~ ABC Dog School ~
  I had gone to the animal shelter that day to pick up a Dalmatian named, Reba, whose time was perilously short.  In the office, a surrender was in progress...an adorable little black and rust Miniature Pinscher.  After taking a look at Reba, I re-entered the office where I proceeded to entertain thoughts of adopting the Min Pin.
     This was not a new idea.  I had been attracted to the breed for years, and after losing my wonderful little Jack Russell Terrier, I had been visiting JRT and Min Pin websites, tormenting myself by wanting to fill up that void, but not permitting myself to give in to that.  It was a valiant effort to curb my rescuing tendency, due to time, space, and  financial strains.  So why was I at the shelter, you may wonder?  I guess it was because I was Reba's only hope and that of her former owner.  But that's another story.
     The little fellow's name was J.D., short for John Deere, of all things.  I watched as he interacted with another small dog that was running around the office, and then a shelter worker put a leash on him and attempted to drag him through the door into the holding room.  She wasn't being insensitive...the dog just didn't want to cooperate.  And who can blame him?  It was at that point that I blurted out, "Stop!  I'll take him!"  Everyone was much relieved.
     And thus began my education in off-the-scale dog aggression.  The shelter loaned me a crate, and J.D.'s owner put him in it, and handed me a bag with his belongings, his favorite toy "Mr. Monkey", and a bag of dog food.  Of course, I had wanted to know why she was surrendering him.  She had a small child, another one on the way, and the dog was biting visiters to the home.  He hadn't bitten any of the several people there that day, so I was not prepared for what lay ahead.
     My first clue was later that day, after having settled Reba into her new quarters, when I decided it was time to take J.D. out to relieve himself.  When I opened the crate, a small plastic carrier, he refused to come out.  It was fear, of course, and no amount of coaxing would bring him out.  And that's when I discovered that my heavy suede gardening gloves were about to find new purpose in life.
     I tried again later, with no success, so I took him, crate and all, downstairs and out to the outdoor cat room.  After shooing the cats through the window into the basement, and putting Squeak in her crate, I set J.D.'s carrier in the cat room, opened his door and left, hoping he'd do his business.  When I returned, he was inside, and I had no idea if he'd come out or not.
     About 11:00 PM, I decided he was going outside one way or another.  Equipping myself with the leather gloves and a leash formed into a noose, I opened the crate and dumped him out.  He made a fast right turn into the bathroom, where he hid behind a standing towel rack.  And then the fun began.  I closed the door first, and then tried my hand at lassoing, attempting to drop the noose over his head while he attempted to shred my hands.  Eventually I won out.
     The next day, we followed the same procedure whenever I needed to take him outdoors.  By that evening I'd had enough.  After managing to get the noose over his head, I snugged it up and reached for him.  I was determined that this little monster was going to let me touch him.  It went something like this:  Holding the leash up tight with one hand, I reached toward him with the other, which he grabbed savagely. 
     Since the gloves prevented him from hurting me, the biting wasn't getting him anywhere, and with each attack, the leash went up a little higher until only his back feet were on the floor.  Suddenly the wind went out of J.D.'s sails, and he allowed me to pet him.  From that point on, he was mine, so to speak, and our routine became somewhat normal.  After meeting all the other dogs, one at a time, he fit himself into the pack...at the top.
     Tobie and Nikita, being very submissive, mainly tried to stay out of his way.  Ozzy, somewhat dominant, himself, avoids violence when possible, preferring to voice his opinion and leave.  Snoopy, also dominant-but-peaceful, found J.D.'s energy level much to his liking, and they played well together...in the beginning.  Kelly, at 15 years of age, fared the worst, occasionally wandering too close to something that J.D. was being possessive about.  Being mostly blind and deaf, the vicious attacks seemed to come out of nowhere, leaving her shivering in fright.
      As J.D. matured, he became more dominant, and more aggressive.  He and Snoopy, who had been an intact male for several years before neutering, began marking all over the place, and now the fights began.  I was always on hand to put a quick stop to them, but they were frightening, and Snoopy, never knowing when the wind would change, took a guarded approach.
     Neutering solved the problem of marking, once J.D.'s testosterone level abated, but his hot temper continued.  One day, while home from work for lunch, a fight broke out while I was indisposed.  Terrified that J.D. would be seriously injured or killed, I rushed into the room and grabbed the larger dog.  In the process, I got bitten by the attacker, who then immediately stopped.  I was surprised to find neither dog bleeding. I, however, was.  I went back to work with punctured and lacerated hands.  That was the last time the two dogs were out of their crates at the same time.
     It was stressful for both of them as they had to take turns being out.  This was especially problematic when I worked an eight-hour day and only had about 40 minutes of my lunch hour to come home and let dogs out.  Another sad development was the absence of the other dogs during TV time when J.D. was out of his crate.  While he was snuggled up against me on the couch, they hid out.  He was making life miserable for everyone.
      Vet visits were a nightmare.   I chose to take him to his regular vet, although she was new to me, and she did get bitten once, but was, thankfully, a good-natured person. During these visits, a muzzle was a necessity.  The problem was, how to get one on him.  I learned that it was easier to get a cat muzzle on him, because it covers most of the face, but he was able to bite through it.  But because he couldn't see, it was easier to get another muzzle on top of it. 
      Company was another major problem with J.D.  My first visitor got his pantleg grabbed.  After that, I made sure the dog was incarcerated before anyone came in.  The noise was deafening as he raged inside his crate, and I usually had to stash him in another room with the door closed.  Before long, he came up with another way to complicate things...peeing in the crate.  His urine has a very strong odor.  Between the racket and the stench, it was embarrassing to have company at all.
     It was while carrying his crate outdoors to hose it down, that I slipped and broke my ankle.  Being fairly helpless, I was acutely aware of the fact that if something worse were to happen to me, J.D.'s life would come to an end rather quickly.  What choice would anyone have?  I'm the only one who can be in the same room with him!  And there is nowhere I can board a dog this vicious, so my social life is severely restricted.
     The story isn't all bad.  J.D. really is a cute little fellow, and 85% of the time, I find him very entertaining.  Unfortunately, he can't be cared for in a normal manner...no brushing, nail trimming, medicating without trickery, examinations, flea control, or even resting my hand on him while he sleeps next to me.  He can't be picked up and cuddled.  Still, he has learned that I am someone to be reckoned with, and is obedient as far as I have taught him to be. 
     J.D. should never have been born.  He is the product of backyard breeding, as are all of my purebred dogs, and an example of how bad it can get when nature (genetics) and nurture (experiences) run amok.  The cards were stacked against him from the start.  But still I love him.
     His future is somewhat precarious, and much depends upon my own.  As long as I am able, I will harbor him, although several people have advised me to have him put down.  I hold out hope that when my financial situation becomes more stable, I will be able to take the time for him, to further his training and give him the kind of experiences he needs in order to alleviate his fearfulness.  And what else is love for, but to make life better?
J.D. ~ A Case of Aggression
Copyright 2005 Carole J Sulser
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What can be done about dog aggression...
Update:  In the summer of 2008, I discover Cesar Millan.  I can't watch him on TV, but I finally get a DVD player, and since I work in a library, processing incoming materials, Cesar sort of falls into my hands.  I decide to see what the fuss is about, and the next thing I know, I'm a Cesar junkie!  Now I can brush J.D., put flea products on him, and also his little muzzle.  The most exciting thing is that he went to my family reunion, and no one got bitten!  Thanks, Cesar!!!
8-23-08 J.D. being a good boy.