Animal Kingdom.

During the first month with Melvin two issues arose. The first was Melvin got jealous when I focused on Max. When I would pet Max, Melvin would charge him and try to move him out-of-the-way. It was the only time that Melvin would push the boundaries with Max. It made me nervous, mostly because I knew I needed to deal with it productively and when it first happened my initial thought was (“don’t hurt my boy”). But they were both my boys and fear was not going to overcome the issue. Max did some of the training; he would issue the signal that he would not tolerate his behaviour. After the first few times it happened, I took over that role. It took some time but eventually we found our way. I also made time for each of them, Max would get some one-on-one time while Melvin was in the crate and Melvin would get some time while Max was napping.

The second issue was a bit more disconcerting. I awoke one night to Melvin standing over Max, growling. It was almost a snarl. Max was sound asleep. I had no idea what was happening but I put Melvin in the crate that night until I could sort it out. Melvin had started with a behaviorist (more on that later) so I called her the next morning to get her thoughts on what had happened. She informed me that dogs in a pack (mind you a wild pack) will often take down the weak, wounded or aging pack members as a way of keeping the pack strong and agile. She felt Melvin sensed Max was not well and it was instinctual for him to address it. I hung up the phone in shock, feeling as though I’d adopted a wildebeest. I was worried that Melvin would try to ‘take down Max’. I then of course cried. I couldn’t bear the idea of losing Max and I was not exactly seeking any validation of the situation. After the flood of emotion, I came to my senses. Melvin was not a beast, he was a dog. If that was what he was doing (I hoped it wasn’t) then I couldn’t blame him for genetics. I would do as I had been, be vigilant and diligent. I was the pack leader and under no circumstance was anyone going to be taken down.

Rescuing a dog means you rescue all of them. Often their past is a mystery. I don’t know much about his life before me but I know Melvin’s original owners would leave the house and put Melvin (then Riley) outside. They had no fence. He would wander around their town like a stray so the ‘wild pack mentality’ was pretty logical for what his life had been like. The last time animal control picked him up (again), his family said they didn’t want him back. They claimed he was ‘too itchy’.

There was reason for his quirks and they weren’t his fault but they were his and mine to work out.

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