So we Adopted a Dog That Likely Was Abused, But he is Safe Now
Over the last three weeks, Dexter has come out of his shell, more or less. He is a mostly happy, go-lucky fella, who likes his humans. However, there were some behaviors that took me to the internets looking for explanations.
After we lost Connie, our sun conure, we decided to adopt a dog at the pound. So that is how we ended up with Dexter, a six, going on seven large Chihuahua. We knew that the dog came from a home where there was a divorce. A second home that returned him after a few months because they were allergic to the dog (or the medical bills, more on that below.)
The clues of previous abuse were subtle at first. One day my husband came home from work, and as he told a work story his voice raised. The dog started to whimper and took cover under a chair. Then there was the way he ate his treats after he got his ear medication. It was always under the chair, looking nervously at us.
Then the other day I had to take some papers to the back, and I raised them. The dog immediately withdrew tail tucked. We knew at that moment that the little fella had a hard life and likely was abused.
He also ate FAST. So we got him bowls to slow the speed. Now he is starting to leave some food behind, which tells me that he is starting to develop some trust. This is regarding food, and I think he now knows he will get fed. incidentally, as a small dog, we split his calories in three meals, and once the vet gives us the ok, we will add a few healthy snacks. He needed extensive dental work. Small breeds require a lot of dental TLC, so he lost eleven teeth. But we have caught up to his medical needs. (It was not precisely cheap, but if you adopt a pet, they have medical needs.)
Overnight he woke up whimpering. We think he is getting nightmares. No, I would not think of any anxiety meds. But he is definitely nervous. He sometimes does that in the middle of the day while laying on my husband’s lap. Like any abusive relationship, I suspect he is waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I do not mean this metaphorically at this point. We also suspect the flopped ear came from that. However, it gives him character.
I know that some people abuse people, and animals. It is not nice but also makes me wonder just how much of a history the former owners admitted to the pound. Animal abuse is penalized by law, after all. So we are thinking, our trips will have to include the dog for the foreseeable future. Or we will cause fear as we leave him behind at a dog kennel. Even if it is only for a week.
I am including signs to look for of subtle abuse. Dexter exhibits some of these which tell us that in one, or both, of his former homes, he was probably abused or neglected, or both.
>Not all abuse and neglect is obvious, and not every symptom below indicates abuse, especially on its own. These are the signs to be aware of:
tail tucked or flinching
avoiding all eye contact, ears back, excessive panting
whining or crying when approached
lunging or attempting to attack when approached
overly submissive (i.e. rolling onto back, ears back, tail tucked and urinating)
changes in the texture of their fur, or abnormal loss of fur
unusual separation anxiety when their human leaves
avoiding any physical contact (especially when normally affectionate)
attempts to nip or scratch when petted
We also discovered that while he knows how to play fetch, that is the extent of it. So we will have to introduce him, once the vet says it is fine, to chew toys and other things to keep himself busy.
As I wrote, he is safe. The worst that comes to him is his medicated bath every three days. They are on doctors' orders, and he is not the happiest with them NOW. He feels better, we realize. I am also wondering if the poor fella’s skin condition is partially due to subtle abuse? After all, his coat is getting better and softer as he is under a lot less stress, and getting good food.