The Barker Chronicles II

Barker Posey has been my opportunity to grow for almost 2 years now. The first visit to the animal rescue should have sent up the red flags. Before we even got to the area for her to meet Doggy Trejo, she put on the brakes. The shelter behavior staff PICKED HER UP and carried her to the enclosed meeting area! That should have been my first hint that she was going to give me hell.

I admit, during the beginning of our relationship, I was worried that she would have to go back to the shelter. She was biting Trejo, who she loved. She bit me. She attacked another dog and seriously injured it. And the idea of training a dog who behaved like she did, while she went through heartworm treatment, seemed insurmountable.

Barker’s attack of another dog prompted a serious look into either training or taking her back to the shelter. Paul and I didn’t want to return her. She had already been returned at least once and we decided she would continue to be in our family. I did some research and found some resources. There are groups that specifically help fund training for dogs adopted from shelters. Their mission is to be sure dogs can remain in their new homes. I applied for the training, made my payment, and Barker Posey started on a new path. She was our dog and we were committed to getting to a better place.

Since then, we have had private training sessions and hours upon hours of focused training with her. We have learned to read her signals, respect her limits, and adjust our expectations for what she can do. We humans have taken the responsibility for her behavior and training. Putting her in situations that are beyond her capabilities, that cause her to react, is on us. We are to blame, not her.

Recently, we had our first experience as dog rescuers that included euthanization. The details of the dog’s story were not clear and there were concerns about rehabilitation and re-adoption. This particular dog did not have a human who recognized signals, took responsibility, or respected limits. And the outcome was heartbreaking. It was difficult for me. It was especially hard because I realized that this may have been the ending to Barker Posey’s story had she not been in my home. Even in the midst of frustration, I am happy this crazy dog made it to me.

My challenges and the reality of accountability are deeply entwined. We humans have to recognize our own limitations when taking another being into our household. Are we able to care for this animal? Are we willing to train where it is needed? Are we able to recognize
limits - ours and theirs - and get help to overcome them? Answering these questions and accepting the bumps along the road leads to rewards.

While each of us faces our own situations and makes decisions that are best in the moment, remember that pets cannot help us make good decisions. They rely on us to be the leaders and to make decisions that will include the whole family. There are resources for training and keeping pets taken into your home. Take time to become the leader your dog needs to see in you.  

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