Wednesday, January 8, 2014

a dog's tale

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{Kilah is a seven-year-old, German shepherd/husky mix}

A few days ago, I posted a picture of our dog, Kilah, on Instagram {follow me @hritter18} and a little bit about her story. I got a lot of sweet comments, so I thought I would expand on Kilah's journey here.

Shawn and I adopted Kilah from our county animal shelter in March 2007. She was an early birthday present for me. We saw her photo online, so the girl fostering her brought her over to our apartment. Kilah was only four months old, but strangely calm for a four-month-old puppy. She hopped up on our couch and laid there the whole time, letting us pet her. The girl told us that she didn't know much about Kilah's history, and said that Kilah was pretty skiddish, but was getting better. Kilah didn't spend much time at the shelter because she had kennel cough, so was fostered out quickly in order to get better.

We fell in love with Kilah, who was actually named Karma at the time, and adopted her the next day. We were so excited to bring home our new puppy. Little did we know the journey we were setting out on.

After bringing her home, we quickly realized that something was off with our puppy. She was painfully shy around everyone, including us at times. Though she was potty trained, she would pee and poop in the house when she got nervous. When people would visit, she would poop as she was running away from our guests. No one but Shawn and I could pet her. It was so bad, that one point, people couldn't even look her in the eye without scaring her. She would go outside, but she didn't like it because every noise - car door slamming, knocking, engine revving, person, other dogs, everything - sent her into a panic. She would pull on the lease so hard toward home, clawing the ground like she was army crawling. One time, she slipped out of her collar and ran and hid in a bunch of tall grass near a crick. We called her name but she wouldn't come out. We searched for an hour before we found her. The only safe place for her, in her mind, was in her crate.

Shawn and I decided that our sweet puppy couldn't live like this and nothing we were doing was helping. We couldn't understand what was wrong. We called a local dog trainer and signed her up for puppy behavior classes. The trainer instantly noticed how skiddish Kilah was {dragging her, literally, into the class each week was torture}, and said she thought that Kilah had been abused. She rattled off signs and symptoms, to which we agreed to having seen in Kilah's behavior since adopting her several months earlier.

It was absolutely heartbreaking to think that our sweet puppy had been abused so badly. We were devastated and pissed off at whomever had done this. Apparently, the first four months of a dog's life are very impressionable, so we had a lot of work ahead of us to help Kilah overcome the damage that had been done.

One thing the trainer also suggested during our first, and second, round of puppy classes was to get another dog with a completely different temperament to help with Kilah's anxiety. So we needed a very outgoing dog to help our very shy dog learn that not all people were going to hurt her, that she was safe and loved. Just under a year after adopting Kilah, we adopted a 12-week-old, black lab mix, that we named Moxyn.

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I remember walking into the second room of dogs at the county animal shelter, and in the second cage was a puppy whining and pawing at the cage door, begging to be loved. Madison, as she was called at the time, had just been spayed the day before, and while her "sister" looked almost comatose in the cage, this pup was ready to play. She was perfect, and the next day she came home with us.

But a second dog didn't solve Kilah's problems, though Moxyn did help. Kilah, who now weighed 75 pounds, had figured out how to hide under the bed and would do so nearly all day, except when we drug her out to go to the bathroom. And she had taken up the art of chewing...everything - dressers, clothing, rugs, carpet, plastic, etc. - when she was anxious. This would go on for years. It also took nearly a year before both dogs could be left out of their crates without destroying anything when we weren't home. And it took three years for Kilah to let any of our friends pet her. Three years! And it wasn't until this Christmas that Kilah let my BIL pet her {he's been a part of the family for six years}.

Eventually, Kilah stopped chewing, stopped pooping when people visited, stopped army crawling on walks, and stopped hiding under the bed {mostly because we blocked her from going under it}. She stays in the room with our guests, she lets people pet her, she goes outside without hesitation {99% of the time}, and she and Moxyn are best buds.

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{circa 2008}

Kilah still has her days and moments though. This dog will always be scarred from the abuse she suffered early in her puppy life, and we will always have to have a little extra patience with her. But she is sooooo much better. She is such a sweet, loving, beautiful and happy dog, who gives high fives.

She is a constant reminder that anything is possible, and that I have more patience than I think I do. Her journey reminds me that we are all a constant work in progress. There are always going to be challenges we face and obstacles that we must overcome. Kilah is a reminder that you should never give up on what you love, and she is so loved.

P.S. If you are ever looking for a pet, adopt. There are so many deserving animals in shelters who need you. And it is so rewarding to give these animals a good home.


Kristine said...

Adoption!! It's the only way to get a mans best friend :) love this story... My doxie was neglected so he clings to me and barks his little head off at anyone "new" in our home.

Kristyn @ Carolina Fireflies said...

When people ask what kind of dogs I have, I tell them the breed is rescue :) I'm so glad you guys stuck with her and never gave up! They are both beautiful dogs!

Leslie Schmidt said...

Such a good story and so glad you wrote it when you did. We adopted a little terrier mix a few years ago and majority of the time she is the sweetest most loving dog but then there are times where she just loses it and has accidents and barks and is such a pain! But then I remember we don't know her story other than she was found out and apparently a run away. Then I realize we just need to love her and it will all work out. Thanks for the loving story of your cute dogs!

Gwen said...

I'm so glad your hard work and patience paid off and that both dogs have a loving home. Our cat Clover was a stray in our neighborhood but she was so sweet we couldn't let her stay outside. Then we found out that she has a BB in her leg (who DOES that?) and it took her a long time to warm up to us but as I type this she's laying on top of my legs. She gets along great with our male cat (the other female isn't so sure but they tolerate each other).

Christa said...

This hurts my heart so much because it reminds me of my sweet Roscoe. I got him almost 4 years ago from our local pound and when I went in to pick out a dog he was the only one not barking wildly or climbing all over the cages. He just sat and stared at my sister and me. I immediately knew as someone who spent most of her life terrified of animals that this was the dog for me. Just like you guys I realized when we got Roscoe home that something wasnt quite right. He peed on the floor anytime someone came close to him. He wouldnt cross the threshhold from my living room into the kitchen. He refused for 8 months to climb the stairs up to my bedroom. He had anxiety when I left and would chew magazines and shoes. The first time my boyfriend came over to meet him, he pooped all over my couch pillows (Roscoe, not Wes. Ha!). Eventually Wes asked if he could start taking Roscoe to work with him since he works in an office with only 4 other people that doesnt get many visitors. Of course I said yes because it meant that sweet baby didnt have to be alone all day while I was working, and it meant he would get some socialization. After almost 2 years of going to work with Wes nearly every day he has become much more social and welcoming of new people...especially if they show up with food or treats. He still runs away if I shake open a grocery or garbage bag and loud noises scare him. I call him an excellent watch dog, but a horrible attack dog. But honestly I wouldnt have it any other way. He is the most mild mannered dog I have ever encountered. Seriously....I caught my nephew pulling on his ear one day and he didnt snap at him. He just wants to be loved and snuggled and petted on. He was about 2.5 when I got him, so there is no telling what kind of trauma he went through before that. There is a special place in hell for people that hurt helpless animals. I dont have a blog, but my Instagram is cjstan01 if you want to see a picture (or 500) of my sweet Roscoe Puppy :)

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