Sitting on the picnic table at the dog park.


Tigger before his haircut!


Just look at those eyes!


Playing with one of his favorite toys.

 

Tigger is a yorkie mix, maybe yorkie / schnauzer, but I'll never know for sure. His blindness is caused by some sort of neurological problem, and the rescue said he was probably blind from birth. He came to me from a rescue organization in December, 2004. He was only 6 months old, but already had five known places to live, including his birth home and time spent in a shelter. All I knew about him was that his owners moved and dumped him on their neighbors. The neighbors didn't want him and left him at a shelter. I thought he would be a good playmate for my four-month old dachshund, Isabella.

For the first several months, life with Tigger was very challenging. Did he ever have issues! Separation anxiety, marking, fear biting, and he hated to be around other animals, to name a few. He actually lunged at a 90-year old friend who was sitting quietly on the couch. I was very thankful I had a leash on him. For a long time (several months), he cowered in a corner whenever Isabella tried to play with him. The rescue organization either didn't know about his issues, or they chose not to warn me about what I was getting myself into. I thought all he really had going for him was that he was afraid of cats. I have five cats as well as the two dogs and was grateful he wouldn't chase them. Instead, when one of the cats tried to lick Tigger, he actually fell off my lap trying to escape. I probably shouldn't have laughed so hard.

I'm a slow learner, I guess, and I had a lot to learn about problem-child dogs. I was constantly frustrated over the marking and potty training issues. He was supposedly housebroken, but I guess no one told him that! If I left him alone in a room for even a few seconds, he would leave me presents. I finally caught on to the fact that he could *never* be left alone outside of his crate until he told me he was ready for more freedom, and I also discovered the miracle of belly bands (boy-dog diapers) for those times when I wasn't paying close enough attention.

I learned I could *never* yell at this dog. I did once, when he peed right in front of me at the bottom of the garage stairs as I was getting ready to walk him. Since then, I usually need to carry him down the stairs or give him a lot of encouragement to get him to walk down on his own. I learned I needed to take things very slowly. When we went someplace new, I learned I needed to take him from the car and be prepared to wait there for a few minutes while he barked. After he warned the world he was there and they'd better watch out, we could slowly proceed.

I learned the dog park is a refuge. Whenever I got frustrated with him, I took him and Isabella to the dog park. He could roam around safely and mark anything he wanted to there without getting into trouble. Isabella could play with other dogs instead of trying to play with Tigger. The other dogs seem to know he won't play with them and after an initial sniff or two, they leave him alone. I've spent hours and hours and hours at the dog park this summer!

I learned that within this neurotic fuzz-ball was a handsome dog who wanted only to please, if only he could understand what it was the world wanted from him. With the help of time, obedience class, anti-anxiety medication, lots of advice over the internet and from veterinarians, and most of all from a very supportive group of people at the dog park, Tigger is a totally different dog now. He's still on anti-anxiety medication , he might never really know how to play with other dogs, and he's still afraid of the cats, but he's happy! His eyes have lost that but-eyed, fearful look. He's calm and well-behaved for the most part. He won a prize for the "fastest sit" in his obedience class and it has been several weeks since he's marked in the house. I used to gate him into the room with me at home. Otherwise, he would consistently go find someplace to mark. I'm now able to give him freedom in the house when I'm home and he'll head off on his own to find a favorite toy to play with. He has to be crated when I'm at work during the day, but he can be alone in an x-pen for up to about 3 hours at a time without leaving a puddle behind.

This little fear-biter now *demands* attention from most of the people he used to threaten to bite. If someone at the dog park is sitting at the picnic table, they can count on having him climb into their lap. When another dog bumps into him, he usually moves out of the way instead of panicking and snapping. Tigger may never be the playmate for Isabella that I wanted him to be, but they get along well well now. She leaves him alone most of the time and he no longer cowers in a corner when she tries to play with him. Instead, he bounces around the house, sometimes tries to take balls away from her, and bounds up and down the stairs two at a time. He holds his head and tail high, he loves to play and I think he sometimes even goes looking for ways to get into trouble -- just like a normal dog!

Watch Tigger playing at the dog park: Tigger

   
   
 
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