Yo from Tacoma

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Yo from Tacoma

Postby MikeInTacoma » Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:02 am

Hi fellow dog people, I'm Mike, male, 43 years old, unmarried but shacked up long-term, no kids; grew up in Chicago, living about 12 years now in the great Pacific North Wet. Almost a year ago, my GF and I agreed to foster Rocco and Rufus, whose house was being foreclosed with the result that their owner couldn't keep them. (That's Rufus in my avatar pic -- more pics soon, when I get them uploaded somewhere.)

My GF has had probably a dozen cats over the years, but never a dog; and she was bitten somewhat severely as a child (required stitches). She did live with a couple of German Shepherds for a few years. I had two dogs in childhood, but never for more than a year or so. In my 20s, I lived with three dogs (of roommates and a girlfriend) for a couple of years, and animals generally seem to like me, but I'm not a Paul Owens, nor even a Cesar Milan. We weren't really ready for this, nor even (despite some research) fully aware of what we were getting into; but the usual Pit Bull rescue groups were, we were told, overwhelmed at the time, and if we didn't take the dogs then they'd be put down. Oh well, it was just supposed to be for a few weeks, until Rocco's previous owner got a new place; and surely we'd quickly find a home for Rufus among our network of animal-loving friends, right? roflmao After a few months of fostering them, and some unsuccessful attempts to find homes for them, we realized we didn't want to give them up and we'd effectively adopted them.

Rocco is 3-1/2 years old now, and deaf since puppyhood (possibly since birth, the previous owner wasn't sure). He is 75 lbs., with a beautiful brindle coat, a kind of goofy ungainliness, and a disposition so sweet it'd rot your teeth. We think he's Pit Bull / Staffordshire (I'm not clear on the difference) mixed with... Mastiff? Boxer? You'll have to see the pics and make your own guess.

Rufus is 5-1/2 years old, the same height as but burlier than his uncle Rocco at 85 lbs., with a coat that looks black until you see him in good light, when it's obviously dark brown. He's supposedly pure Pit Bull. Some PB people who see him think he's pure; others think he might be mixed with Lab or Mastiff. I really love the swirl of fur on his breastbone, and even more I love his gung-ho attitude and unconditional affection.

However, Rufus is territorial and dog-aggressive. He has attacked Rocco 3x since we've had them. Yes, we were warned by the previous owner to always keep them separated. Yes, we failed to do enough research on the breed. Yes, it was all our fault. (Yes, I'm feeling a little defensive... sorry.)

The first attack was about a month after we'd had them neutered. They'd been on walks together and had done fine, but we were still keeping them separated. Full of false confidence from our successes so far, I tried having them out of their kennels at the same time, in the house. I'd seen dogs fighting before, but it hadn't prepared me for the reality of a Pit Bull attacking. No bark, no growl, no snarl, no bristling fur, no snapping; just out of nowhere pure instantaneous merciless speed and determination. Even though I was standing between the dogs before the attack, I had no chance to forestall it; my reflexes would never have been quick enough unless I already had a good grip on Rufus. It was a painful learning experience that eventually brought me to this forum (suggested by Kirsten, the trainer who has been helping me with Rufus the past few weeks). I wish I'd found PBF sooner -- it seems overflowing with good info.

As I think I understand it, Rocco's and Rufus' previous home was a small backyard breeding operation. I think the woman we got them from was the girlfriend of the breeder, who had died a year or two previously. (Then she apparently had trouble making the mortgage payments, or perhaps probate court kicked her out... not sure.) I don't know how skilled or ethical they were as breeders, but I'm a alarmed that she bred puppies by Rocco since he's deaf and she seemed unsure as to the cause (otoh, he *is* the sweeeeetest dog I've ever met); and to my untutored eye, Rufus' head seems a bit disproportionately large. Rufus did come with a Pit Bull pedigree of some kind, iirc from UKC. I don't clearly recall the details, because I've always been more interested in working dogs than in beauty pageants yet I NEVER want these dogs to do the perverted "work" for which their ancestors were bred. If there's any interest, I'll dig out his papers.

Anyway, for newbies adopting a couple of rescue Pits, we got very lucky. They'd had little training. They were housebroken and crate-trained, and that's all. With the help of Paul Owens' dvd, and tips from Cesar Milan's tv show, and tips from the deafdog.org website, we taught them to walk on a leash, sit, down, stay, recall, and heel -- they knew none of that when we picked them up. At first they were frightened of nearly everything. I think Rocco had never been anywhere in his entire life, except his house and his privacy-fenced backyard. Rufus, she said, had been sold as a puppy but was brought back to her when his owners got evicted (for having a yowling puppy tethered outside their apartment 24/7) -- so his previous experience of the world was one house, two yards, and two terrifying car rides. Judging by how they sometimes at first used to flinch from sudden movements, we're convinced that someone in the previous house hit them a few times, but it doesn't seem to have been severe or frequent enough to make them really fear people in general. So no obedience training, no real socialization, but also no big health concerns, no evidence that they'd been fought (though a few scars, apparently from other dogs previously in the house) and no intractable emotional issues. Well, aside from Rufus' DA, which after all is somewhat characteristic of his breed. Pretty lucky, all things considered; and we totally love these great dogs.

We've been crating and rotating for the whole 10 months we've had them. Actually, Rufus gets the basement, and Rocco gets the 1st floor and 2nd floor. So the rotating part is that only one of them at a time is in the yard. At first, we did have them kenneled in the same room, with a piece of plywood between their cages to block their view of each other and keep Rufus' histrionics down. Now we find it more convenient to keep them on separate floors. Plus it seems less stressful for both of them, and Rocco's clown nature comes out more fully. (Though now that I think about it, the other two attacks wouldn't have happened if their kennels still had been in the same room. In both cases, Rufus was already in the yard when my GF let Rocco outside. Rufus got Rocco by the ear one time, and we both pulled him off. The other time, I wasn't home, and she had to pull Rufus off Rocco's leg by herself, which was something of a confidence booster for her.) Rufus really probably should be an only dog; but you play the cards you're dealt, and even if we found someone to take him now, I don't want to give him up. Eventually, we'd like to get them dog-socialized and obedient enough to reintroduce them, and hopefully be able to have them together while supervised. We realize it may not be possible, but any progress toward that goal is good. We'll never trust Rufus unsupervised with any male dog, even if he racks up several incident-free years. As I read somewhere, "the Pit Bull may not even be the one starting the fight, but he's got the genetics to finish it."

My main dog interests are training (that "bridge and target" thing sounds very very exciting), diet (we've been thinking about making our own cat food -- one of the cats seems to get diarrhea from anything except canned prescription rabbit and venison -- beaucoup bucks to feed that fluffball; and now I'm very interested in feeding raw or b.a.r.f. Rocco seems to get the runs from changes in diet or commercial dog treats; plus he gets red patches from scratching, which means he's itching... no fleas, so I suspect he's allergic to something in the kibbles; and he's a bit frail generally -- twice he's gotten foot problems, a few times he's gotten ear infections. I suspect he'd do much better with a more natural diet), and mushing -- we've just recently learned of dog scootering, thanks to youtube, and it looks like a helluvalotta fun. There's even one design that puts the dog about even with the handler's legs -- i.e., aft of the steer wheel -- so Rocco can do it too despite being deaf. I had been thinking of learning Schutzhund with Rufus since there are a couple of clubs near me, but in reality, I doubt I'd have the time for that much training. (I just really like the idea of a well-rounded working dog.) Agility looks like fun too, but again, I don't have time to do it seriously.

Aside from dogs, I'm interested in the usual PNW outdoorsy stuff (snowboarding, sea kayaking, bicycling, backpacking, climbing, treehugging, biodiesel, electric vehicles, etc.), and the game called Go (also known as Baduk or Weiqi -- where I got my internet screen name: WEiqi GO BADuk). It's a board game originally from China, similar in some ways to Chess, though at first glance it looks more like Checkers or Othello. For better or worse, I play Go a lot more than I do the outdoorsy stuff. I snowboard maybe 2x or 3x a winter; I bike on average once a week (more often when the car's in the shop); but I haven't been on the water in 5 or 6 years, and I haven't been hiking or climbing in 5 years and 20 years respectively. I also have an amateur interest in graphic design, and I create two or three Go-themed t-shirts a year on cafepress. But driving a truck (local non-CDL) is what pays the bills. (Rufus often rides with me : )

Anyway, I'm glad to learn of PBF. Despite this long rambling post, I'll probably lurk more often than not, since I have no great dog expertise; and work and Go and Rufus keep me pretty busy already. (But I will put up some pics of R and R soon.)

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The Missie
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Postby The Missie » Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:24 am

Welcome! I am also a 1st time pb owner. (And 1st time dog owner)
PBF is a wonderful site and very helpful :)

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Postby littleCloClo » Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:59 am

Welcome! This is a great forum, with lots of fantastic information. Can't wait to see the rest of your photos!

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Postby ViPeR809 » Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:31 am

Do you really think im going to read all that? :duel: :eek: Just kidding :)

Im also a first time dog owner.

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Postby KJAX5252 » Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:34 am

Welcome! I cant wait to see the pics :)

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Postby *leenie* » Wed Dec 19, 2007 12:18 pm

Im from Chicago too! and I live right by Everett.

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Postby MikeInTacoma » Wed Dec 19, 2007 5:48 pm

The Missie -- Thanks for the welcome! Good luck with your dog.
littleCloClo -- Thank you, too! Pics will have to wait till I get back from work though. :sad:
ViPeR809 -- You read all of that? Egad, you must have as much time on your hands as I had when I typed it. (Actually, that was the third edition -- first one, the window got closed when i as about half done; second one, I accidentally hit the backspace key. Third time was the charm, though way too long. I gotta learn how to use fewer words...)
KJAX5252 -- Thanks for the welcome, pics soon :)
*leenie* -- Thanks! Maybe I'll see you at a dog show, or a dog scooter event.

Other news -- prepping the '85 Suburban (burning B99) for a trip to Chicago this weekend. Yes, I know that means driving through blizzard country. This will be the 3rd time I've made that drive in winter. Best vehicle I've ever had for it. Kenneling Rocco (the deaf brindle) with Kirsten; taking Rufus along for the adventure. Hopefully not *much* adventure. So, I'm about to buy a travel kennel. GF likes the soft-sided ones, but I don't really trust them, plus they seem pricey. I think I'm just going to buy an airline kennel.

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Postby Leslie H » Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:25 pm


welcome, actually I appreciate the lengthy intro, it gives perspective

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