Rescue dogs: Not always sugar & spice & everything nice. Sometimes it’s broken & sad & a lot of bad.
When you rescue a dog you never know what you will get. We have several rescues each with their own issues, but this story is about Koda. A little dog that was thrown away like garbage on the island of Puerto Rico. Humans had failed him. Fortunately, for him, he was rescued by a wonderful organization called Second Chance Animal Rescue of Puerto Rico.
He received medical care, was sterilized, sheltered, fed, given water, and love. Once he was cleared, he was shipped to NH so that he could be adopted and finally find a family to call his own.
This is where I come into the story. My family found a great rescue group in Milford NH called Sato Heart Rescue; my husband and I both Volunteer and I have completely taken over the social media side of the rescue. I had decided to foster a dog, now mind you, we already own FOUR dogs. So, there was NO way we were keeping him…. or so I thought....
My husband fell head-over-heels in love with him, we went back and forth about keeping him and why it would be a bad idea/good idea for a day or two; but there was no denying I had fallen too. We decided to keep him and give him a spoiled life.
Koda is a very lovable dog but has a lot of fear and uncertainty in his brain. But who can blame him he was literally thrown away like a piece of trash.
A few weeks into having him he started really showing signs that he didn’t know how to ‘dog’ correctly. When he played, he played rough. He was always showing signs of anxiety, he could never settle down and just ‘be’ and had food aggression.
He has struck out at us many times, connecting with me twice over food and my husband once after a very scary vet visit.
We did everything we could for him, hiking on mountains, 3-mile daily walks, yard play, basic puppy classes, medically checked, prozaz, 2 behavior/trainer specialists.
The problem is this; most dogs want to please their human. Koda wants to please himself because that is how he learned to handle stress. He has learned if he snaps, growls, or bites, that his undesirable feelings go away.
Our last effort to seek help was a veterinarian behavior specialist to have him evaluated. Within 30 minutes of our visit it was determined that we should humanly euthanize him. This was a devastating blow to myself and my husband. We did not want to accept this, but by the end of the day after many tears, we decided it probably was best.
However, me being me – I had this nagging feeling about the decision. It just wasn’t sitting well because 95% of the time Koda is THE PERFECT dog. He just needs help with that 5%. As you can see from the images, he has a lot of love and life left in him.
I did not want to fail him again. Even though I had gone as far as to call someone about coming to the home to euthanize him there. The nagging feeling was still there.
With a heavy heart I had written a letter about Koda and our decision to the Board Members of the rescue that we got him from. They were crushed as well. This is NOT a common occurrence with the rescue. Everyone was shocked but supportive in every way.
That same letter was forwarded to a few close friends and family members. One of them reaching out to me with another solution. He asked me to consider another behavior specialist for a second opinion. I had reservations, I didn’t want to because I was afraid, I’d get the same answer, but what did I have to lose in trying another option?
I had EVERYTHING to lose if I didn’t do this. Koda’s LIFE would have been lost and I would have had to deal with that decision for the rest of my life.
We have a life in our hands that we promised to care for. A life that my husband and I absolutely adore and enjoy. A life that we have come to know and love, despite his issues.
Humans had already failed him once. I was willing to do everything in my power to not fail him again. Now don’t get me wrong. We would have made that heart-wrenching choice if we 100% felt that any of our other human or fur family were in danger.
Most people already think we have gone above and beyond our duty to him. I had a few people even tell me “I can fix him with a bullet between the eyes.” That probably is the most tasteless and inappropriate thing to say to someone going through what my husband and I have gone through with Koda.
A word of advice, when someone is going through something like this, if you have NO sound advice, shut up and move along.
But please understand, he isn’t just a dog to us we view Koda as a family member. Anyone that really knows who we are will understand this.
After digesting what was told to me, I went to my husband and told him about Olympia Kennels. He agreed to give it a go.
So, I packed up Koda in the car and drove to Chester, NH which is an hour away from where I live. Had my meeting with Mike, and he recommended a 3-week boarder training program. Meaning, Koda lives with him for 3 weeks and he gets rigorous ‘how-to-dog’ training there.
Mike informed us that within 7 to 10 days he would be able to judge if the training was helping or not. If it doesn’t seem like it’s going well, Mike said he would contact us to pick Koda up, and then euthanasia would have been recommended. If it goes well, he will keep Koda and continue the training and then WE would get training with Mike to continue keeping Koda on the right doggie path.
While I was there Mike, Heather and the other Mike all interacted with Koda and he was perfectly fine. Mike observed that I was part of Koda’s issues…. Wait what? ME? Lol
I am a naturally anxious person & Koda is anxious, so when he showed signs of being anxious, I’d reach down and pat him and say, “It’s OK, Monkey” Which guess what I was doing? Yup, reinforcing his FEAR and Anxiety!
But I honestly didn’t know! I was telling Koda, “It’s OK don’t be scared”, but in his little dog brain he hears It’s OK be scared!
I had a lot to learn.
My husband Duane, and I decided to give this puppy boot camp a shot. We took a day and drove to Chester and dropped our boy off. This was Koda’s last chance.
During the weeks Koda was there they sent us updates and he was doing wonderfully. NOT ONE bite, not one incident with another dog. NOTHING. He responded well to training and they pushed him. The training was rigorous. They needed to create scenarios with him to see if he had any red flags, but NOTHING appeared! SO, with that discovery it was mostly likely US and our crazy existing pack causing Koda issues.
Three weeks was over, and we had to go get Koda. We were both nervous and excited. We wanted to make sure we were prepared to set him up for success once we were back home.
Mike pepped talked us and then brought Koda out. Mike then proceeded to trained us on how to use the new collar, on how to walk Koda, how to talk to him etc, etc.
Mike was AMAZING and patient with us and was very thorough.
Koda is trained, we are trained AND we were taking our boy home. Home to LIVE!
A few weeks had gone by and we asked Mike to come to our home to help us with the entire pack. To observe them and tell us what needed work.
It was GREAT. There were many, MANY things we were letting slide that we should not have been letting slide. We WEREN’T the alphas ALL the dogs were. They were the boss of us.
Mike’s training for US, helped SO much, he taught us body language, how to use our tone, our hands, our body. He taught us SO much and I cannot thank him enough. HE helped us save our boy.
We have continued training ALL the dogs, and it’s an ONGOING training. It’s getting easier every day. My husband and I are the pack leaders now NOT the dogs. Both myself and my husband’s confidence with handling the dogs has grown and in turn the behavior of the pack has improved tremendously.
My advice from this whole thing. When you rescue a dog, remember it’s a lifetime commitment, they aren’t supposed to be thrown away because they may not be the cute, lovable creature you envisioned having in your family. Obviously, you must be safe and make sure your family is safe. BUT, look at our story. This dog was told he needed to put down, that he was untrainable.
He didn’t need to be put down, he WAS trainable, and he has been a great dog. I am not going to lie, we will always have to ‘train’ Koda, give him boundaries and make sure when we tell him to do something that we follow through with it. If we tell him to sit and he doesn’t we stick with him until he does.
HE needs to follow through with the command in order to be a healthy, well-behaved dog. WE are the boss not him. Koda needs the strict structure. We need him to be at peace, so our pack flows as smoothly as possible.
Some people think “oh that’s mean, the dogs are not gonna like you anymore for being so bossy.”
Mike told us a story, because I DID think that! I thought I can’t be so “commanding” because the dogs won’t love me. They WILL love me. DOGS like “orders”. They have pecking orders for a reason!
The story that Mike told us was this…
Take your spouse and your dog. Place them in the trunk of a car for 24 hours. When you open the trunk, who do you think will be ecstatic to see you again? LOL Probably NOT the spouse, but the dog will kiss you and jump all over you!
We could not have done this without Olympia Kennels and Mike D. I will recommend them until the day I die, or they retire and close. Mike was amazing and highly knowledgeable. If you find yourself in a similar situation, let me save you a lot of money, blood, sweat and heartache…. bypass everyone and GO TO MIKE!
YOUR DOGS LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
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