Rocky will always be my first baby. We adopted him from the Maryland SPCA in November of 2001 (the photo to the left is from when we first brought him home – he looks so young!), and he has always been a pretty easy dog. He was already housebroken, he never chewed on anything he wasn’t supposed to, he’s not particularly fond of digging in the kitchen trash, and he’s been relatively low-maintenance. Aside from his recent interest in escaping from the yard to feast on the neighbors’ bird/squirrel food, he’s been fairly easy.
But no dog is perfect (and certainly no dog owners are perfect). Our big problem with Rocky has been his insistence that he is in charge – of us, of the house, of other dogs. He can be quite possessive and territorial. We gave up on having any balls around for him to play with years ago, because he would get possessive enough over them in the dog park to cause a commotion, or to occasionally nip at us when we tried to take them away. (This photo shows him guarding his ball – note the hair standing up on his back.) We also know that he can be possessive over bones, chewsticks, and food at times.
We’ve had a handful of minor scuffles over the years between the dogs – first with Lucy (who left us last fall) and now with Macy. Each and every incident was started by Rocky taking something that was not his, and then guarding it with his life, to the point where if the other dog came within ten feet, he would lunge at them and growl and tussle a little bit. Thankfully, none of the minor fights resulted in anything other than stressed out dog owners.
Until Saturday, that is. Rocky had managed to get a hold of Macy’s rawhide chew, and he had it in his crate with him. (He likes to be in his crate a lot of the time – it’s his private den.) I had tried to get it back from him without any luck. I should have tried harder but I admit to giving up and ignoring him. Macy walked by the crate – probably a good 5-7 feet away. I watched the whole incident from afar, and she did not even look his way, let alone show that she wanted to get her rawhide back. But, he lunged at her, growling and snarling. By the time I got up to intervene, we had a full fight going on, and Macy was clearly winning. It is interesting to see this side come out of her – she is a sweet, snuggly, lovey-dovey little girl – but boy, she was not taking any of this crap from her jerky brother. I separated them and she lunged back at him again. I had to put her outside to separate them. I realized that Rocky had a puncture wound near his left eye, but after cleaning it with soap and water and then hydrogen peroxide, it looked to be fine. We decided to leave things alone and of course, the rawhide chew went promptly into the trash can. I should note that Macy emerged totally unharmed.
However, late yesterday we noticed that the wound was oozing and that the area around eye was getting really swollen. I figured it was infected, so this morning I took him to the vet. (Did I mention that we were just at the vet on Friday for a check-up for his chronic eye problems?) They shaved the area and discovered a nasty infection in place. He was not tolerating all of the poking and prodding in his face very well, so they had to keep him for the day, sedate him, and then properly clean the wound and drain the abscess that had formed. Several hours and $490 later, he’s home and doing just fine. I might start calling him Bruiser, though – or hey, maybe Rocky Balboa! He looks like he’s been in a fist fight with the bruising and all.
I don’t blame any of this on Macy. (This is what she looks like this afternoon – sweet and calm.) She was defending herself, and a part of me says good for her for teaching her old brother that she’s not going to just roll over and play dead. Rocky was the instigator and he’s mostly to blame. He is territorial and we need to work on that. The rest of the blame is on us for not addressing these issues sooner. We had already made plans to have a friend who is a newly certified dog trainer come out to work with Macy, and she has agreed that we can work on both dogs at once. We clearly don’t want any more of these incidents, and as much as I’m fairly certain that he would not act this way toward a child (he never seems to confuse a child’s toys with dog toys and is always quite sweet with kids), we need to get to 100% certainty before our child comes home.