Oh Doug.

Doug continues to be the most energetic animal I have ever encountered.  Here are some updates on how he/we are doing.

  • We are starting to make progress on him not mouthing me. My feet are less afraid to walk by him and my old bruises are healing nicely.
  • I have embraced our attempt to walk across the country as often as needed and he now only tries to eat the leash for the first ten minutes of the walk.
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  • He does great in the crate (both when I’m gone and at night).  I’m not sure when he will be a dog that can sleep with me (see next bullet point)
  • Doug views me as his playmate. But only in certain rooms, and for the life of me, I cannot figure this out. If I am in the kitchen, he will walk over to see what I’m doing but then he will go do his own thing. If I am in the office, he will either go play and entertain himself (between walks) or he will lay down in the bed in my office. If I go into the TV/couch area, he turns into a maniac and thinks I’m there to play with him and he will bounce off my body from all directions to try to engage me non-stop.  He does the same thing in my bedroom (which is why the crate sleeping arrangement is currently in play).  I’m going to be honest here, I really miss the comfortable areas of my house. Like my couch. I guess I will just have to cook or work in the office if I want to relax.
  • He is doing great with training.  He sits on command, most of the time.  He still won’t sit when I’m trying to sit on the couch though, apparently he does not believe in synchronized sitting.
  • He continues to do great with housebreaking!
  • We went to my nieces soccer game this weekend.  There were tons of people and a lot of activity and he did awesome! He does great in the car too.


I was thinking about what a handful Doug is and how different he is from what I expected.  I’m not sure expected is the right work, he’s just different from what I’ve had so I guess my idea of how he would be was based on wrong things. Anyway,  I know some of us get up in arms when someone adopts a dog and then has doubts, or calls in a panic that the dog is not what they thought they’d be or that they are not sure if it can work.

If we want a dog to growl, to give us that warning sign that all is not ok, then we have to be more prepared when a recent adopter calls with the same type of alert.

As committed as I am to the dogs, Doug is a lot more work than I ever thought he’d be. He has so much more to learn which means I have so much more to teach him and that can be overwhelming and exhausting for even the most seasoned dog lover. There have been moments with Doug when I think, a first time dog owner would cry with him.  And the thing is, Doug is a great dog. He’s a normal dog. He’s got more energy than I’m used to but it’s still probably a normal amount. He has made me realize I need to figure out a better way to support new dog rescuers. When the dog is biting at your feet and you are worried they will never stop, I can’t come back to them with it won’t always be this way or it will get better.  When someone is overwhelmed in that moment, they need a more immediate idea.  Telling them it gets better will only make them worry more in the here and now because the future feels so far away.

It’s like if you are crying and someone says, don’t cry. Don’t cry? That is all you got? I mean at least go get me a tissue.

To all of you out there just starting off on your rescue endeavor, if you are overwhelmed or unsure or tired beyond recognition, here are some of my truths:

  • It’s hard!  You are not imagining how hard it is! You are both new to each other at first yet somehow you already love this crazy stranger. It takes a while to find a grove, even something resembling a grove. They don’t know what you want and you don’t know what they need. When you hit an a-ha milestone though, it feels so sweet.
  • It is A LOT of work. It is not always going to feel rewarding, in fact sometimes it feels like you are being tortured and maybe on a secret reality TV show. Crying is ok.
  • Some new dog owners do not go through a hard phase. Some of them just continue on as they were pre-rescue and it’s blissful and joyous. And you will be happy for them and still want to make a voodoo doll with a strand of their hair.  Not everyone’s path is going to be the same.
  • There is a reason I didn’t blog during Melvin’s first few years with me; it’s because he was even harder than than Doug is now. I didn’t have time or energy to blog becaue I was begging him to sit still. But you know how Melvin turned out. Melvin was worth every injury, every moment I hid in the bathroom because I was afraid to walk him.  Every time I sat in my car for a moment’s peace before walking in to deal with his exuberance. My love for Melvin is anchored in those early years, from those seemingly impossible rough patches, from those tearful ‘what the F was I thinking getting this dog’ moments.

This dog, yes this Melvin, my Melvin, was a full fledge nightmare the first year I had him.  The first time I had him the car, he busted through the SUV barrier and hopped into my lap while I was driving down a highway at 65 mph.  Poetically, we were on our way to see a behaviorist when that happened. Worth. Every. Single. Minute.photo





26 thoughts on “Oh Doug.

  1. I could easily make this about having a baby. I continue to find similarities in raising each child and raising each rescue. God I love your writing!

  2. We might have the most energetic dog in the world, We rescued a weimaraner mix at 9 months old from the local shelter. She’d been returned twice, that should have been a clue. She sounds A LOT like Doug, except we had to eat in shifts so one of us could guard the other while they ate. She was a wild ball of unbridled energy who thinks sitting on the couch or laying down in bed is a sign for attack me and play bite my ears/nose. She can jump 4ft high from a stand still and would at zero provocation. There were times I did cry thinking I was totally screwing up this dog and she was never going to be any better than poorly controlled chaos.

    She’s 4 now, I’d like to say she’s 100% better now, but she’s not. She’s still crazy but now it’s more in a I’m happy rather than total spazz-out over completely nothing. She still likes to attack and play bite your ears (and nose) but she now takes her cues from us as to when it’s play time. She gets too wound up sometimes but redirects pretty easily. (giggling does NOT help, it only eggs her on!). She now happy will crash out in my lap while I watch TV, sleeps under the covers by my feet, and carries her stuffed toys around when she needs to calm herself down. While we have never quite tamed her love for food, we no longer have to guard each other while we eat. I wish someone would of told me with both my dogs that it does get better, because there were times when I thought it never would and felt horribly guilty over it. I think next time we might consider a less energetic breed.

  3. Loved loved this post (and the photos of Doug were icing on the cake! 🙂 I just sent it to my sister as they prepare to adopt their second dog.

    I consider myself a somewhat seasoned dog owner – having had one calm easy lab and then one terror of a lab puppy that was leash reactive and became an amazing flyball/agility/barnhunt competitor. But when I brought home my youngest lab rescue at 1.5yrs of age….I had so many “what the f was I thinking” moments. I thought I knew spastic labrador energy and leash reactivity before him but I had no clue. He tested me at every turn and three years later, he still tests me but we have made so many strides forward and are so close to so many of our goals that is all without a doubt worth it. I have relied heavily on my dog people tribe to get me through the rough moments and can’t imagine life without my crazy yellow boy.

    • This made my heart so happy. Partly because anything yellow lab is my happy place but also because we are all works in progress, this is a great example of that. Love that you set goals and met them!

  4. Oh I identify again. When I brought my lab service dog trainee puppy home there were so many shocks and adjustments. When we got home, he saw my Frenchie in my lap and decided laps were his favorite thing. A 65 lb cannon ball flew across the room and into my lap. This would not do! I felt for him because he wanted what he saw the little lady had, but we had to find a good way to do it. I taught him to carefully come up across my lap (back feet on the floor) when I’d say, “Do you need a hug?” He gets his snuggle time and I don’t get crushed.

  5. I can completely relate. When we got Kodi, I thought I would surely become an alcoholic. I put up baby gates to keep him from access to the entire house until we knew how house broken he was. He would run around the house and jump the gates like a thoroughbred. He was terrified of stairs and loud noises. Now, 3 years later, he is great. He is part border collie so he still has lots of energy. However we have tackled the stairs issue and although he has gotten used to the helicopters from Quantico, he still doesn’t care for noise.
    I wouldn’t change a thing. He is Kodi with all his wonderful quirks.

    • So funny, I caught your comment out of the corner of my eye and almost jumped out of my skin because I didn’t remember writing it. LOL My dog is named Kodi too. His is short for Kodiak, how about yours?

      • Yes it is short for Kodiak, but we always call him Kodi or Kodi Bear or Bear or “Oh my goodness can you just rest for 30 minutes” 😉

  6. I love that story about Melvin! So good. You’re probably way ahead of me, but just in case: do you have puzzle toys? We love the puzzle toys from Starmark and PetSafe’s Busy Buddy line. We used them to deal with Marvin’s separation anxiety, but they might work if you want to relax and watch TV 😉 We stuff ours with peanut butter, fruit, and training treats — we mix it up so things don’t become too routine. AND we often freeze ours overnight so they take even longer. Thought I’d mention it in case it gets you a break at the end of the day! And well written about giving new adopters a break. I definitely know I was freaked out two weeks into our journey with Marv and I try to remember that terror every time I’m talking to a new adoptive pet parent 🙂 Love reading about this new journey of yours!

    • I do have puzzles! Doug tries to chew the puzzle parts instead of the treats but we are working on this. Love that you load yours up with such yummies! I will try the freezing trick, that could help! Thank you!

  7. I am having an issue with my two female rescues. The younger one has attacked and injured the older. I have taken increasing dramatic steps as this situation developed – two vet surgery visits, two bloody encounters not quite necessitating the vet – including inside dog gates, crates and separate outside play yards. I am now in the process as returning the younger dog to the rescue. I love this younger dog but fear for the safety of the older girl. Sigh. I don’t want to return the younger, but don’t I owe the older one her happiness?

    • Oh, Laura, this must be so stressful. Have you tried working with a trainer? Melvin and Jake were on two week shutdown when Jake first came to the house, they had no interaction whatsoever, they only saw each other through a gate. That shutdown time sometimes takes longer for other dogs. After the two week shutdown Jake was on a tiedown for two weeks in whatever room we were in. It gave him a little more freedom and it gave me a chance to reward him when he didn’t lunge at Melvin or when he rested quietly.

      Is the rescue group being helpful?

      • Well, the older dog, Gloria, basically raised the younger, Emma. The first two (vet necessitating) attacks were a result of fence fighting/ pack mentality – I thought. Gloria would start barking at a neighbor dog and before I knew it, 4 dogs were fighting within my yard! The third attack was an accidental contact, after I stopped Gloria from bark g at a neighbor dog. This was minor, ear damage. Two days ago, another accident or gate malfunction and Emma took the opportunity to find Gloria and attack her. 🙁 I haven’t heard back from the rescue, yet. Training is possible, but poor Gloria is so traumatized, I don’t know what is appropriate.

  8. I applaud you for being so honest and encouraging people to not give up when adopting a new dog. But I think you missed a few points, encouraging people to research breeds and making sure energy and personality match between dog and human is very important when picking out a dog. This is why I was so picky in choosing a home for Jack – he was and still can be a challenge. Doug is so lucky to be in a home with someone like you who is committed to putting up with the challenge, but many dogs are not so lucky.

    • I completely agree with doing the homework first. Sometimes, regardless of planning, there are moments once you have your new family member that you doubt your ability. I think the number one thing people forget is that dogs don’t speak human. ‘I say off’ he still won’t get off the couch. ‘I say stop’ and he keeps doing it. They have either never had a dog or they have been around well trained dogs and they have a misconception that they arrive that way. Even for me and Doug (I had an idea about what a young Doug could be like), but I was nowhere close to the reality.

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