My “Broken” Dog
This is Smeagol. Today I am going to write about Smeagol. I lovingly call him my “broken doge.” I have another dog that I have had since she was a puppy, who has been my best friend through everything, but it’s easy to love puppies (that grow into well-behaved adult dogs). It’s much more difficult to bring home a rescue dog. But bringing home this rescue dog ended up meaning more to me than anything else I did in the last year. So today is Smeagol’s day.
I brought Smeagol home from the SPCA just over a year ago. I sometimes think that I didn’t have a choice in the matter. The two of us were meant to find each other. I first stumbled across Smeagol on Kijiji. He was going by Bates at the time, dubbed so by his first rescuers. He had been dumped and left to die in a ditch out of town. The Kijiji ad detailed the little known of his story and offered him free to a good home. I was drawn in by his story, but I didn’t act.
I saw Smeagol again a month later. He had made his way to the SPCA and was up for adoption on the SPCA’s website. I didn’t have the money for the adoption fees at the time, so I didn’t act. He disappeared from the site, and I assumed he had been adopted.
Two weeks later, Smeagol was back. This time he had been rebranded Mr. Pugsywugsy, but I recognized him. I still had no money, but I had to save this dog. I borrowed the adoption fee from my mom and drove down to the SPCA with Ali (my other dog) in tow to meet him.
At the shelter, I was greeted by a notice stating that all dog adoptions were currently suspended because of a parvo outbreak. I went in to find out when the quarantine would be up so that I could come back, but it turned out that Smeagol was in fostering, so I could take him immediately. He hadn’t been neutered yet, so I would have to foster-to-adopt, but I could take him home. He was simultaneously excited and very scared. He seemed fairly indifferent to Ali, so we figured that they would get along in time.
This is Smeagol on the day we brought him home. He had already been in care/fostering for almost a month, and this is how skinny he still was.
Shortly after we arrived home, the mixture of excitement and fear he had been previously exhibiting, turned to complete terror. He spent most of the next couple of days curled into a tight little ball in various corners of the house.
This was him in a “relaxed” state. He spent his first nights with us curled up on the couch by himself.
We very quickly noticed that “Mr. Pugsywugsy” (he was still going by his temp name at the time) was not going to be an easy dog.
He earned his new name on the first day of his stay. In addition to his skin and bones look, Smeagol had a habit of alternating between tentatively friendly (complete with shy tail wagging and grin) and extremely aggressive (snarling, growling, snapping) in exactly 0.01 seconds. You could almost picture him hissing “PRECIOUSSSSSS.” He became Smeagol.
While he was only vocally and not physically aggressive towards us, he started lunging at Ali if she came near him. My boyfriend was worried for Ali and wanted me to take him back. He believed that Smeagol was incurably aggressive and that we couldn’t keep him.
I watched him carefully and noticed that he did not go out of his way to show aggression, he only reacted aggressively when he felt cornered or threatened. I determined that his aggression was fear-based and suggested that we at least wait out the foster period before we made a decision. He tested the limits of my relationship in those two weeks, as the aggressive episodes continued.
The next thing we noticed was that Smeagol did not know how to live in a house. He had accidents in the house. He was confused by furniture. He was confused by the TV. He was confused by affection. Everything seemed threatening. He would often climb on the couch or a lap and stand there like he didn’t know what to do now. He would stare awkwardly at you while standing completely stiff-legged, ready to bolt at any sign of trouble. This was no affectionate, loving dog. His name proved more and more fitting, as I felt increasingly like I had invited Gollum into my house and Sam (in this case, boyfriend) was trying to convince me that he had to go.
His lack of attachment was punctuated by his daily escape attempts. The woman who had previously fostered him had warned us that he was an escape artist. We weren’t too worried, because there are 3 doors between our suite and the outside. This didn’t stop Smeagol from running away 3 times in the first week. He would watch me for a moment of weakness (i.e. bending down to scoop poop or deal with Ali) and yank his leash out of my hands. He would then sprint for dear life with the leash dragging behind him, me trailing slightly behind that. The only thing that let me catch him was his desire to pee on all the things.
Despite all this, I still felt drawn to this dog. I wanted to keep him. Maybe at that point, I thought I could “fix” him. Maybe not. Either way, I loved my “broken” dog. And increasingly, his moments of brokenness were overshadowed by moments of hesitant affection. He was trying. About a month after we brought him home, this happened:
And then this:
Now, this isn’t the story of a “fixed” dog. A year later, and he still reminds us of his namesake on a daily basis. I suspect he has some level of post-traumatic stress.
He still has accidents in the house (although they are lessening). He is still stiff and stressed and awkward. This was him trying to figure out his new bed just a few days ago:
But I don’t need him to be a “normal” dog. We have made room for him. Ali looks at him with toleration and (when we aren’t looking) affection but snaps at him when he is being Gollum to let him know that isn’t ok. (He’s actually slightly afraid of her tiny self). I enjoy the moments that he is able to relax and give affection, but I also love his weirdness.
Smeagol came to me in a year that I felt weird and like a failure. But whatever I didn’t manage to do last year, I saved this dog, and he saved me.
He also showed me that brokenness does not equal unlovable. He’s a wonderful, lovable, broken dog. He provides me with daily reminders that mental illness does not equal unlovable. I might question why someone would want to be with me or be friends with me because of my ADHD and my weirdness, but I’m with Smeagol and it’s worth it. He reminds me to stop questioning.
I wouldn’t trade him for any other dog.