If you haven’t read part one of Cyrus’s adoption story, you can get caught up here!
We picked Cyrus up from the shelter on a Thursday afternoon. He had been neutered that day, and weighing in at a whopping 98 lbs (you can imagine how—ahem—developed he was) he was hurting pretty bad.
On our ride home, he was really groggy and drooly. That first night, he was so sweet. There were no accidents, he slept through the night and we were basically convinced he was perfect, forgetting entirely that he was probably still half drugged.
That lasted about 12 hours.
When I woke up the next morning Cyrus was standing eagerly at my bedside, ready to start the day. I sat up groggily and was promptly greeted by a swift punch in the eye, courtesy of our big, perfect and VERY excited dog. And so began our journey with the real Cyrus…
Before I go on, I want to make one thing very clear: Cyrus is an amazing dog. He is incredibly sweet and loving, a little dumb but occasionally kind of smart, SO funny and weird and friendly, and he can even be shockingly delicate when he wants to be. We love him unconditionally and we wouldn’t trade him for anything in the whole wide world.
That being said, the first 7 months after his adoption were incredibly difficult and draining on both Chris and I—physically, emotionally and financially.
The first incident happened just a week after we brought him home. We were out for a short walk one morning, when a neighborhood dog, seemingly out of nowhere, comes charging down the street in our direction—no human in sight. We stopped and changed direction away from the dog, not sure how Cyrus would react, but the dog made a beeline for Cyrus. As the dog approached, I could see Cyrus tense up and before I knew it, we were in the middle of a dogfight.
I don’t know how it happened, but Chris and I both got bit pulling the dogs apart, and I ended up hauling the other dog back down the street just in time for its owner’s friend (who accidentally let him escape) to run toward us apologizing.
As far as we saw it, that incident was a fluke. But in the following weeks and months, we were forced to come to terms with a few things about our big bundle of joy:
- His energy level was off the charts. This dog could go from zero to sixty in no time flat. Remember when I mentioned in my last post that Chris didn’t really want to exercise a dog much? HA! We were walking/running/biking with this dog at least twice a day. Rain or shine. Blazing heat or freezing cold.
- He was insanely reactive to other dogs on leash. As you can imagine, 100+ lbs of dog lunging at the end of the leash, hackles up, teeth baring, barking and growling up a storm is an unsettling sight. The neighbors were terrified of us. Part of me will forever wonder if it had anything to do with that dogfight. Is he insecure because he was attacked that day and felt restricted by the leash? Or was he always like this and we were just going to find out eventually?
- We needed to hire a trainer STAT.
So we hired a trainer, terrified she would tell us he was hopeless. But to our surprise, she assured us he was going to be just fine if we put some effort into his training.
And we did! And he learned a lot! But no matter how much we worked on his reactivity on walks, no matter how many goddamn hot dog bits we redirected him with when he saw another dog, no matter how many times I came home from a walk sobbing about how he dragged me to the ground or he was too big for me to control, it was useless. Still is. To this day, when we’re on a walk and Cyrus spots another dog, he loses his mind.
We knew we had more work to do with him, so that fall, we decided to take him to a very highly regarded dog behaviorist in Kansas City. It wasn’t cheap, but we were determined to do everything we possibly could for Cyrus. After one session with the behaviorist, he told us Cyrus was incredibly dog aggressive and could never be around other dogs. Ever. No daycare, no dog parks, no doggie play dates. Nothing. I was devastated, and, admittedly a little confused—Cyrus had been going to a dog daycare for months off and on with no problem. But this guy was the expert, right?
A few months later, Bill came into our lives and changed pretty much everything we thought we knew about Cyrus.
Stay tuned for Mr. Bill’s story…