Know what you are getting into when you adopt a dog

Bill Packard: Bear is a work in progress

Posted:  Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 8:45pm
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Everyone loves dogs.  Well. Not everyone, but those that don’t like dogs don’t count.  Dogs that have had difficult histories tug even stronger at the heart strings.  That would be the case with Honey Bear. His name has been shortened to just Bear since he’s been living here at Kathy’s Frogwater Farm, and this story is true.  Every decision we make is emotional.  Even when we tell ourselves that we’re making a sound decision based on facts, in the end, it’s emotional.  So it is with dogs.  I’m sharing the Bear’s story in the hope that people will understand the commitment involved with adopting a rescue dog and the challenges that are involved.

Bear lived on the streets of Norfolk, Virginia,  at the beginning of his life. At some point, he was captured and taken to a shelter.  Captured is the word because he didn’t get rescued until later on.

Son Jesse was looking for an addition to his young family. They fell in love with Honey Bear and adopted him. The first indication that there might be a challenge was when he could not stand to be confined. A closed door was not to be allowed. Being left home alone, even for a short time did not have a good outcome. 

Jesse’s situation was about to change and the Navy was going to move him to Maine, so we agreed that he could bring the Bear here until things got settled down. Just a couple months of temporary foster care. Reality sunk in. Bear had issues that were not obvious at adoption but those issues were not going to go away and a family setting with a small child was not going to work. Bear was now ours.

There are several messages in this piece and this is the first one. There was no way that Jesse and his family could have expected the challenges with Bear unless they had researched feral dogs. Nobody does that, but they should have. Bear today is a great dog. He’s really smart, very protective and fun. It’s been a lot of work. I mean a lot. And it’s ongoing.

If I were a younger man, I doubt I would have had the patience it takes to work with a dog like this. We worked through the confined anxiety with a dog door and a wireless fence so Bear could go outside whenever he wanted, but would still be safe. 

The breezeway is his, but the house is on one end the garage is on the other. We have the popular lever handles on our doors and it didn’t take Bear long to figure out that he could open these doors with his paw. He mastered the door that opened in to the point that when he thought I wasn’t looking, he would open it just like it was an everyday thing.  Constant encouragement and correction eliminated that problem.

There is the touch. Anything other than a hand (and it took a long time before he would accept a hand) is not acceptable. 

He’s never had a bath. Water, a paper towel, the dog wipes, all of them invoke a very negative response. I mean a very negative response.

The last trip to the vet did not turn out well. As caring and patient as the folks at All Creatures are, we needed to muzzle bear for a shot for Lime disease. It was not a pleasant experience.  As I said, they’re great so I had some pills to calm him down on the next visit. 

Here’s my deal on this: I know the dog needs certain things, but I’m not going to put him through all sorts of stress if I don’t have to. It’s not about my convenience; it’s about the dog’s feelings.  The appointment was made for some routine checks and a shot.  The pills were given at the prescribed time. The trip to the vet was not as relaxed as I would have hoped.  Everything was fine in the waiting room and the exam room, until they tried to interact with the Bear.  It was all over.  The needed muzzle was not going to be put on by me or anyone else. The visit was a bust.

We have an alternate plan, but dogs need certain things, like vaccinations, exams, etc. and those things have to happen.  Bear is a work in progress.

So here we are. As with all stories of value, there’s a moral.  Know what you are getting into when you adopt a dog.  If Jesse had done his homework, I would not have this awesome dog that’s now my companion.  I thank him for that.  Fortunately, there was a Plan B. Others may not be ready, willing or able to make the commitment it takes and hopefully reading this will not discourage them, but rather, prepare them. The end result (at least in my case) is well worth the work.

Bill Packard lives in Union


Bill PackardBill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of BPackard.com. He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.

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