Tale of Tails: Maggie May – Part 1
We adopted Maggie May in July of 2012. Becca, our black lab we had rescued 3 years previously had just passed away from bone cancer in her right shoulder. We wanted another dog, one to fill out our family and the hole in our hearts and also to be a sister/companion for SlimDoggy Jack. Becca had been a perfect big sister, a very calming influence on excitable Jack and we wanted the same kind of energy in our new dog.
We worked with several local Labrador rescues and finally found Maggie. She was 8 years old and the only thing they could really tell us about her background was that she had been rescued from a ‘breeder’ where she had been a breeder mom. The ‘breeder’ (and I use that term lightly) wished to remain anonymous and would only surrender the dogs to old to breed if the rescue agreed to the confidentiality. They described her as being very calm and a ‘senior’ at 8 years of age. We were fine with a senior – we knew they had a tougher time getting placed and being of that age she would fit in well with Jack – who was around 8 years old. We knew this poor thing needed a good home, and we went to visit her.
She was staying with a foster who had another small dog. Maggie seemed perfect, she was calm, allowed us to take her for a test walk and sat calmly in front of us to allow us to pet her. The real test would be Jack though. Jack is indifferent towards other dogs – barely pays them any mind. He and Becca got along fine as she was somewhat the same way. We brought Maggie home for a test run. We knew enough to control the introduction and I took Jack for a walk and my husband brought Maggie out to meet us. A few sniffs all around and all seemed well. We brought her in the yard and worked our way into the house.
We had gotten a crate for Maggie and since she seemed a bit overwhelmed, we placed her in the crate at first, covered it with a blanket to reduce the distractions and let her settle in. As expected, Jack ignored her.
Our first indication that something might be a little off with Maggie was that evening at dinner. Jack was fed outside, so I put him out with his dinner and then put Maggie’s down. Nothing, no reaction, no interest. No enticement worked. This went on for almost three days. I tried different food, putting the dish in a different place – the only thing that occasionally worked was feeding her from my hand.
The next thing we noticed was her reluctance to leave her bed in my office. She didn’t attach to the crate, but to the bed in my office. This became her safe zone. The only time we could get her to leave it is for potty breaks a couple of times a day.
And then we noticed how she scampered away whenever my husband came near. She wanted no part of him. She was beginning to accept me and would eat from my hand, but if he was around, all bets were off she would run back to her safe zone. Within the first 72 hours, we knew we had a challenge on our hands, this wasn’t just ‘new environment nerves’ this was something bigger. We couldn’t get her to respond at all to us, no playing, no following, she barely would look at us, tail tucked, ears back.
We placed a call to the rescue to get more info – whatever they could tell us about her situation, her prior foster interactions…anything. Then we called our trainer who had helped us so much with our bundle of energy, SlimDoggy Jack. We knew we were a bit over our heads with an extremely fearful dog.