Skye is a 3-year-old Golden-mix who was surrendered to a local shelter by her owner (along with a Black Lab-mix) for reasons that we will never know. The shelter staff observed that little 38-pound Skye seemed happy/friendly upon intake, but became extremely frightened/withdrawn over the course of her 2-weeks in the shelter environment. Noticing that Skye was shutting down socially, the shelter staff pulled her out of their general population, deemed her ‘rescue only’ and called GRRCC. Our transport volunteer picked Skye up and immediately took her to our vet’s office for her physical, blood panel and spay surgery. There was a notation in her file from the shelter that she had growled at staff there, which was not previously disclosed to GRRCC, but Skye was with us now! Skye was frightened and unsure upon arrival at our vet, but allowed the staff to draw blood, palpate her abdomen, look in her ears and bathe her. The following day she growled at the vet who was preparing to perform the spay surgery and was sedated for the safety of the staff. We knew Skye needed to get out of the loud, scary, hectic shelter/kennel environment & quickly! Thankfully, an experienced GRRCC Foster Family stepped forward to assess Skye’s behavior and temperament while she recovered from her spay at their home.
This is from Skye’s Foster Mom:
We brought Skye home from the vet on a Saturday morning and carved out our whole weekend to be with her. She was spayed while she was in heat, so her surgery was extra-complicated and risky, but – honestly – that was the least of our problems. We’ve had 20 fosters through our house and purposely avoid “potential behavioral challenges” for all the obvious reasons, so accepting a skittish pup with anxiety that manifests as aggression – were we nuts?? To say we brought her home against our better judgement would be an understatement, but Skye has shown us that all our misgivings about her were just plain wrong. We are very lucky, and so is she!
Skye has been with us for 9 days and we are thrilled to report that she is becoming a normal, happy well-adjusted (foster) family member! Fortunately, she came to us completely potty-trained with perfect house manners (although she would LOVE to be on the furniture) and she rides beautifully in the car. We never crated her in a traditional wire crate due to her fears, but she slept for 5 nights in an x-pen (a large enclosure with an open top) due to residual bleeding from having been in heat and she did fine. Skye now snoozes on the floor of our bedroom next to her foster Golden brother and hasn’t needed/wanted the x-pen at all. Skye learned her name and we are working on basic commands. (She likes “sit” and I have trouble getting her to UN-sit! Maybe she’s teaching me “stay”?) She especially adores our 2 other Goldens and would do best in a household with another confident “lead” dog that she can take her cues from — “If you’re OK, then I must be OK too!” She’s also cat friendly and can be trusted loose in the house for short periods of time. She has a small, athletic-looking frame and is ‘light’ in her front end, so she occasionally stands on her back legs in a curious/inquisitive way, but not in a mischievous/negative way just to see what’s up. She could certainly jump a fence, but hasn’t bothered to try. She has a healthy appetite and takes treats gently from our hands. Although the vet didn’t say she needs to gain weight, I think at least 5 pounds would help cover those ribs a bit! Did I mention her leash manners are horrible? We tied a water ski tow rope to her harness for a hike in the mountains last weekend just to watch her go, go, go! She would make someone a fantastic running companion!
I would like to address the growling behavior specifically. Skye has lived in my home with my family (including 2 teenage children) for 9 days and I don’t believe she would ever intentionally hurt anyone, but I believe it’s possible that she could reflexively hurt someone. I also believe that, like most Goldens, she is very resilient and her mental/emotional health is improving by the day. It is not uncommon for perfectly “normal” dogs to shut-down in a shelter/kennel environment when their whole lives are turned upside down and they feel threatened. This is by no means an excuse, but it happens. Our first instinct as a Foster Family was to shower this poor little girl with all the love & attention she’d no doubt been missing for who-knows-how-long. Well, it turns that for a dog who is already afraid of the big, bad world – it’s terrifying to have complete strangers coming at you with love & attention & treats & toys! [Insert growl here!] Once Skye taught us that she preferred a quiet, low-key introduction to the family dynamic that included lots of space and freedom to explore on her own terms, she began to trust us.
On Day 1, we did very little other than setup her space in the house and make sure she had food/water/medicine. She growled at me when I approached to take her photo. On Day 2, instead of approaching her, we ignored her. On Day 3, when she approached us, we’d stroke her face and ears and speak to her softly using her name. We never made a big deal or got excited. She watched how we interacted with the other dogs and each other. She observed everything about her surroundings and literally could not rest/sleep until she was satisfied that she was safe/protected. She is incredibly smart. By Day 4, Skye started asking for our attention. She even got in my lap as we sat outside chatting in the sunshine, although she still only allowed me to pet her head/neck/shoulders and front legs/feet. By Day 5, Skye was finally accepting of the whole family! It was interesting how she got to know us individually; not as a family unit. She was especially standoffish with our 14-year-old daughter; barking at her upon entering a room, for example. We still had our guard up and were conscious of maintaining a relatively quiet, easy-going household…but, Skye was coming around! By Day 6, Skye hauled all the toys out of the basket and tried to get her Foster Golden Brother to engage with her! Her playful personality is shining through at last! By Day 7 (one week!), she trusts us to stroke the entire length of her back and rub her belly. (Her incision is healing nicely!) I don’t understand why she was so protective of her hindquarters, but perhaps it has something to do with her stubby tail. Was her tail broken and proper vet care denied? Did someone abuse her and hack it off? It doesn’t appear to be genetic and I don’t believe it was surgically docked or bobbed. We will never know. On Day 8, we all piled in the car for a weekend in the mountains together. The change of scenery didn’t seem to stress her out at all and we all had a great time together. Skye loves to play outside and we loved watching her love it!
This is probably cheeseball, but bear with me. Most of what I learn these days is from my teenagers and my dogs. On the way home from the mountains, my daughter (age 14) customized her playlist with her favorite new music to share with me on the drive. A catchy song called ‘Get Away’ by George Ezra played as Skye’s ears flapped in the breeze in the backseat. We laughed at the big goofy grin on her face and decided this is Skye’s theme song. The lyrics to the hook so appropriate for her:
It’s never been this way before
Shut down by anxiety
It’s never been this way before
You’d better get away, boy
You’d better get away
And I’m movin’ on
Like a lightnin’ bolt
Can you help Skye overcome her fears and be her Forever Family? This is what she kindly requests of you:
- Relatively calm/quiet home with a patient person/couple/family willing to invest the time to (1) let Skye develop trust, then (2) help Skye build self-confidence.
- Another ‘lead’ dog that Skye could take her cues from will help immensely!
- Strongly recommend that Skye NOT have any small children in her life out of concern that they may inadvertently cause anxiousness/stress/fear.
- Strongly recommend Skye NEVER be put in a boarding facility or kennel environment when away from her family.
- Consider an in-home petsitter or sharing arrangement. (Skye’s foster Mom would be happy to let Skye return for visits anytime!)
- Structurally fenced-in yard with ample room to run & play, no exceptions.