Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Picking up Seppel... the adventure begins!

On the evening of October 22nd, 2011 I picked up my friend at her house for what would be the biggest adventure of our lives. Alright, maybe not our lives, but the biggest adventure of October 2011! My friend Danielle is also a coworker of mine. She's an amazing vet tech and is also into dogs and dog training. She is owned by an 11-year-old Pit Mix and a 2yr old Pit Bull that she adopted 4mos ago. Her and I train dogs similarly and constantly bounce ideas off of each other so I knew she would be the perfect wingman for the night. I'm so glad she came along because I dread driving around Portland and it was nice to have someone go with me that was excited to meet Seppel too.

Waiting for the plane to arrive.

Seppel's plane landed around 7:30pm. We waited in a small room while they unloaded the plane. When they brought Seppel into the cargo area I could see him through a glass window in a nearby door. I'm not a very squishy person, but sometimes I do think things are meant to be. I don't know how but it was as though Seppel knew I was going to be taking him home. He looked back at me through the glass like he knew me. Dogs are excellent at reading body language, I don't know if mine was screaming "You're coming home with meeee!!!!!" but I will never forget the look he gave me. At this point I was really glad Danielle had come with me because they wanted me to back my truck up that ramp pictured above. I drive a chevy s10, it's a manual, and I hate it. Thankfully Danielle has driving skillz and she backed my truck up the scary ramp.

I can officially say I survived a 45min drive home with a Pit Bull that I had never met before in a cramped close space.

Just quick back story on my living situation at this point. I had been living with my cousin who was facing a foreclosure on his house. It wasn't until Seppel was for sure coming that the bank decided we had to get out of the house. The 22nd was my last night in my cousin's place. 
When we got back into town I stopped at my folks to do a quick meet and greet. I locked Seth and LiLo, my other two dogs in the garage. Both of my parents were apprehensive, they do not like Pit Bulls. I brought Seppel home under the guise that I was fostering him with serious intent to find him a home. My mom said this exactly, "He can stay here for 2 weeks. No more!" If you're getting the feeling that I have used the foster card before - I totally have. I think my mom knew that was what was happening. I am very blessed that I have two parents who are willing to support my effort to repay a debt and do a favor for a friend because ultimately that is why I wanted to do this. I don't think this would have been possible if Seppel had been the man eating monster portrayed in news headlines... I'm very thankful he's the complete opposite.

That first night Sepp got to sleep in bed with me. I told him before I shut the light off that he was not allowed to eat me in my sleep. He just curled up next to me and wagged his tail every time I touched him. 

A slightly stressed Sepp.

There's something that I've heard commonly in Pit Bull circles called "The Two Week Shut Down". I had been advised by people on the board and even a few friends that I needed to do the shut down. 

In the beginning I had all intentions of using this method, but it wasn't really conducive to my lifestyle especially since I was moving back in with my folks and they would not be supporting anything like this. I chose to just let the dogs meet and wing it. The first two weeks were bumpy. Two weeks seems to be about the time it takes for most dogs to settle in, Sepp was no different. I had to look it up on old forum postings but Seppel liked to hump other dogs. Seth and LiLo were NOT having it. I supervised interactions at ALL times because they would get into spats every now and then. In the beginning I think they probably got into a growling/bumping match about once a day. They were very small spats but scared the heck out of me. I'm not going to lie, Pit Bulls are scary. I was second guessing my decision a lot in the beginning wondering to myself, "What did I get my dogs into? They were fine with just the two of them and then I brought this bully home!" I felt so bad that I potentially brought a total terror into the house. 

Because of the mild tension going on, they only went outside together supervised by me. I fed Seth and LiLo in the kitchen and fed Seppel out in the garage. At night and when I was not home to supervise Seppel was kenneled. I made it clear to my parents they did not have to do anything with him. I did not want them to handle him if they felt uncomfortable. That first week I brought him to work on his 5th day being here. The first few days there was some whining, I had to give him a little ace to calm his nerves a little bit. As the days passed the whining stopped but he started doing some growling and barking when people would walk near the cage - even if they were completely ignoring him. One afternoon, a coworker of mine tried to tell him to knock it off and it just made him even more defensive. It also freaked me out because I had  never had a dog act like this and I didn't want to be missing some big dangerous sign. I went to the same board I always went to for advice and was scolded for taking him to work so soon. I don't regret my decision because going to work is a part of my dog's lives. It doesn't matter if he goes now or two weeks from now, coming to work is his new job. As it turns out, with no help from that particular forum I grew to understand the problem. Seppel was not being naughty, I wasn't missing some huge red flag, he wasn't a man-eater.

It couldn't have been more simple really, Seppel was cage protective.

*huge sigh of relief*

I remedied his protectiveness by putting a cover over his kennel. Problem solved. As it is now he is fine with all of my coworkers and their dogs being near or around his cage. I think his initial guarding was because he still wasn't sure of what was going on. I don't know if he had this issue in his former home, it may have been more of a self preservation thing since he was in a new situation. Honestly, for a dog going from a home environment to having to accept staying in a stressful veterinary clinic everyday he took it like a champ. He comes to work with me everyday these days and is happy to go, he's quiet in his kennel and he loves everyone I work with - he has even made amends with the veterinarian that initially scolded him for barking/growling in his kennel. I think it just goes to show the resiliency of this breed, here is a dog who was flown clear across the country, he had to adjust to a new life, adjust to a new owner, adjust to a new routine and he did it. It all sounds so simple but I think it's truly amazing how well he was able to just suck it up and adapt.

Tune in tomorrow... Maybe in my next post we can talk about all of the mistakes I made, like my cat getting nailed in the face, Seppel chasing my horse in the pasture, Seppel attacking LiLo in truck, Seppel trying to pick up my sister's dog. We can even talk about the first "tests" like the nail trim and the bath. Poor guy didn't know what was coming!

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