Monday, March 4, 2013

Axle is not a Breed Ambassador...and I am not Ashamed

Axle and Remi on a play date.
A few months ago, some new neighbors moved in down the street. They're dog lovers, too. They walk their dog at least twice a day, from what I've seen. You can imagine how excited I was to see fellow dog walkers move into the neighborhood! When we first moved here, everyone looked at me like I was crazy for walking our dogs. Now they look at two families like they're crazy!! I've been wanting to stop by and welcome them to the neighborhood, but time has not been in my favor. Today, as chance would have it, I was walking Remi and Axle by their house when the woman came out of the yard with their dog. Axle immediately went on the defensive, and I quickly let the woman know to keep her distance. She and I were trying to have a get-to-know-each-other conversation over the barking of our dog. I walk Axle and Remi on one leash, a connector joining their harnesses. While Axle hopped around barking, Remi was tugging in the opposite direction. The stimulation was too much for Axle, and he turned on Remi. He didn't hurt her, but it looked (and sounded) nasty as he growled and snarled at her. It scared Remi and embarrassed me.
Axle and Fry napping.

In the meantime, the woman's husband came up and asked if I needed any help. Axle quickly positioned himself between us and issued a low warning growl. I apologized, but the man seemed very understanding. He said that he had no problem with a dog being protective of his owner. We talked a bit more, then I walked the dogs home.

I was really embarrassed, to say the least. Axle had made quite a butt of himself in front of strangers, and he's a pit bull. He's supposed to be a breed ambassador, right? He's supposed to disprove stereotypes. And there he was, an anti-social growling mess.

The more I thought about it, though, the less bad and the less embarrassed I felt. This is because I thought about what all Axle has been through during his two short years - A LOT!!  It's all documented throughout the blog, but here it is in a nutshell:

Axle lived with Otto for a year. Axle was only 4 or 5 months old when the fights started. We thought it was because they weren't neutered yet, but neutering didn't change things. We tried training, crate-and-rotate, you name it. We found out the hard way that Otto was the problem - he was unstable and human/dog aggressive to such a degree that we couldn't leave the house without a muzzle on him and a very strong, very secure leash. Axle learned from Otto that it didn't matter what he did, he would be attacked. We thought things would get better with Bobob (shelter dog), and they did...until Axle woke me up one morning because Bobob was having seizures. Bobob never woke up. :(

Axle and Spudet
In the meantime, we had moved to our current house and Axle had completed training. Walking through the neighborhood unveiled a new set of problems - loose dogs. There is no leash law in the county I live in. One particular house had a group of 8 dogs that would charge us, barking and snapping. One of them bit me in December of 2010. Axle was also bitten on a later date.

After Bobob, we adopted Spudet. Things seemed to finally be working in our favor. Axle and Spuds got along beautifully...until the day she tried to kill him. He still has pink, hairless scars on his legs where she tore his flesh. Everywhere else (neck, ears, face, chest, thighs) has grown white hair over the scars.

Axle and Remi
He had a buddy down the road who would come out for a friendly doggy "hello" when we'd go walking, but his family had a baby. After the baby was born, the dog's attitude shifted. When we would walk by, his hair would stand on end and he would growl. If he was contained in his yard, it wouldn't be so bad. One day, Axle's former buddy bit him on the nose. I guess Axle really liked him, because he didn't bite back.

All of those things are enough to make any normally play-doh-like dog at least a little bit dog reactive, but that's not all Axle has been through!

From L to R: Leela, Remi, Fry, and Axle
For months (not sure exactly how long), someone was breaking into our house and stealing medication. I don't know exactly how long they did it or what all they went through before they found what they wanted to take, but I do know it took a toll on Axle. The thief was subtle, at least in the beginning, and was using a key, so we had no idea what was going on for quite some time. In the meantime, Axle was having to witness a stranger coming into HIS house, and he couldn't do a thing about it. Small wonder he had broken two welds on his crate trying to get out!! (Axle and Remi are currently on a trial being free range in the house.)

Me and my lover boy!
All things considered, I think Axle is a jam-up dog. He and Remi get along great, he does wonderfully with the cats, and he's learning not to overwhelm guests with his affection.

There's really no reason Axle should have to be so perfectly behaved. Look at everything he's been through! I do the responsible thing - I let other dog owners know that Axle is a Dog In Need Of Space, and we avoid dog parks.

Am I wrong for thinking this? Thoughts?

PS New neighbors, if you ever read this, you seem like really nice folks and your dog is cute and all, but I don't see any play dates in our future!