DEIDRE AND ENIGMA
Leaving a vet's office in tears one evening, I was approached by a beautiful older woman who asked me what was wrong. I explained to her that a vet had just told me that this beautiful, innocent 10 week old puppy on the end of my leash should be put down, immediately, due to behavioral/aggression issues. I told the woman that I rejected the vet's advice and fled with the little dog, but I did not know what to do. This beautiful little female Shepherd-Husky mix had had a rough start in life. Taken from her mother too early and neglected, she was dumped at the Humane Society with her siblings. Because she was so adorable, she was soon adopted by one of my students, a national-level figure skater with emotional issues and a history of abuse. After just one day this girl decided that the care and responsibility that goes with having a puppy wasn't for her. For the next nine days this poor little puppy, who had been named Navaho, was shuffled from person to person, staying with a new person and in new surroundings every night, except for once place where she spent the weekend. Unfortunately, that family had six huge Bull Mastiffs that beat up on poor Navaho. I got her out of that place, but lived in a townhouse that did not allow dogs, so I only kept her for one night, so on to the next place she went. By the tenth day, when it became apparent that no one could keep her permanently, it was decided by my student who had originally adopted the puppy that she should be returned to the Humane Society.
The woman listened intently and urged me to continue. By this time the little puppy had become both fearful and aggressive. She trusted no one. She would bite and draw blood. When I found out that she had been returned to the Humane Society, I knew that she would be euthanized. I immediately called and spoke to a staff person. My worst fears had come true. Upon intake they deemed the dog un-adoptable and she was immediately put on the euthanasia list. I rushed to the Humane Society to plead her case, though I had been told that once a dog was deemed un-adoptable, and especially once they were set for euthanasia, the Humane Society would not release them. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I saying that her behavioral issues were not her fault, but rather the fault and the result of the mistreatment of the humans that she came in contact with. I remember crying, asking how they could consider and call themselves a "humane" society and "shelter" when they were okay with killing a perfectly innocent young puppy who had a very good chance of rehabilitation, while there was a person willing to pay whatever it costs to release the dog from there and get the dog the help she needs. I was sobbing and pleading with them. The puppy was scheduled for euthanasia in 1-1/2 hours. Miraculously, the begging and pleading paid off, and they released this little puppy to me just in time. Then the real adventures began.
I changed her name to Enigma, after the name of the perfume of my late mentor and teacher. For the first two weeks my fiance and I snuck her in and out of the townhouse complex, but we were finally found out. We were given the choice of getting rid of the dog or being evicted. We were evicted. We all moved to my parents' house. They had a duplex and were staying at their residence on Puget Sound for several months. They gave notice to their tenants in the upstairs unit that they would have to move as family members had need of the apartment.
The behavior problems had begun immediately. Though she did not always act aggressively, she did not trust me. She did not trust anyone. I brought her to a vet who, to my astonishment, told me that she needed to be put down! This vet claimed that I did not have what it takes to deal with a "dog like her" because I couldn't pin her down on her back and scream at her, essentially playing the Alpha dog. I instinctually knew this would not be effective with her, and was not how I wanted her treated. The vet persisted, trying to get me to agree to put down this adorable, tiny 10 week-old puppy right then and there. Distraught, I took Enigma and left. Walking down the street sobbing, with this beautiful little puppy on the end of the leash, I had no idea what to do. Suddenly, this beautiful older woman approached me and asked me what was wrong. I told her the story. She gave me a hug, after giving Enigma a pet and a kiss, and pulled out a pen and paper and wrote down a name and phone number. She told me to call this person, that she could help me, and that everything would be okay. Then the angel embraced me, kissed Enigma, and disappeared.
I looked at the piece of paper. The name the angel had written down was BETH HATCH. As it was evening, I called her the next day. By just giving me some guidance over the phone during that first call, she made a difference in my interactions with Enigma, and it changed her behavior. Beth explained to me that Enigma had major trust issues from her past. Whatever horrific things may have happened to her before she made it to the shelter, and then her first nine days out of the shelter gave her no ability or reason to trust anyone. She didn't even have a bowl to call her own. She was insecure. She never knew what was going to happen next and never had a chance to bond with anyone. Now she had me (and my fiance). She would be fine one minute and attack the next. She was clearly confused. Beth told me that I needed to establish clear communication with her, start to bond with her and earn her trust. Following Beth's advice, I began hand-feeding her, bestowing love and affection on her, established a routine so that things did not feel chaotic, and if I needed to correct her behavior I did so gently, with positive reinforcement and praise for good behavior. It really made all the difference.
Beth and I set up one-on-one training sessions. With each session that Beth worked with Enigma there was dramatic improvement in her behavior.
Beth's training method, using the "clicker method" and lots and lots of positive reinforcement (though Beth was firm and had expectations and set strict boundaries which she enforced as well) worked so well with Enigma. Enigma really wanted to please and do the right thing. Then my fiance and I "eloped" to the Puget Sound area and left Enigma in Beth's care for nine days. For nine days Enigma got to be with Beth 24/7. I'm sure the training was intense! When we came back, Enigma was a completely different dog. Gone was the aggressive behavior she had once displayed. We were delighted! We enrolled her in doggy day care to further socialize her. We also enrolled Enigma in Beth's Canine Training classes and even an Agility class, which I thought would be fun and Beth suggested to give her even more confidence.
It turns out that Enigma had become a wonderful dog, sweet, very sensitive, fun, happy, confident, secure...just a completely different dog.
Realizing that this was a huge teachable moment, I brought her back to that first vet, armed with some books that Beth had introduced me to about animal communication and behavior. The vet could not believe the change in Enigma's demeanor, and admitted she had made a bad call and would have killed a beautiful, great dog. To her credit, she was used to working with abused Pit Bulls, and she just didn't think someone would put in the time, energy and money to rehabilitate an abused dog with severe behavior issues. This vet became a huge fan of Enigma's and also of Beth's. She decided to leave veterinary practice and go into public health. She was a good person who learned from her mistake.
Today Enigma is almost 14 1/2 years old. She has had two knee surgeries and nearly drowned when she fell through the ice on a pond. She is a sweet, gentle, loving dog. She is truly the best dog I have ever had. We share a bond that is unbreakable. I thank Beth Hatch for giving me this incredible, amazing dog. Beth Hatch literally saved Enigma's life. I fully endorse her as a trainer and as a person. Her methods work. Period.