Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ulysses Returns

Almost three weeks ago, Ulysses was returned again. He was fighting with the other dog in the home, and showing some reactivity towards other dogs and people on a busy bike path. Between the fighting, barking, and lunging, the second adoptive family felt that Uly wasn't a good fit. I resolved to keep him for a few more weeks this time to better evaluate what type of home would be best for him. Although he has lived peacefully with two other dogs, he did fight with the dog in his second adoptive home, and he and Brisbane butt heads pretty regularly.

In fact, a little over a week ago Ulysses and Brisbane got into a fight in the yard. Though neither of them have been injured in any of their noisy disagreements, this time I got hurt. Brisbane wasn't ready to call it quits, so I grabbed him and walked away. Uly came after Briz and got my arm instead. He immediately bounced into a sit afterward, but I was left with a nasty puncture wound.

This is Uly's third bite, and that is very dangerous for a dog in rescue. Dogs with bite histories are a liability to place, I or anyone involved in his rescue could potentially be sued if he bites again in an adoptive home. For most dogs in rescue, a bite equals a euthanasia appointment.

So what's different about Ulysses? Uly remains an incredibly sweet dog despite his bite history. All three of the bites occurred in potentially preventable circumstances. Maybe just gut instinct too, he doesn't feel like a vicious dog.

The first bite occurred when the baby in the first adoptive family crawled near, or possibly on, Ulysses and took the toy he was chewing. The baby received a bite to the face, causing a bruise. The second bite occurred several weeks later when the adopter allowed both baby and dog to be on the floor with nothing between them. The baby crawled near Uly, the adopter says he stepped between them, picked the baby up, and pushed the dog out of the way. Uly turned around and bit his arm, causing a puncture and a single slice that required stitches. We believe the damage was largely due to Uly's broken lower canines.

This third bite is very different from the first two, I was actively moving out of Uly's space, and he was in the middle of a dog fight. Given his behavior immediately after the bite, I believe he was intending to bite Brisbane and not me. While this wouldn't be an ok bite for Briz to receive either, it makes a bit more sense than Uly randomly deciding to bite me.

So what is next for our boy? Prior to the most recent bite, we had been leaning toward finding Ulysses a home with someone who has worked with a reactive dog in the past. Immediately after the bite I was afraid that we were out of options because I could no longer keep Brisbane and Ulysses in the same house. However, Uly and Briz are both quite amenable to being crated, especially when there are stuffed Kongs involved. I've been able to keep the peace via the crate and rotate method, making certain there is always a door, gate, or other barrier between the two of them. This has worked extremely well, and has bought us some time to work out exactly what to do next, and to gather opinions from dog people near and far. When Uly is done with his current quarantine period in a couple of days, we'll be meeting with an evaluator for a local rescue, depending on her assessment we may meet with a highly regarded trainer in Los Angeles who works with aggressive dogs.

I can't say for certain what is going to happen to Ulysses, there is still the possibility that we will all conclude that he is too dangerous to be placed in an adoptive home. We may find really reliable triggers for his behavior, and then begin working with those triggers. All I can say for now is that I will do my best to see that Uly is happy and loved for the rest of his life.

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