cherie said...

I knew Daphne had issues, but I didn't realize how severely she could act out. Poor Daphne, who must be miserable when she gets that stressed. Poor Carina, who can't possibly know how to help her. Lucky for Daph, YOU were the one at the shelter that day. I think you're doing the best that can possibly be done for her - excercise and controlling her environment. And, I love the way she and Elvis love each other. :-)
Have you thought of a Kuranda bed for Coop (and Daphne)? http://www.kuranda.com/shop/allproducts.asp I think they're almost indestructible.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Carina said...

Heh, thanks all....well sometimes she's a bit harder to like than other times! She has a nice comfy crate set up for when I leave the house now....luckily she doesn't at all mind being crated.
Cherie, I've seen those beds, they look great. I'm leery though...bought her an "indestructible" bed from Foster and Smith once. It just took her a bit longer...she worked and worked at one corner, got it started and destroyed it. She is very dedicated. :I

5:44 AM  
Blogger jill bryant said...

So hard. Dogs can ruin your lives and yet...they're ours. Sometimes you love them and sometimes...Sounds like her early abuse might have left permanent damage - who knows? I do know the people that had her before should join other animal abusers and be shot in the most painful way possible - maybe with some good seasoned ammo for later animal consumption...

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Great Dane Addict said...

Wow, poor Daphne.

But honestly, I'd trade you in a heartbeat for my Princess Zoey (okay that's not entirely literal since I love her too much to actually do that.)

I'd rather worry about all of what you've written, than the aggression. I mean I love my Zoey to death and that's why she's still here, but there is nothing more stressful than having to worry about aggression (I mean she's not going to bite me or anyone she knows of course, but bring over a friend she's never met and you're screwed.)

And I've dealt with health problems with her too and having to worry about both is even worse.

Sometimes I so don't agree with the statement that pets are supposed to increase your lifespan. Because I know my pets are driving me to my death some days.


2:17 PM  

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