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Nov 20, 2002: Shayna’s last moment in doggie day care

August 26, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

In the early autumn of 2002, I was in an accident that ended up turning my life upside down. Most of the ribs on my left side were broken, and I sustained various other injuries. As I was unable to give Shayna the exercise she needed during my immediate recovery, I found out about “doggie day care,” checked it out, and enrolled her.

For the first few months, everything seemed to be going ok. Shayna loved going to visit her friends, and by the end of eight hours of running and playing with her pals, she barely had enough energy to jump up into the truck, take a little drink of water from the console-cup I kept for her, after which she curled up with her paws around my hand, and was asleep within a few minutes, completely exhausted.

Then, sometime in October, when she was about 10 months old, something started to change. I was getting reports from the owners of the daycare center that Shayna was getting into more and more fights — and that it was a source of concern. They referred me to a veterinarian who specializes in behavior issues, and I took Shayna for an initial consultation. The vet told me to take my video camera to day care and record what goes on, then bring it to her, and she’ll diagnose the problem.

The video below is an edited version of what happened that fateful morning, November 20, 2002. It was Shayna’s last day in day care; she was “disinvited” from attending anymore (I later called it being excommunicated), but we continued to attend the center’s training classes, because they really liked her, and she them, and she was much better behaved there.

I caution you – this is Shayna’s “Mr. Hyde” to her “Dr. Jekyll.” It is terrifying to watch what she was capable of, but it was real and had to be dealt with – and the center’s owners were absolutely right in 86ing her.

After seeing this tape, the vet-behaviorist said that this last confrontation wasn’t entirely Shayna’s fault; that the big boxer had partially provoked her. To prove the point, the vet put the video in slow-motion to show me what she meant; that Shayna would have been perfectly content to not fight with that boxer anymore, but the boxer kept charging her, and well, Shayna decided, “That’s it…”

She diagnosed Shayna as having a disorder called “reactive aggression,” and gave me a series of lessons to do to try to help wean her from this behavior. Unfortunately, none of it worked – whether because I didn’t do it properly, or it just didn’t take, I don’t know.

Soon thereafter, my health took another turn, and as it was winter by then, the opportunities for us to be exposed to other dogs was severely limited. And unfortunately, when we were, about 1 in 20 dogs would be a problem; the rest, Shayna didn’t care much about.

As Shayna’s “dad,” it was of course deeply troubling to realize that this brilliant, inventive, talented, loving dog had this kind of street brawler lurking beneath the surface, and to know that there was apparently nothing I could do, short of never letting her play off-leash with other dogs, to prevent another “incident.”

But as a responsible dog owner, what else could I do? And as I was unable to work for a fair stretch of time, I didn’t have the money to send her (us) to a facility in which we might receive other guidance.

So since then, I’ve been her “dad,” best friend, and playmate. It’s so sad in a way, but it’s reality. And part of being a good “dad,” I guess, is facing reality head-on, and doing what’s best for your baby. Which is what I’ve tried to do.

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