Dog Rescue Bleg – Nashville Area

From “long-time reader, infrequent commentor” Gary F:

Our dog Huxley, a 20 lb shi-tzu or pekingese mix, needs a new home. We got him from a shelter in 2010 and he clearly wasn’t treated well. He’s sweet, playful, loves to cuddle in bed. He’s crate trained. He barks a lot-cars pulling up, other dogs, sirens, mosquito farts…

After a family vacation where we stayed with relatives and their two delightful shih-tzus in 2010, we thought maybe it was time to add a dog to our family. Our kids were 3-5 years old, and we wanted a pet they could grow up with, so after talking it over for a few months, we decided to visit the local animal shelter where we met Huxley. Huxley is a small, gray, mixed-breed dog who looks a lot like Wicket when his fur grows out (and in retrospect, I think this would be a more fitting name for him).

When we adopted Huxley, our vet said that he probably had some Pekingese and/or Shih-Tzu in his bloodline and that he was fairly young, under three years old. He was in good health, and we welcomed him into our family and got some basic training (sit, stay, down, leave it, etc.). The only issue that arose was that he’d snuggle down by the sofa when the kids were up there reading or watching television. They’d hop off, and often land on him, and he began snapping at their heels. We worked with dog and humans to be more aware of each other, and to have positive and fun interactions, and all was well.

In Spring of 2013, when I was TDY for training for six months, Huxley got out and tried to outrun the garbage truck and my wife watched, horrified, as he went under the wheels. Our vet pieced him back together and he’s now a bionic dog, thanks to the metal pin in his leg. I said earlier that Huxley likes to bark (Car! Dogs! Far-away train! Squirrel! Leaf!), but I’ve never heard him bark at anything else the way he barks at that garbage truck.

He’s wary of strangers, especially men, and several times he’s growled at someone new who’s reached out to offer a friendly pat. Huxley has always been leash-aggressive, but off-leash he does pretty well around other dogs, though he generally plays only a little and stays mostly to himself. He’s a little anxious, and a little neurotic…we suspect he was not treated well in his formative years, but he’s generally a sweet little snuggly dog.

Once we got things sorted with the sofa and nipping, Huxley has gotten along well with our two kids. They are now 9 and 11 and have participated in feeding, brushing, walking, and playing with him. Now, if they start running around and getting loud; he responds to that excited energy by barking, and jumping and just getting more and more wound up. We can calm him down, but it’s just part of his makeup to get wound up when there’s a lot of noise and excitement. We send the kids outside if they’re running or yelling, which helps everyone. If the kids have more than 2-3 friends over, though, we usually have to put him up in the bedroom unless two adults are home, because keeping him calm is a full-time job. If he’s overexcited, we know he’s not in control of himself, and given his other aggressive proclivities outlined above, we’ve just never wanted to take a chance. We sedate him for birthday parties.

This fall, he nipped our 11yo on the ankle, unprovoked. Our son was tucked up in a chair reading, and when he got out of the chair, Huxley ran over, nipped him on the ankle, and ran away. We talked about this with our kids, and how we can’t have a dog who bites, even a nip, because he could really hurt someone.

A day or so later, he started limping, so we took him to the vet and the found he had a fractured hip. After some consultation, they pulled out the old X-rays from his garbage truck incident and determined that he’d had a hairline fracture that had been missed with all the other injuries. He was on anti-inflammatory meds for a few days, but seems to be back to normal.

The kids made the point that maybe he was in pain and that was why he did this, so we continued to talk about it. It’s not an easy thing to give away a dog who has been part of your family for 7.5 years. Then a month ago, he did it again…nipped the 11yo on the ankle, unprovoked, so we set ourselves to the task of finding him a home, preferably one without kids.

His ideal home would be one where someone is home for at least part of the day most of the time. He would love to have a small yard where he can run around and bark at squirrels, and an owner who will take him for walks and throw things for him to chase (though he has never figured out how to bring it back). He can be left alone for the day, but he likes the company. He spends most of his day napping, or following us around the house as we engage in our daily activities.

All of the no kill shelters in the area are full, and I can’t find a good home using my network. We contacted a local senior dog rescue to find they only accept dogs from shelters. We’ve asked family/friends, and plan to talk with our vet. We want to find him a home where he’ll be loved.

We live in the Nashville area, but I would be willing to drive a good ways.

If you have any suggestions, or know someone who might be interested, leave a comment. Or contact me directly, using the ‘Contact a Front-Pager’ form under ‘Quick Links’ from the top bar, or directly at annelaurie (dot) bj (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’ll forward your message to Gary.

21 replies
  1. 1
    MomSense says:

    I totally understand your predicament. I’m pretty far away but I’ll share with friends. It sounds like he would be perfect for an elder woman who can give him lots of calm attention.

  2. 2
    Steeplejack says:

    Hope the pooch finds a home. And props to Gary for being honest about Huxley’s issues. But they don’t seem insurmountable.

  3. 3
    Mary G says:

    I personally wouldn’t adopt a biting dog, but I would contribute if you want to hire someone to work with him. He probably has arthritis and I can certainly testify that it leads to anger. Hope that it works out for Huxley.

  4. 4
    Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et Al.) says:

    Well, we have two children and we already have another dog, too, so I guess it wouldn’t work with us, but I hope he finds somebody who can take him in and love him.

  5. 5
    oatler. says:

    Tom Rapp 1947-2018

  6. 6
    SWMBO says:

    We had a dog that got aggressive for no reason. She got to the point where if you walked near her she would charge out of hiding and bite your legs. She became dog aggressive as well. There was a couple of incidents where it looked like a scene from Carrie under the dining table when she went after another dog (she hated Jake and he was an affable laid back bubba.) I went to the vet and said “Tranks. Them or me.” He asked who had the most problems and I said Dixie was 90%+ of the problem. He put her on elavil which is an antidepressant with a pain relief component. It was like throwing a switch. She became calm, congenial and easy to deal with. The fights, the biting at people all just stopped.
    Was the dog rescue Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary? They do good work and try to place every senior they can.

  7. 7
    Lymie says:

    I agree with this approach. Nothing good will come of placing a biter, and it is really not responsible. Solve it or be strong and put it down. You won’t be able to control what happens down the road. People who own horses know this, too. You don’t want the animal to wind up at the slaughter house. The dog could well wind up in a kill shelter, after being frightened and anxious for a long time.
    Sorry, but magical thinking is not helping.

  8. 8
    Percysowner says:

    @Lymie: I agree, you have to cure the problem, not just pass it on. A dog that bites has a real problem getting adopted by anyone and could still be a danger. Medication and training may help. If not, well I always promise my guys that I’ll be there with them when I can’t keep them any more. Putting them to sleep is hard, but gentler than making them adapt to a new home where someone may not be kind to them and where they will be upset just trying to adjust.

    I do wish you all the luck in the world. Maybe you can find someone who can take Huxley on.

  9. 9
    PhoenixRising says:

    @SWMBO: We put our little guy on pain pills when we saw some similar snapping–the Dane was already on them, and vet said it couldn’t hurt him to take the 14lb dose.

    If that had not helped, we would have had to make a tough choice between confining his life to smaller, less threatening quarters, or putting him down. We lived with a dog-aggressive retriever for 9 years until she died of oldness, and it can be done. But finding a biter a home in which he’s not going to feel those feelings & act on them by magic? That’s…unicorn territory. My 75yo mom is home all the time and needs a small hypoallergenic dog, but I’m not setting her up to have a known biter prevent her grandchildren from visiting–that doesn’t make any sense.

    Sorry to be a heartbreaker, Gary and family, but…hard choices.

  10. 10
    Mnemosyne says:

    I agree with the people saying you should talk to your vet again about the possibility that he’s in pain and it’s making his natural tendency towards aggression/anxiety worse. You should still look for a calmer home that will be better for him, but solve the underlying problem first or else you’ll just be passing the problem along to someone else who may not be as forbearing.

  11. 11
    Juice Box says:

    I have to agree. I had to put a pretty, young, purebred rescue down because she was just too reactive to quick movements. It was hard, but it was better than dumping her again like her first (???) family. Since there is a possible pain component here (on top of a lhasa apso personality), it’s worth exploring first, but if that doesn’t do the trick, it’s really not fair to either the dog or the new person to dump an old dog with a problem on someone else.

  12. 12
    Marina says:

    Just FYI, I volunteer at a no-kill shelter, and they sometimes euthanize dogs that bite. I hope pain medication will help with the problem. If not, you might want to talk to a dog behavioralist, and/or try anti-anxiety medication.

    Re-homing an 11 year-old dog with some anxiety can be hard on the dog; I’ve held older dogs relinquished at the shelter who were trembling in fear–everything they knew was suddenly gone. Also, the shelter is sometimes non-stop barking. If at all possible, get a second opinion from another vet, or a vet specialist in doggie arthritis. Wishing you the best.

  13. 13
    satby says:

    Yes, even no-kill shelters and rescues will have erratic biters euthanized, because we can’t in good conscience adopt them out.

    I hate to agree with the general consensus, but my last attempt to keep and keep everyone else safe from an increasingly aggressive dog ended in tragedy for me and the dog. She wasn’t aggressive towards humans, but the attack tendency got worse until she started a fight that resulted in her needing to be put down. I shouldn’t have waited so long to do it, she was miserable for some reason and took it out on the other animals here. And I couldn’t place her because she might bite a human, though she never had. Dogs can develop mental illness too.

    No matter where he goes, he will be mourning his family and frightened by the change. Which could lead immediately to a biting incident. I’m so sorry, and I really understand the reluctance to consider euthanasia, but it may be the kindest solution. No more pain and fear for Huxley.

    But get a second consultation and consider the elavil, and see if that seems to help. Maybe also talk to senior services people as well as local vets to see if they know if any seniors who may want to adopt him. I agree a senior woman and calmer Huxley might work. Maybe.

  14. 14
    Steeplejack says:

    I don’t see Huxley’s situation as hopeless. I think a retired couple or single person who doesn’t have a lot of visitors (especially kids) could be a very good fit.

  15. 15
    Pogonip says:

    This being an animal topic, I would like to stick my head in and report that I have seen no updates on the Gahanna, Ohio cats.

    I feel obliged to suggest that the owners talk to a lawyer before passing this dog on. If they know it’s a biter, they should probably disclose same IN WRITING to avoid legal complications next time it nails somebody.

  16. 16
    Gary F says:

    Thanks for all of the input. One of the rescues we looked at was Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary. They only work with shelter dogs, unfortunately.

    We really do believe that in a quieter home, he could have a good life. We thought we would give this a chance to see if anyone was willing to work with him. But we are willing to make the hard choice.

  17. 17
    Lymie says:

    @Gary F: I am so sorry, Gary. We had to put down a young, healthy, bitch who “only attacked the cat”,until she bit a young girl in the face and wouldn’t let go.

  18. 18
    WaterGirl says:

    @Gary F: Years ago, friends of mine had a wonderful, lovable big dog that out of the blue attacked and bit their 4-year-old in the face. This was marks doggie soulmate, and it nearly broke him to put the dog down, but he felt he had no choice. What a terrible choice to have to make. I hope your dog can be helped by a drug like the one people are talking about.

    Even if you still feel you have to give him up, it seems like knowing that the Elavil either resolved the issue (or it didn’t) would be a valuable data point that would make you more confident that the pup can be re-home or give you clarity and peace about the choice you would have to make.

  19. 19
    Nicole says:

    Making the hard choice might be the kind thing now, if he’s in constant pain. That said, if you have the time and the option, I second (third, fourth, fifth) the suggestions from others about looking into anti-anxiety medication. Also, due to his age, you might be able to put him on anti-inflammatories daily. My pit mix tore her CCL about 3 months after we got her (yay! $2500 later…) and the anti-inflammatories helped a lot prior to the surgery (did I mention it was $2500?), but the vet was against using them long-term on a young dog because they can cause stomach and liver damage when used for a long time. An 11-year-old dog is coming to the end of his natural life anyway, though, so he likely could be on them for his remaining years. Old age is uncomfortable for all of us, and a low level of chronic pain is enough to make anyone grumpy and irritable.

    But really, ask about anti-anxiety medication. It’s a lot cheaper for dogs than for people, and may be what he’s been needing most of his life. The brain is an organ (albeit one smart enough to name itself), and like all organs, it can malfunction, or be born a little wonky.

  20. 20
    WaterGirl says:

    Wishing you all the best, Gary.

  21. 21
    Marina says:

    I didn’t want to paint too negative a picture of taking older dogs to no-kill shelters. All the dogs I held who were so distressed about being in new surroundings did get adopted, and quickly. Huxley is cute and relatively small; dogs with those features are in demand.

    That said, I hope the pain meds/anxiety meds do the trick.

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