Some dogs, like some people, feel things more deeply. Whether by nurture or nature or a mixed-up blend of both, they are more anxious, sensitive, and intense. Miles is one of these dogs.
Suellen, Wes, and their daughter Edie adopted Miles from Anti-Cruelty Society as a companion for their boxer-pitbull rescue, Lucy. Miles was five months old and had just spent a month in isolation recovering from kennel cough. When they adopted Lucy, it was love at first sight and they knew instantly that she was the one. But with Miles they were less certain. Passing by his kennel several times, it was Edie who finally said, “what about this dog?”
Adopting a Dog with a History of Aggression
Miles had already been adopted and returned three times before they brought him home. Suellen believes he was born with issues that were made worse by mistreatment in his early months. From the start, he was dominant, aggressive, emotionally volatile with severe anxiety and object possession issues. They quickly realized that they were ill-equipped to deal with the depth of his emotional baggage and behavioral challenges without professional help.
They started by calling Anti-Cruelty’s behavior hotline and participating in the organization’s basic training class, but neither provided enough support. They then enlisted the help of a professional trainer who taught them to recognize his anxiety triggers and avoid situations and circumstances that might set them off. Because of his severe object possession, they learned to trade up rather than trying to take things away (and risk getting bitten). Forgiveness, patience, positive reinforcement, and tons of unconditional love carried them through these difficult early years. After doing something particularly bad, Miles had a way of looking up soulfully as if to ask, “do you still love me?” And lucky for him, they still did.
Edie often took the brunt of his anxiety. She suffered multiple bites; he peed on and destroyed her stuff and even ate her homework (for real). But all along, she continued to believe they could love the bad out of him. Suellen describes the tumultuous early years as one of the defining moments of her relationship with her daughter. Edie was determined to save him and Suellen questioned the message it would send her if they simply gave up and returned Miles to the shelter where he would face certain euthanasia. Although they had not intended to adopt a special needs dog, they did, and now had a responsibility to make things work.
|Miles and Lucy. Photo used with permission of Miles and family.|
Like Edie, Lucy, their original dog, was patient, tolerant and forgiving. While Miles spent his early days in his crate when Wes, Suellen, and Edie were not at home, Lucy kept him company by sleeping right next to it. Years later when she was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, Miles returned her loyalty and friendship in abundance. Her illness helped him turn an emotional corner and during their final years together, he was attentive, loving, and remained close by her side.
Suellen says Miles provided her with strength during the darkest days of Lucy’s illness and comfort during and after the heartbreak of her passing. He remained by Suellen’s side, checking on her constantly – even when she was in the shower, he would scratch at the door to make sure she was OK. In his own way repaying the kindness, compassion, and understanding that his family shared with him during his early struggles.
|Miles, Suellen, Edie, Wes and Lucy on a final visit to the park. Photo used with permission.|
Had Suellen, Wes, and Edie not adopted Miles, his chance of survival would have been slim. This family is a shining example of compassion and kindness in action and life choices. Wishing them much luck and peace in the days ahead.
Pets, like children, are for life. Please do not adopt an animal if you are unable or unwilling to provide a lifetime of loving and compassionate care. If you are ready for adoption, please consider adopting or fostering a special needs dog because second chances are amazing whether you are on the giving or receiving side. If you enjoyed this post, please check out my posts on adopting a puppy mill survivor and adopting a paralyzed cat.
Disclaimer: I am not an animal behaviorist or dog trainer. If your dog has issues with aggression, reactivity, or anxiety, please consult a professional trainer and behaviorist.
Miles is part of The Specials, an award-winning blog series focusing on special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as overlooked or misunderstood breeds like Pits and black cats. If not for the courage and compassion of their adopters, many of these animals might have been euthanized in shelters or died alone and hungry on the streets. You can read more special needs adoption posts here.