By Alexandra Feldt, Assistant to the President and CEO
Everyone around the office (and in life, really) knows that if he can be worked into a conversation, I will go on about my beagle Fred ad nauseam. However, I maintain that if you met him, you would understand – he is just that great.
Fred, like many canines, suffers from dog reactivity. Our Director of Behavior and Training, Marika Bell describes this condition:
“Reactive” dogs will react extremely (lunging, barking, panicking, or showing intense excitement) towards strangers, other dogs, loud noises, or sudden movements. The behavior usually stems from one of two situations. In the first, intense, irrational fear of the “trigger” causes the dog to panic and try to bolt or react aggressively. In the second, the dog is over-aroused and excited. The dog may intensely enjoy the interaction so much that they become frustrated when restrained by the leash.
Fred’s trigger is other dogs, and he is all fear. While he has been a part of our family since 2008, when he left his life as a stray in the past, it wasn’t until we moved to the city that this issue really came to a head. Suddenly, Fred was an urban apartment dog, walking on crowded streets and living in a building with countless other pooches. Dogs were everywhere.
At first, my husband Devin and I were completely overwhelmed. Fred was like a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at the sight, smell, or sound of another dog, whether on one of his three daily walks or just taking a nap on his bed. Devin and I felt like we could never relax. Worse still, Fred’s intense fear was heartbreaking.
To the relief of our building and the whole neighborhood (beagles can really project), we quickly realized that intervention was in order. Devin, Fred, and I embarked on a journey, 13 months and counting, to learn about and manage dog reactivity. We have good days and bad, but the benefits of our work together have been astounding. During this process, we have bonded even further, become more sensitive to dog behavior, learned how to better manage stress, and had a lot of fun.
As you read more about Fred in the coming weeks, many will
find his story all too familiar, but there is hope. For others who have not
shared their lives with a reactive dog, perhaps when you see a dog behaving
like a ruffian, you will not automatically write him or her off as
“aggressive.” Maybe you’ll even want to add your own “Fred” to the family.
There are many dogs out there who are sensitive souls and may demonstrate this
in inappropriate ways like dear Fred. If you give these special dogs a chance,
you will be rewarded; their emotional nature has a very affectionate flip side —
nobody loves his mama more than my beagle boy.
Emmy and Lizzy: Fighting Dogs Given a Second Chance at Life
Mother-daughter pair Emmy and Lizzy are two such dogs. While Emmy has been adopted, Lizzy remains with the Washington Humane Society (WHS) until she finds her forever home. As both of these wonderfully sweet girls come from a horrendous dog-fighting background, Lizzy will do best as a spoiled only child like Fred—and now Emmy! We took a chance on Fred and haven’t had any regrets. Please consider doing the same for Lizzy by adopting today.
Look at it this way, as you follow Fred’s journey: no matter what, you are saving my co-workers from yet another gab session about Fred around the Keurig. However, at WHS, bragging about your pet(s) is pretty much on everyone’s agenda.
Nudge, nudge—if you adopt Lizzy, you’ll have a lot to brag about, too! Read her full story on our website.
For information about adopting Lizzy, call the Georgia Avenue Adoption Center at 202-723-5730.
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Fred's Photo by Heather Jowett