Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Ones Who Get To Me Part 3: Saxon

I love the big dogs.  I always have.  When I say "big dogs" I'm not talking Rottweiler big.  I'm talking the biggest of the big, the Irish Wolfhounds and the Great Danes.

Out of 25 kennels in the store, only three of those are big kennels, and one of those three is not very tall and so has to be reserved for either heavy dogs that are long (Bassets and the like) or groups of smaller dogs.

We had never gotten any true giant breeds in the store before, so it was a shock to me when the owner and General Manager went to THE OTHER store and brought back a Great Dane puppy.

He was six weeks old when he came to the store, which is 3 weeks younger than we usually get puppies.  Still, he was as big as most 9 week-old Labradors.

He was a mis-marked black with white paws and what would be called a white "snip" on his muzzle in the horse world.  I was happy to see that his ears were intact.

I dropped down next to him and said to him, "In a different time, you would have made a fierce Saxon warrior." From that moment on I called him Saxon.

Saxon @ 6 weeks gives great (Dane) kisses.

Almost immediately after his vet check, Saxon sold to a man whose wife wanted a smaller dog.  A much, much smaller dog:  She was thinking Yorkie.  From what I hear, he pretty much gave her a verbal middle finger and said, "I don't care what you want, I'm getting him anyway," and away went Saxon.

A week and a half later, the man returned him.  I forget what excuse he gave, but what it basically boiled down to was that he quickly discovered that when your wife is the one home all day and she wasn't on board with the idea of getting the dog, you have messes to clean when you finally do get home from work because she refuses to do anything with the dog.  And Great Danes make Great Messes.

Oh, yeah, and he had kennel cough.  A pretty nasty case, as it turned out.

Saxon @ 9 weeks:  Regular walks, doctor's orders.

Saxon was not for sale for two weeks while this bout of kennel cough that would not respond to medications cleared up.  He was almost 11 weeks old when he finally went up for sale again.  He was also much bigger.  As per Dr. W's instructions, he went out for walks twice a day (but usually more because he was a store favorite and everyone loved having Saxon out).

Soon, someone else bought Saxon.  (And renamed him Hendrix, ugh.  Sometimes the names people replaced my wonderful, unique names with pained me.)  Three days later, they also returned him.  When I saw the manager coming through the back door hauling Saxon over her shoulder (she's not a very big lady), I was dismayed.  "Why?!"  I exclaimed.  She gave me a dark look and said, "Because he's vicious and a danger to people," she told me in a sarcastic tone.

What?  My Saxon?  Vicious and a danger to people?  WTF?  No.  No way.  "Is she still here," I asked, meaning the lady who had purchased him.  Yes, she was, so I walked out of the kennel, determined to get the story directly from her.  

What she told me:  She had taken him to her vet, and when the vet picked him up and put him on the examination table, he snapped at the vet, so the vet told her that he was vicious and going to be dangerous when he got larger and that she should return him.  Which she promptly did.

He had never been aggressive to anyone at her house.  He had never been aggressive to me, or Dr. W when she looked at him.  Yes, the lady admitted in a disbelieving tone, there was a possibility he only did it because he was scared or stressed, but if the vet said he was vicious, then.. 

(This is why I think that unless a vet has a degree in animal behavioral science, they should probably not make fantastic claims using theatrical wording like "vicious.")

I puzzled over Saxon in the back for a few minutes.  "What is all this vicious nonsense about, then?"  I asked him.  He didn't know.  He didn't care.  He was just happy to be home.  He sat on the floor and cocked his head at me.  I messed with him a bit, doing things to try and provoke an aggressive response.  Nothing.  Huh.  Oh well.  Stupid vet.

Saxon went up for sale.  Third time's a charm, right?

But I started getting text messages from various employees at the store saying things like, "Saxon growled at me today," or "Saxon snapped at me when I had him out last night."

I couldn't figure it out.  Most of the time, the snapping seemed really unprovoked.  I tried time and time again to get an aggressive reaction out of him, and I didn't get anything, at all.  I would give him a pig ear, let him settle down and get really into it, and then sneak up behind him and abruptly snatch it away.  It was like taking candy from a baby (actually that's exactly what it was).  He would just look at me with this morose expression on his face like, "Why'd you go and do that for?"  And that's it.  Or, I would give him his breakfast and then stick my hands in it, play with the kibble, put my hands in his mouth while he was trying to eat, and push him by the head away from the food, in general things to him that most dogs, even the good-natured ones, would not put up with very well.

Nothing.  He'd eat around my fingers in his bowl, lick my fingers when I put them in his mouth while he was eating, or just sit down if I pushed his head and give me the pitiful morose look.

Every time I got no response I would sit back on my heels and ponder him for a moment.  What the hell is going on?  SaintTawny says he growled, then he growled, there's no misunderstanding.  Anybody else I could brush off with, "He was probably just playing."  Granted, dogs do not react to all people the same way, but.. I couldn't believe a dog this good natured turned into a monster as soon as I clocked out at night.

Eventually I narrowed it down to he only really got growly aggressive when he was played roughly with.  I tested it out by doing it myself, and then having the owner, who is a guy, do it.  Sure enough, he passed the pig ear snatch with flying colors, but when push came to shove, literally, in rough play, he growled.  A serious growl.

In the back of my head there was something about what the lady said to me that bothered me like a mental hangnail but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.  

In the meantime, I laid down a new law:  No playing rough with Saxon.

Of course, customers don't give a shit what you tell them and will proceed to do the opposite of everything you just asked them not to do just to prove they can or something, so shortly thereafter the new law was amended to:  Saxon can only come out for customers on a leash, with an employee attached to the other end of it.  That way if he growled, we could correct him, and someone was standing there watching the customer interact with him the entire time and could correct them should they start to want to rough house.

It wasn't very long after that when on one of our walks, I happened to look down and realize that strewn in the grass was a bunch of broken glass.  It was too late to direct Saxon around it, so instead I went to pick him up and lift him over it entirely.  Since he was walking, I sort of grabbed him more towards the back end at an odd angle.

He growled a growl that started very seriously but quickly became a squeal and whipped his head around toward me.  He did not snap.  He didn't even put his head on me, just turned quickly in the direction of my hands.

And suddenly it hit me, that mental hangnail of how the puzzle piece of the vet putting Saxon on the table fit into the growling problem all clicked into place.  Ah ha!  Saxon growls because he's in pain.  His legs hurt him.  Since the first time he growled at the vet who picked him up to put him on an exam table, his legs have been hurting him.

Poor baby!

Dr. W was scheduled to stop by the store and look over a new group of puppies that night, and I couldn't wait for her to get there and confirm or deny my suspicions.  I did burst through the back door of the store yelling, "GUYS!  GUYS!  SAXON'S LEGS HURT!"  

When Dr. W got there, I asked her, "Could you take a look at Saxon?  I think his legs have been hurting him."

After she was done everything else, we got out Saxon.  I held his front end while she started feeling around his back end.  Immediately, he tensed up, and she looked up quickly and nodded.  "Yeah.  Yeah, he's really tender in here.  All along these long bones, did you feel him get really tense?"  As she kept feeling around his legs, he started to squirm, and then growl, and then the growl again dwindled into a squeal.

All four legs, in the long bones, Saxon was painful.  Basically, growing pains.  He was growing so fast his legs hurt.  He got a prescription for Rimadyl, keep up the daily walks and exercise, and add glucosamine and chondroitin to his food.

Not too many days later, a really distasteful customer bought Saxon.  This guy is a terror.  He walks around in the store loudly cursing at his kids (the oldest of whom is probably 7) and his wife, who loudly curses back at him.  F-bombs reverberate through the store when they are in it.  He wanted Saxon.  In the worst, worst way.  I did not want him to have Saxon, in the worst, worst way.  I tried to scare him off of Saxon by explaining to him that he did not like to be rough housed with because his legs hurt him, and that if his kids played rough with Saxon, Saxon would snap at them.  No dice.  He purchased Saxon when I was not at work, and I was very upset.  I contemplated texting Dr W and asking her to tell the guy to bring him back.  Before I could get anywhere with that, the guy returned Saxon.  Reason?  "He bit three of my kids.  They weren't even doing nothing!"  Uh-huh.  Sure.

He returned the Rimadyl with Saxon.  None of the pills were missing, meaning they didn't give him any of his pain meds the entire time they had him.  Jerks.  (I still hate that man and hide when I know he's in the store.)

I started to get the feeling that Saxon thought the store was home, and he couldn't figure out why he kept having to go with these weird, strange people every once in awhile.

Back to our old walking routine.  I loved my walks with Saxon.  Saxon loved his walks, too.  We would walk down to the grocery store, hang around there for a few minutes, and then walk back up the entire shopping center to the store.  We were stopped a lot by people who just wanted to see the giant puppy.  It was great socialization for him.

Saxon loved to wedge himself between my feet to lay down.
Here we are taking a small break on a walk.

Towards the end, lots of people wanted Saxon.  He was purchased by a man who had a Newfoundland and was used to working with large dogs.  I was happy with that owner for Saxon.

Saxon's cage card.  A tradition of mine to keep the cage
cards of the ones who get to me, when I can.

When he sold, I kept his cage card, which is a tradition of mine.  I try to keep them when I can, and I stash them in a super secret special place.  If I'm not there when the puppy gets sold, chances are the cage card gets thrown away, because this was something I did just for me, that no one else knows about.

I will never see another black Great Dane without thinking about my Saxon.

1 comment:

  1. My honest first impression of this story is "this is why I hate puppy sales in stores"... but the same thing happens with shelter adoptions and rescue adoptions.
    People are SO disappointing most of the time.
    Especially when dogs are seen as property, and not a living being requiring your care, people will always disappoint.

    I'm glad Saxon found the best home for him!