In between getting Melvin’s Project Joy up and running, I have not forgotten my other project, Jake. He and I saw a behaviorist Tuesday.  She was amazing. I had filled out a ten page questionnaire on-line and she read every single word.  There is something about people who prepare…I love them. We talked about a lot of things.  A lot.  When she asked me to sum up my goals I said, there is at least one, hopefully two.

  1. I want to give Jake the best life he can have. I want to understand him and what he’s going through and who he is post-Melvin so that I can adjust our life and champion what it is he needs.
  2. If being an only dog isn’t part of #1, I would like to figure out how to add a dog to Jake’s life.  In the past, Jake has always been added to the mix.  Now he’s the mix.

It’s interesting the things you uncover when you have the right person walking you through Jake’s life. As for his prey drive, it’s strong and there is very little that can be done about it.  She told me that there are two things the behaviorist community still has not solved – prey drive and territorial issues.  Although I wish there was a solution, it’s always better to know what you’re facing.  Reality is what reality is.  Jake will always be a hunter.

But the good news is, that doesn’t necessarily mean he has to be an only dog.  She had a lot of great insights into Jake, and his life with Melvin. In short, Melvin was Jake’s prozac.  Melvin provided Jake with safety and direction. (That makes me love and miss Melvin even more).  Jake was fine with so many things when Melvin was here and has anxiety with so many of them now that Melvin is gone.

We talked about the many reasons why Jake lunged violently at may not have liked the dogs I have introduced him to, especially once they entered our house. We talked about how a little dog who gets attacked by a big dog or a brown dog might always have fear of big or brown dogs.  How a dog’s visual (size, color and energy) can be a good thing for one dog and a wrong thing for another dog.  How just the visual can make or break what is to come next. We talked a lot about the dogs in Jake’s past.  Then we talked specifics about the dogs I had introduced him to recently.

In my dog search, the dog that is right for me does not look like Melvin. As part of my search, the dog that is right for Jake is similar to Melvin in that they are not into rough play, they are tolerant and easy going and they can be a good lead for Jake. My guess is also an older dog would work best (for both of us).

She agreed with all but one thing.  In looking back at Jake’s life, the only constant, has been a yellow lab.  A big, yellow, soft dog. A yellow lab in his first life, a yellow lab in his foster life and then in his soulmate, Melvin. While she couldn’t guarantee it, her guess was that Jake needs to see Melvin (literally) in the next dog.  A dog that looks similar to his greatest love (and loss).  The exact visual that I have been avoiding.

She pointed out, that is all Jake has ever known.  He is not a dog park dog, he does not go to doggy daycare.  He has known, big, yellow dogs. The same way that little dog who gets attacked by a big dog runs from big dogs.  Jake seeks out type of dog that has brought him companionship and joy.

It’s amazes me (and it breaks my heart a little) how two creatures who love the same thing so much, could need such different things moving forward. Is it out of the question for me to love a big, yellow dog again.  No way.  But it feels a little impossible at the moment. And that is ok, because we have some Jake homework anyway.

We are going to work on finding some dogs (that already have homes) that fit Jake’s visual comfort zone and work on getting him used to those dogs on walks and then in our backyard.  Light colored, soft dog visitors.  Desensitize him (and me) a bit.  Get his anxiety to a better, more manageable place with dogs who can come and then leave.  And in doing so, one day, we will work with a rescue group that will work with us in doing the same thing with a dog that could work for our family.

She gave me hope.  And hope is everything. kate_juliet_photography_pets_melvin_022849

4 thoughts on “Behaviorist.

  1. I’m happy for you and Jake to begin this journey and my heart aches for you a bit as my eyes well up.
    Just know the next big yellow dog isn’t going to even try to replace Melvin, it will just be a blonde who needs something and in return will pay back the Joy with whatever he/she can bring to the table.

  2. This was a great post. I love that you are so conscientious in uncovering ways to make Jake’s life as comfortable as possible. He is so lucky to have you. I feel for you in the coming months as you begin the process of finding a companion for him. I find it very interesting that the type of dog who reminds you both of your greatest love, may evoke opposing emotions in each of you… I think there is a story there. Thank you for letting us be a part of your journey! Don’t forget that we are all here supporting you every step of the way…

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