Tenacious Faith & Muzzled Hope

Of all of the dispatches to the web I’ve published here on TharpSter.Org  over the last few years, I would have to say my favorite ones have been the ongoing reports from The Pit Bull Diaries.

For those of you not familiar with the this collection (how could you not be), half of the canine contingent here at TharpSter.Org is comprised of a 55 lb., 2 1/2 year old Pit Bull named Hope.  I rescued her from the wooded area near my office in January of 2010 when the weather was particularly cold and windy.

Since then, we’ve had various outlays of expenses for medical care, training, and silver U-Verse remote controls.  Every single penny has been worth it.

At the same time, Hope’s hijinks and antics have given me plenty of material in which to liven up an otherwise dull internet.

The last time I published an entry about Hope was on March 25th of this year.   Rightfully so, I’m overdue in producing an update about my favorite Pit Bull.

Unfortunately, this one won’t be light hearted like the previous ones.

It won’t be funny.

It certainly won’t be my favorite.

What it will be, ladies and gentlemen, is the casting of light on a very ugly and volatile situation.  I feel compelled to write about it because there are several of you who work with me at the auxiliary offices who are emotionally invested in Hope’s well being.  You saw her out there in the woods before I was able to get her to come home with me.  You offered you’re encouragement when I posted those first pictures of her on Facebook.  You expressed your concerns when she disappeared for awhile, and then your joy when she came back.

You deserve to know.

Canine adolescence and Hope’s use of it has reared an ugly head in the last 6 months, namely in the form of aggression towards other dogs.

We initially got a whiff of such aggression when we had her in obedience training last fall.  At the time, the class we were in had a Boxer in it.  No fights every broke out between that particular dog and Hope, however it was pretty obvious to us that there was some trash talk going on between the two of them.

Once this became apparent to us we put a rule in place that public dog interactions, no matter how insignificant, were completely unacceptable.  I hate to be rude to other dog walkers when I have her out, however the alternative is not a scenario I want to deal with.

Earlier this summer, she started attacking our other dog Faith on a regular basis.  When she started doing this, it was under very certain circumstances which usually revolved around members of the organization eating at the kitchen table.  Faith is a notorious beggar at dinner time.  At one point, Hope apparently got jealous that she wasn’t getting the same level of attention that she perceived Faith was getting.

Hope is an attention whore.  Even now, she’s nuzzling me as I write.

After that first attack in the kitchen, a new rule was put into place.  All eating is to be done in the kitchen, and no dogs in the kitchen.  We have a way of keeping the dogs out of the kitchen.  Problem solved.

Not.

The attacks have continued.  Every single time an attack has taken place, it’s been the result of what has been characterized as a competition of resources.  Faith was perceived to be getting attention that Hope wasn’t.  That’s been regardless of whether unequal attention was being dealt out or not.

The rules were expanded further.  Do not create an environment where jealousy can occur.

Sadly, mistakes happen and such environments have been inadvertently created.  On two different occasions, the creation of those environments resulted in sutures for Faith on her neck and chest.

More rules were created.  We bought a nylon mesh muzzle that limits Hope’s ability to open her mouth wide enough to make a strategic use of that world famous pit bull bite strength.  The muzzle stays on at all times.  It still allows her to eat and drink.

Faith & Hope sport harnesses, Hope sports a muzzle

For awhile, the attacks stopped.  The muzzle served as an instrument which put Hope in a more submissive mindset.  Complacency and familiarity with the muzzle set in after a week or two, and the attacks resumed.  It was at this point that a new dynamic was created.

Faith started fighting back.

This made it harder to break up the fights.  In the past whenever we had to break up a fight, the goal was to pull Hope away since she was the aggressor.  With Faith jumping in there with swords drawn, we now had to focus on breaking up two fighters instead of just one.  To make a little easier in breaking them up, we converted both dogs from collars to harnesses.  When the teeth are flying, it’s a lot easier to grab a harness and avoid being bitten.  It also gives you more control over the dog when you’re breaking up the fight.

The competition of resources has transformed to sibling rivalry.

Another rule was put in place involving kennels.  Keep the dogs separated.  Sadly, that’s what it’s come to.  The dogs now rotate time in an out of the kennel which allows us to avoid unfortunate situations.  The one time we’ve been able to enjoy the time when they’re both out of their respective kennels is at night when everyone is in bed.  At that point, Hope is muzzled and they both sleep in our room with no incident.  Naturally this makes sense, because none of us are giving either one of them any attention.

All of the rules resume in our waking hours.

There’s one rule we’re looking to avoid putting into place.  That particular rule dictates that Hope needs to be in a home where she’s the only dog there.  An acquaintance displayed brash testicular fortitude a few weeks ago about that particular rule.  “So are you going to get rid of Hope?”

“What?  No.”  I responded.

“So you’re just going to let her kill Faith?”  Brash, blunt, take your pick.  His underlying message was poignant, however the delivery just sucked.

“No, I’m not going to do that either.”  I ended the conversation then and there.  I don’t need to justify my actions  to anyone who presents such audacity to suggest how I should run my own private life.

The dogs know that I’m the boss.  They also know that either Wifey or the kids are in charge when I’m not around.  Fortunately the kids are old enough to fully understand what’s going on with the dogs and how to handle them.  If they were considerably younger, Hope wouldn’t be here now.  Just sayin’.

Even though the dogs know who’s boss, they set that knowledge aside when these fights break out.  In one of their latest scraps where my son and I both took wounds to our hands, Junior let his own adolescent fury take over and questioned whether it was worth it to have two dogs.  When Wifey looked at him in disbelief that he had even suggested it, he head her off at the pass.  “Yes, Mom.  I love them too, but look at what we’re doing here.  I’m bleeding, Dad is bleeding, Hope is bleeding, and Faith is now in a cage.  How long is this going to go on?”

Junior is 17 now and starting to come into his own as a young man.  Whereas I can look back and appreciate his ability to assess the situation, I didn’t really like where he was going with this cross examination.  “You need to drop it right now.”  I told him.  The relationship between Wifey and Junior has become contentious in the last year.  He’s growing up and getting ready to leave the nest that she’s spent years preparing.  Such a verbal assault warranted a response from Wifey which was going to turn into a major argument between the two of them.

Wifey took a different approach in her response.  “We love those dogs and they are part of the family.  The easiest thing to do would be to pass our problems off to someone else.  Do you really want to do that?”

Hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic ointments were administered where necessary, and the discussion was closed.  Fortunately, Junior had exercised additional situational awareness and realized he was speaking out of anger for having been bitten.  It was smart of him not to push it at that point.

The problem here ladies and gentlemen, is that I need a new set of rules.  To this point, all of the rules have been reactive in nature and just a treatment of the symptom of a bigger issue.  Rotating the dogs in and out of cages and muzzles is no way for them or us to live.

For the last several months, I’ve stepped out front with both dogs every morning for them just to get a chance to be out front.  I can’t do that now because I can’t trust them not to start something.  Every morning around 9am, the dogs would run around here playing with each other.  They don’t initiate play time anymore, and even if they did, we wouldn’t allow it.  Forget about taking both of them on a walk at the same time.  That’s just plain stupid.

I want to go back to doing those things.  I want the two minions who used to follow me around and hang on my every word to come back without re-enacting a knife fight.

In the process of getting Faith stitched up last month, the vet suggested an animal behaviorist may be part of the solution.

Fine, I’ll do it.  The obedience training for both of them only goes so far.  The pack leader mentality which we take around these dogs is only going so far as well.

I’ve called a behaviorist who offers a solution to our problems.  They also offer a guarantee for the life of the dogs to resolve the sibling rivalry, and any other issues these dogs may have.  They’re coming out next week.

It won’t be a quick fix from the 2-3 hours they spend here next Saturday.  Follow up appointments will be scheduled as well.

If it works, I will give them free advertising here on TharpSter.Org as long as the site remains up and running.  If it doesn’t work, I’ll also give them free advertising.  It just won’t be the kind they want.

More to come……

Randy Tharp

TharpSter is a husband to one woman, a father to two kids, a master to two dogs, an occasional cubical occupant, and unable to make up his mind on an adequate theme for this website.

One thought on “Tenacious Faith & Muzzled Hope

  1. That was *exactly* what I was going to suggest! I have hired a trainer to come to the house to work with Brandi. She’s been here twice, an hour at a time, and the results have been amazing! Of course Brandi’s issues are just primarily that she’s a brat, partly because of the abuse in her first year of life, and partly because I picked my battles because of the abuse, and ignored things that I probably shouldn’t have ignored. It’s nothing as serious as what you’re dealing with, but I’m glad you’re doing this, and have high hopes for the results. I’m guessing it’s pricey – I’m paying $60/hour – but I think you’ll find it well worth it. You really can’t continue to live like this! It’s not fair to anyone, especially Faith. Junior gets a lot of credit for speaking up, even if only from anger. Maybe his anger didn’t allow him to suggest the right solution, but he knew that a solution needed to happen! It’s all gone on long enough, and the money you spend will be well worth it! Hang in there! It’s obvious you all love Hope enough to ensure this gets worked out!

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