…or in my case, the face that completely changed my life.
I grew up with dogs. As I got older, I still really wanted the companionship of a four-legged friend, but it was never a good time to get a dog. One night, almost five years ago (and after a couple of glasses of wine), I decided to have a little look for rescue dogs near me. Adopting a dog was my goal.
I came across Dylan (his name was Blizzard at the time) and it was love at first sight. I still didn’t think that it was a good time for a dog because I was living in a small apartment and was just starting a new job. But, I was working from home so at least he would have my companionship all day. Two days after seeing him, I was still thinking about him—I knew he was going to be mine.
I was looking for a medium-sized dog (around 50 pounds), not too energetic (I was in a small apartment remember), friendly, and good with cats (my dad has cats). The rescue was like “he’s perfect for you.” Unfortunately, he was down in Georgia and I was in New Jersey, so no meet-and-greet. But, that’s okay, he seems great.
The rescue didn’t know too much about his history. He was around 4 months old, near death and with mange when he was discovered in the woods in Georgia. They said that he has a scar on his face and shows other signs of abuse. They said that despite his past, he loves life and people and is just a happy dog.
I got approved and transport was arranged. I met him at the scheduled time, and off we went. He was mine!!
I prepared the apartment with toys, got him loads of treats, and thought our fun journey was beginning. I waited a week so he could decompress before I started taking him out and about and meeting people.
Well let’s just say, pretty much everything they told me about him wasn’t quite correct. He was 50 pounds when he got off the bus (he’s 90 pounds now). And he was ALL FEET & HEAD. Dylan was so clumsy that he was always tripping over his feet and misjudging his size. He constantly fell off the bed and smashed into walls. And he hates cats with a passion. Dylan has major trust issues and isn’t really friendly with strangers.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for him or his issues. Growing up, we didn’t take our dogs to training and if there were any concerns, the dogs just disappeared. The two dogs I do really remember—a Pekingese and an Akita—didn’t have any issues. (Well except that the Pekingese was known to bite most people. And the Akita would run away if he got out.)
But I love Dylan and returning him was never even something that entered my mind. I was keeping him, even after our first vet said that he seemed aggressive and I might have to put him down. He is my responsibility and I will do everything in my power to give him his best life possible.
Patience was never one of my finest qualities. But Dylan has taught me that with enough patience and time anything can change. My life certainly changed overnight.
I wasn’t able to cope and Dylan scared me. I was never scared he would hurt me, but I was just scared that he might hurt someone else. It started slowly, he was aggressive towards anyone who came to the apartment so, I just stopped inviting people over. Then, when we would be out and about on our walks, people would stop and get in his face to pet him, he was obviously getting nervous and I didn’t say anything. I should have been a better advocate for him because obviously he was scared. But I wasn’t and eventually he would bark and lunge at all people we would pass, to the point where I didn’t really want to take him out. Or I would walk him at crazy hours where we wouldn’t really see anyone.
I took him to obedience classes and he quickly learned all his commands (he’s a super smart dog) and even had a couple of trainers who would come to the house. But he still tried to lunge at or attack everything that came near him. It is hard to admit but I was still scared of my dog and didn’t trust him.
But there were glimmers of the dog he could be. He’s super goofy, super loyal (he’s my shadow), and super smart. He loves road trips. Dylan never peed in the apartment (except for one time when he did some zoomies and it just came out—he was just as mortified as I was), didn’t really bark, and didn’t really destroy anything. Well, he did go through a phase where he ate all of his dog beds. And, I once came home to find feathers everywhere from where he ripped up a throw pillow. Oh, and he did end up ripping up the carpet in the hallway, to get to the treat that I had obviously thrown into a corner. But, all in all, he was such an easy dog in so many ways.
He even managed to make a few dog friends.
His first real best friend was Pebbles and he would drag me to see her every day after work. He loved her owners, Barb but especially Tom, as well. They couldn’t believe that he was anything other than a sweet, loving, friendly, albeit rambunctious dog. But he also loves food, and Barb and Tom always have the “good” treats—so they quickly won him over.
So, it was somewhat bittersweet when I made the decision to move to North Carolina and move him away from his friends. I thought having a house with a big yard and getting away from a crowded apartment complex would do him good. And that way he would have more space and not be tormented by children knocking on the living room window trying to get the attention of the “cute dog.” But, I still wasn’t taking him anywhere, was still walking him at odd hours, and was trying not to have anyone over at the house. But we were managing.
After one explosive incident, while we were walking around the neighborhood, I was going to have to find help. Dylan, for the most part, behaved for all the trainers (we had one bad trainer, and Dylan walked all over him). They all said that it’s just practice but never really offered any real solutions. I did walk him several miles every day, so it wasn’t like we were not getting practice. But I just couldn’t get him to behave for me. I decided to send him to a place where they would board and train him for about 2 weeks. Speaking with the trainer had me in tears—dogs shouldn’t be aggressive, dogs should listen, and your own dog should not scare you.
Dylan thrived at “camp.”
And afterwards, it was like having a whole new dog. He’s not some sort of robot but he now has skills and more importantly, he has expectations. He knows what I expect from him and what he needs to expect from me. Even when he’s being naughty, he knows he’s doing it, and for the most part when I tell him to stop, he will listen. I am now okay that he isn’t the stereotypical dog. I have a dog that needs space and needs time to adjust to new people. And that’s okay.
I now speak up for him and not let people do the things that make him uncomfortable. I teach people how to introduce themselves to him (just be a tree & give him treats is the key). Dylan now knows that he isn’t in charge. And that it’s my job to protect him. He doesn’t need to be fear aggressive any more.
Dylan always loved me because he knew that I rescued and adopted him and he was grateful.
But, I think that he has finally put all of his faith in me and now trusts that I will always advocate for him because I believe in myself and in him. He now allows me to do things which he previously struggled against and often violently—like clipping his nails, cleaning his ears, and seeing the vet. And I am now happy to have people come over to the house.
I spent quite some time being mad at the rescue but in fairness to them, he was pretty sick when he was with them and probably not the same dog there as he was with me when he got 100% better. And they really didn’t have a clue how big he would become or what breed he is. But they are lucky that I never gave up on Dylan. And I believe that Dylan never gave up on me. We have been together almost five years, and in that time, we have shared a lot of experiences together, some good and some bad, but I wouldn’t change a thing (well maybe the time, on my birthday, when he went crashing through the front window on seeing the mailman).
Dylan keeps me (mostly) laughing on a daily basis. He loves doing flips and just acting like a crazy thing while playing in the sprinkler. He sits with his back to you when he wants a massage (that’s the universal symbol of course). And comes running from the other end of the house because he doesn’t want me to be alone in the bathroom.
If it wasn’t for Dylan, I wouldn’t have moved, and I wouldn’t have committed to only working from home so as not to leave him alone. And if I hadn’t done either of those things, I would never have rescued Rainey (that story will be for the next post), become involved in rescue, and become motivated to start Dylan & Rainey.