Hardy came to me on Christmas Eve, coming from an adoptive home which had proved too full of young children to be suited for him.
Hardy was found as a young puppy, abandoned in a cardboard box at the grocery store. Named "Hard Times" after the Hard Times Cafe, he became the loving and beloved pet of an elderly couple, and in their home he was always well behaved and gentle. He was well liked by the elderly couple's varous caretakers and by the 3 year old daughter of one of the caretakers.
Unfortunately over the next few years the wife developed Altzheimers and a few months ago the husband died. Thus Hardy became an orphan. For some weeks he lived in the abandoned house, being fed and watered, watching various strngeres come and go. Then he was at a local Humane shelter for a while. Arrangements were made for him to be transported by a bucket brigade of volunteers from his old home in New Mexico to an adopter living close to his former owners' daughter in Northern California.
Alas , the adopters soon decided that having a dog was more work than they had expected. The daughter craved to keep him herself but this was not possible due to her houseing circumstances. So with the help of the BCNC Rescue services , his need for a loving home was advertised to peope seeking to adopt a Bouv. The adopters were a military service family with three young children. It turns out that Hardy really does not cope well with the kinds of handling that children dish out : the rough games, the little hands unwittingly pulling and poking. He has developed some sensitivities to mishandling and protests by making grabs with his mouth, very inhibited grabs that are not intended to hurt, but that nonetheless are frightening to children and their parents.
So on Christmas Eve he was brought to me.
I got him into my vet the day after Christmas for his heartworm test and for physical exam. He has one ear that is badly inflamed, and this ear has had a bit of a history of past infections. When my vet lifted the skin at the back of his neck to give a shot, Hardy did a protest grab that was clearly aimed to miss the vet's arm. The second try, same thing. My vet feels very sure that this dog has suffered a really painful shot or other proceedure in that area of his neck. Hardy was very cooperative about everything else. My vet also found that Hardy has arthritis in both stifle joints and has some pain and sensitivity in the lumbar-sacral region of his back. All of this would go a long way to explain why he objects to any kind of rough or clumsy handling by children or by anyone else. At home I found he was sensitive to his hair being pulled on in other sensitive areas : he will yelp and make a motion with his mouth towards the offending hand but has never actually touched me , not even lightly. Please remember that dogs cannot speak, nor do they have any hands with which they could push an offending hand away from a painful spot. So a yelp and a mouth motion or soft grab is the only way the dog has of saying "Hey, that hurts ! Hey, don't do that !".
At this point my plans are for Hardy to stay with me long enough to recover from being bounced around so much. He needs a period of stability in a calm home with clear leadership and companionship and appropriate excercise so that he can recover and go back to being the good dog he naturally is. He also needs a program of "desensitization" to the handling of various parts of his body : ie he needs to find out that this handling does not cause pain and can even be pleasant. I am spending some time each day gently combing various areas of his body and gently scissoring away any matts. Initially I will be trying to stay within his tolorance limits and try to cause as few yelps as possible. As he becomes more trusting of my handling, I should be able to groom a bit more vigourously. I have worked with dogs whose touch intolorance was much more severe than Hardy's, dogs who definately would have bitten me had I not used a muzzle during the early stages of desensitization; so I certainly expect success with Hardy. He does enjoy being petted by me, including around the neck and shoulders. I will include some gentle massage to increase his liking for being handled. It will take time, but he will recover and go back to being good and gentle and trusting once more.
He needs to find out that the hard times are over. Eventually he will be ready for placement in a home that does NOT include young children (anything under mid teens) and where the adults are calm and experienced packleaders whom he can trust and respect.
Hardy is 7 1/2 years old , neutered male, current on his shots and heartworm negative and on prevention. He is a bit overweight and the ear inflamation is undergoing treatment, and thanks to the arthritis and generally poor enginering of his hind end he will never be a great athlete , but otherwise his general health is good and he should have many years of enjoyable companionship to share with the right adopter. He is a very large dog, grey, with natural ears and natural tail. He has a history of living peacefully with cats and shows only a mild and benign interest in my vets' office cats. He gets along well with other dogs and gets along well with adult humans. He would probably be OK with older children who are very dog-wise and very considerate of him, but he should not be exposed to the grabby hands and other childish unwitting offenses from younger children.
UPDATE 1/06/04 : Hardy's grooming desensitization program has begun and is going very well. After first teaching him to accept wearing a groomer/vet muzzle, I was able to gently remove a horrible layer of "felted" matts from the upper and lower surfaces of his ears during our first session. He now presents his head and ears to me for fondling at various times when he thinks I am available to give him attention. He is accepting combing of the less sensitive areas of his body. I am not doing too much at any one session, as I want him to learn that being combed and worked on is pleasant. Likewise I am deferring work on his sensitive and possibly painful areas until his trust in me is really well established. Food tid-bits given randomly while he is groomed have also contributed to a good attitude. The muzzle has a very calming effect and he probably associates it with the treats. Some of the calming effect may come from the natural dog/wolf language in which the Alpha acknowledges the greetings and subordination displays by a pack member by grasping the other dog's snout firmly but gently with his own, which gives the message "Yes, I accept your fealty and yes I am your trustworthy and benevolent leader on whom you can depend for guidance and safety."
My vet has suggested that Hardy would benefit from Rimadyl in terms of his grooming sensitivities. As I observe him around the house, I too think he would benefit from Rimadyl because of his arthritic stifle joints : one hind leg is obviously a bit sore at times and he puts less weight on it. His inflamed ear is now healed.
I do have a potential adopter for Hardy, but I am not going to place him hastily. I would rather wait until his desensitization program is further along. The adopter will have to repeat the program , but it should go a lot easier the second time around.
For an appointment to meet Hardy, phone me at (530) 756-2997 between 10 am and 6 pm California time. Please consider Hardy only if your home is a calm adult one and if you are very dog-savvy and have good leadership skills.
UPDATE : Hardy has been ADOPTED on 2/29/04 by a very loving special couple whose previous dearly loved Bouvier (adopted from me) had recently passed away. Hardy and they are fast becomming soulmates. He has quickly given them a lot of trust as to touching him all over, and they will proceed gently until he gives complete trust for grooming. Already he clearly knows he is home for good and that his people are totally committed to his welfare.
UPDATE : much later. Hardy turned out to have an injured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the hind leg that had been vaguely sore. Surgical repair gave him relief for this. His adopter also continued supportive treatment to alleviate his arthritis : supplementation with glucosamine & chondrotin and with an appropriate prescribed NSAID (either Rimadyl or Duramax). His primary person took the time to gain his trust, eventually resulting in him accepting her handling every part of his body. She adores him and he reciprocates. His original owner's daughter has been able to visit several times, with pleasure to all concerned.
Hardy has been a special needs dog who needed a special home. In the wrong hands , his story could have turned out badly, but in the right hands he has become a treasured companion.