The Lowest Point

Note: We’ve reached the ultimate low point in our journey. This journal entry is a tough one, but I’m sharing it because it’s part of the story. Like everything in life, adopting a pet can have plenty of ups and downs. We’re about to experience a big “down.” Ready or not, here it is:

November 27, 2013

A.J. could bite me and hurt me very badly. Today is the first day that thought has seriously entered my mind as a clear reality.

Note, July 17, 2015: As we’ll see as our journal entries progress, it’s unlikely A.J. ever would have bitten me. I was just frustrated at not being able to communicate with him. I also in the past had worked with rescue dogs and I had experienced dog bites from dogs who were as frustrated and in need of exercise as A.J. was around this time. With that said, on with the story…

I could tell this morning that A.J. had an excess amount of energy and restlessness. I don’t know why. But I was sure our outing this morning was going to be one of our more difficult ones. I was right.

When we got to the park we could see a dog off-leash in the main grass area near the part of the parking lot at which we’ve been parking. A.J. started to react, but didn’t throw a complete fit. I parked around the corner. Unfortunately I didn’t realize until I was starting to get him out that we were now facing the wooded area where he’d seen a squirrel yesterday. A.J. became very intent on those woods. I told him to wait while I got him leashed up and got ready to go. I waited for him to check things out and look at me before releasing him. He decided not to wait, he just jumped out. I told him no, get back here, and he turned around and jumped back into the car.

We sat there for a couple of minutes while I waited for him to focus on me. He was so amped up he was shaking. He finally jumped again. This time I went and picked him up and put him back in the car. I sat in the car next to him and held the leash. After a few minutes he hadn’t looked at me or focused in any way. In spite of my grip on the leash, he lunged and got out again. Once again I picked him up and put him back in the car. I sat down next to him, this time holding his harness so he couldn’t do it again.

As I picked him up after that third jump and sat down next to him in the car, I looked at him. He was still shaking. His nose was twitching like crazy. His eyes were completely focused into the woods. He made no acknowledgement of my existence. At that point I knew he barely recognized I was there, other than in the sense that I was the one thing keeping him from taking off. That’s when I could imagine him turning and biting me right in the face. (Believe it or not, this thought didn’t really scare me as much as it just saddened me.)

I got up, still holding his harness, and I was able to close the back of the car before he could jump out again. I went and sat in the back seat. He turned away from the woods and stared out the front window, probably expecting us to start driving away. We just sat. He started getting wiggly, and finally came over to see me and look at me. At that point I got out of the car, opened the back, and A.J. looked at me and I let him hop out. He had stopped shaking.

He remained over-excited. There were a lot of dogs today, but he really was more interested in sniffing and running than in the other dogs. He had a couple of tantrums when off-leash dogs got too close. He did a really good job of coming back to me when I told him to. He pulled like crazy.

Later in the afternoon Greg went for a bike ride, so I took A.J. out front so he could watch Greg ride away. He had another tantrum. Greg looked back and that’s when we found out that he isn’t just barking and lunging and all that: he’s showing his teeth. Again, it’s starting to feel like he really could hurt someone. It will most likely be me. For both our sakes, I really need to fix this – now.

November 30, 2013

This week was a really bad week. Things didn’t get better on Wednesday after the park and the bike incidents. In the evening I decided to play a game with A.J. where we work on calming in between excitement. I got out his rope toy and we played tug. The idea is that when I tell him to stop, he lets go, I give him a chance to calm down, then we can start play again. This time when I told him to stop, he let go but then lunged at me to get the toy. He didn’t calm down. We’ve played this game before, and this was the worst he’s ever done.

That was Wednesday. Thursday morning I ate breakfast and started thinking about taking A.J. out. I finally realized I just couldn’t face it. At this point I was really feeling like I didn’t want him anymore. “I don’t want him. I don’t even like him.” Greg took him out that morning.

A.J. has improved in some ways, but in others he’s become worse. Today Greg went for a bike ride. I stayed home with A.J. He went crazy inside the house when Greg rode away. He went back and forth to the front window, cried a little, pace a lot, and couldn’t settle down. I was sitting right there, and I got to see what he’s like when he’s left alone. What is going on? At his age, I’m afraid he’s only going to get worse. He’s heading into the difficult “teenage” years. I don’t want to imagine him more difficult.

I’ve come to the decision that I’m going to give in and see about medicating him. I don’t know what else to do. I’m going to call the vet on Monday see if I can talk to them about some way to calm A.J.’s crazy brain.

I’m dreading going to our Reactive Dog class tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain. If it does we’ll be in the garage. A.J. has been so disruptive outside, I can’t imagine his crying echoing through the garage for an hour and a half. Inside or out, if he starts up tomorrow and I can’t stop him, we’re going home. It doesn’t do us or anyone in the class any good when he’s that disruptive.

I’m so tired of all this. A week ago I was becoming hopeful, but now I’m feeling hopeless again and very tired. I really don’t want him, but how can I give him up and still live with myself?