Sunday, November 29, 2009


Dogs get their prime socialization between 8 weeks and 16 weeks.  This is the time they need to be exposed to as many new situations as possible - young children, cats, cars, parks, cows, etc.  After this window closes, they may never be comfortable with new situations.  Stick them in the back yard this entire time, and they will become fearful and unconfident.

Once there was a beautiful shetland sheepdog puppy named Spencer.  He was first owned by a college student, who did not have much money or time.  To save money, he didn't buy a crate or kennel; he got a wooden box with some air holes in the top.  Since he was studying all the time, he didn't spend much time with his new puppy.  He left him in the box nearly all the day long.  Once the dog was grown, the student realized he didn't have the resources to care for this dog, so he took him to Dallas Sheltie Rescue.

Shelties are herding dogs.  Their job is to watch for danger, and warn when something is wrong.  They have tons of energy so that they can chase after sheep all day through the hills.  Take a dog like this, hard wired for attentiveness and exuberance, then restrain them in a sensory deprivation tank during their formative years, and you have a recipe for a nervous, unsocialized, anxious dog.

Spencer was returned from his first home back to sheltie rescue.  My mother-in-law, Marion, was contacted because she had successfully homed one of their other dogs.  She was skeptical, but she gave Spencer a chance.

He was a very nervous dog.  Impossible to walk on a leash because he was afraid of the wind blowing the grass.  Terrified by mailboxes and garbage cans.  Skittish around other dogs.

In fact, he didn't know how to talk to other dogs.  He got into a big fight twice with our old mellow Terlingua, and bit his housemate Fox so badly he needed stitches under his eye.  Both dogs were by far his senior, and he should have known better.

When he stayed at my house for "boarding," I soon learned I had to "kick" him off of the covered patio in the morning to make him go pee, or else he would anoint my kitchen with his urine.  I'm sure he had agoraphobia, because I'd shoo him off the porch and he'd bunny hop to the big oak tree, huddle under it panting, then he'd pee, and bee-line back to the safety of the indoors.

Eventually, Spencer did get accustomed to life in his new household.  The loved being petted by Marion, and he enjoyed playing with her grandchildren.   He loved wrestling with Fox.  He liked the routine of family life.  He still always gave an alarming shrieking yap every time the phone rang.  The open wire kennel had to be put away or he'd spend all day huddled in it.  He never, ever, learned to walk, even though he was patiently taken many times by patient Uncle Volker.

He did get brave enough to walk to the mailbox, and he loved to walk to the car when Marion was bringing in the groceries.  He'd happily sniff everything and follow her back and forth from the car to the refrigerator.  But he'd never leave the safety of the driveway.

That's what old Spencer was doing today, following Marion in with her groceries, when a large red truck came barreling down the alley.  The sound of it startled Spencer, and its front wheel clipped him, and its back wheel crushed him.  The truck sped down the alley, never stopping.

Marion called me after to tell me that Spencer had died, and I still can't believe it.  This poor, long suffering dog did not deserve to die this way.  It was almost as if his fear of the big, fast moving world came true.

We had been talking about getting Marion a new dog, and now she is left without any furry "little guy."  So I am trolling the internet, looking for the right dog (or two) for her.  It is tragic and shameful how many dogs are looking for a new home, for good reasons (foreclosure, death of the owner) but mostly bad (new baby, no time, just plain abandonment).  If there is anything good that comes from Spencer's loss, it is that another dog will get a second chance, just like he did.


peevish said...

Oh, poor Spencer! Poor Marion!

I do hope you can find a sweet one for her. Oh, so sad.

Laura said...

Poor dog. I'm sure Marion gave him the best possible life he could have led after such a rocky start.

mr man said...

Lacrimae and coffee don't mix so well. Such a well thought and sympathetic story. I remember the shelties in a quick in and out flash during one of the holiday visits.... Spencer was so lucky to land with Marion after a hard start.

It's great that animals have such an advocate as you.

Anonymous said...

Marion gave him time and a good life that he clearly would never have otherwise had. It takes a special person to be able to love a dog like that with so many issues. Her next dog will be just as lucky.

Angie in MN

EdamameMommy said...

Brutal ending for that poor dog. How horrible. My heart goes out to Marion!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Marion, I'm so sad for you. You gave Spencer a really good life. I know you will give another sheltie a good life too.

Anonymous said...

I hate sad endings. Poor Spencer had a sad beginning and ending. But as they say about gravestones (Born 19XX - Died 20XX), it is what's in the dash that counts, and Marion gave Spencer lots of love during that dash. Still, what a horrible way for your beloved pet to go, and the driver didn't even stop. Damn.

Emily said...

OMG! How shocking. I'm so sad for Marion. Poor Spencer. What a tragic way to go.

mainlyclearskies said...

Oh, how awful! I hope you find a good little guy for Marion.