Had you told me the Shoo Family would be a Pit and Staffordshire bull terrier home within a year, I would have told you to kick rocks. After the ‘boys’ passed within a week of each other, we, the family, were mentally drained. I told Sarah that we needed to wait, and by wait I meant at least a year.
The house was quiet. The familiar sound of dog tag jingling was not there. No one to greet you when you came home. Also, the chaos of owning a dog was gone. Who got in the trash? Sarah, the dogs got your yarn! Gray, you left your stuff out, they destroyed a toy!
Little did I know that Mrs. Shoo had been obsessively scrolling through pet adoption sites. She formulated a plan.
When I grill, I like to enjoy a beer or two. I was grilling chicken and about two beers deep when a phone was shoved in my face. “Chris, she’s named ‘Hops’ like the beer ingredient! Can we meet her!!??!!”
I was set up. There was no way I could say no.
The next day we were set to meet Hops. A dog that was malnourished, afraid, and had been surrendered. Her ribs were visible, and the white parts of her fur were yellowed. The foster mom told us that they had given her a bath the day before to try to get the yellow out, but it was from malnourishment.
I’d love to tell you that when Hops saw us she came leaping toward us with love. But she was scared. She was a little more receptive to Sarah, but it took a whole package of hot dogs and over a 1/2 hour for her to even approach me.
This was a meet and greet, and we had the opportunity to bring her home for a trial run. In the back of my head, I was thinking this poor dog was not going to work for us, but I felt like we needed to give her a chance.
And I’d love to tell you that we got her home, showed her love, and everything was just great, but it wasn’t. She was afraid of everything. When we go in the car and someone would approach she’d bark and growl. When we’d walk in the neighborhood and someone would be across the street she’d bark and growl.
She was a smart girl. I was able to get her to do the basics relatively quickly like sit, stay, and rollover. We met one-on-one with a trainer and worked more on the basics. We started taking her to the dog park. She loved playing with other dogs. Humans, no.
Over the past year, she’s gotten better with her behavior with strangers, but would still bark and growl. Wanting to give her a better quality of life and not wanting visitors to be afraid, we met with an animal behaviorist. They assessed Hops and said we had more work to do.
She gave us a reference to a dog trainer that had worked with the APL and WILD and came highly recommended. The only thing was that we had to drop her off for a week and then come back for weekly training.
It’s pretty nerve-racking to drop your dog off for a week and not know what’s happening to them.
However, when we picked Hops up, the trainer greeted us, “You have a really smart dog! She made my week!” The trainer told us the week before she had worked with some really difficult dogs. The trainer had us sit back and watch all the things Hops had been taught. It was like watching a show dog.
That’s not to say we don’t have more work to do. What the dog trainer has done for Hops and the family is given us tools and commands to use with Hops. Hops clearly understands ‘No’. The family has been taught how to communicate with Hops about what behaviors are unacceptable.
And we’re working on it.
I don’t want you to think she’s all bark and growl. She in fact is one of the sweetest dogs ever. She snuggles with me in the morning in the chair as Grayson and Sarah are getting ready to leave. And snuggles with Sarah in the evening. She loves Gray, and plays with Winnie all day long. She loves to steal Sarah’s socks and shoes just because she knows that gets her attention. She curls up like a dog loaf.
The taller the walls, the harder they fall.
It’s taken a lot of work, but she’s a terrific dog and worth it.