Sheltering dangerous dogs is never easy. For us it is determining the risks and how to mitigate those risks to keep everyone safe, including the furry one with the biting tendencies. If we can't safely manage them and protect everyone, then they can't be here. So here are the stories of our 3 biting badass amigos and what SAINTS has meant for them.
Let's start with the smallest yet mightiest of our biting dogs, Oscar the Grouch. He is getting old now but his teeth still work. He will attack anyone's foot if the mood strikes. He cannot be safely handled for his twice daily eye drops without being wrapped in a burrito with kevlar gloves on our hands. And yet for all of his anger at certain times, some for a good reason; he hates getting eye drops, being groomed, or touched by a vet. Others are for no reason at all except he is in a biting mood, but he still enjoys being alive. Oscar likes going for field runs (it's more like meanderings), he likes his toys, he likes treats and hanging out with the staff and his dog friends. He likes that we play movies for him during the day and I think he likes his name (it used to be Oliver, but Oscar the Grouch is cooler.) I am not even sure why we love him, he is not snuggly or cuddly or anything even close but he is our fuzzy little grouch. We don't let strangers near him and we use caution when we have to do anything to him and somehow it works. He is happy so we are happy and that's good, and he is kind of cute.
Next up is Shyla, she is middle sized. She looks like a smallish husky and border collie mix. Shyla has many issues, she sucks with other animals and she sucks with many people. Even her good friends will sometimes get a warning tooth or two. Shyla's brain works in mysterious ways. She goes into full attack mode when people she does not know well, enter or exit her room. She goes bezerke when she knows a new dog has moved into the kitchen on the other side of her door.. It takes a long time for staff and volunteers to go into her area, and we keep the other animals away from her because she will hurt them. And even the people she seems to love, if they move a hand too fast, or pet too long, her eyes change as the bite switch goes off. She is not great out in the yard for the very same reasons but she can go for a walk and be a good girl and she is actually really good for the vets. Shyla protects her space because she feels safe enough to freak out at others in her safe space and when she decides she has had enough, whatever it is has to end. When she is out and about, for a walk or at the vets, she feels vulnerable, afraid so she is less likely to rock the boat where she does not have control with the safety of her space. And while Shyla can be a bit trigger happy at times with everyone else, she is a completely normal and happy dog in the evenings when she and I are alone. Shyla is not normally a peaceful dog, she has invisible demons that drive her and sometimes us, nutz. I think she suffers from PTSD but I am not sure, all I know is her head is a mess and we love her.
And finally there is Ella. Whenever we bring visitors in the first thing we tell them is stay away from the wire. We erected a full wire wall in her area to keep people away from her. Ella is a bit of a trickster, she will come up to say hello looking friendly enough and even gratefully take a treat and then she will bite. OR she may just not like the look of you and launch herself at the wire. I can't really figure Ella out. When I sit on the couch, she comes up and licks my neck, I think she is telling me she could do the vampire thing if she wanted to, but doesn't because I am a friend. Once she makes friends she never bites (unlike Oscar or Shyla) but until that bond is made, watch out because Ella bites hard.. Ella loves Erin above us all, she also loves runs in the fields, she likes toys and couches and treats and I do think she actually does like to bite people she doesn't know. Maybe in a previous life she was an internet troll.
Here is the thing, we can't take in many dogs like Oscar and Shyla and Ella, we just don't have the space or the facilities for any more like these. These dogs will live out their entire lives with us, year after year after year, taking up space from other dogs that won't get the chance to get here. Shyla has a whole room to herself. Intros to Oscar and Ella with other dogs takes caution and time. We didn't really know what we were getting into when we let them all in thru our gates. But we learned fast that they can never leave us because they are not safe. We keep them safe at SAINTS.
All three of these dogs know they are loved, know they have a family and know they have a home. Most times I say that the animals are a gift to us, but for these three, we are the gift to them too.. We love and care for them, they get to be here and be happy, they make us roll our eyes, watch our backs and quite often make us laugh. They love us because we see what the rest of the world doesn't....really good dogs inside the bad.... each are a greatly loved and valued Saint Badass.