Sunday, July 4, 2010

Boy Boy by Susanna Gan

The scorching heat was beating down on the dog. It was lying down, uncertainty and fear in its eyes as the cars moved by in the carpark. I spotted it at a distance while sitting in the lobby waiting for my son to return from school. Samuel was very excited and couldn’t wait to see the dog after he alighted from his school bus. We approached the dog with food but it quickly hid under the car, probably afraid we might hurt it. The dog was starving and gobbled up the food but refused to come out despite repeated coaxing. It was a light brown coloured mongrel and it had a cut on it’s leg. It was thin and dirty. Oh dear the first thought that raced through my mind was maggots. What if the wound was not treated and maggots start to infest his wounds. I must save the dog! The dog disappeared when we returned for it and I realised it had been chased out by our security guard as one of the residents had complained about a stray dog hiding in the carpark. My heart ached and wondered how it would cope without food and an open wound.

2 days later, I spotted it hiding behind the swimming pool bushes when I went for my daily morning swim. It was starving and looked at me pitifully. I fed him some food but it was still very wary of me and refused to come out of the bushes despite coaxing. I named him Boy Boy. How apt as his eyes resembled my mum’s dog called Boy Boy who just passed away. Boy Boy finally came out of the bushes after I fed it for a few days and decided to follow me home. I had difficulty coaxing him into the lift and was so glad when we finally made it to our home. I gave him a good bath. It must have been his first bath as he was extremely nervous and his fur was streaked with oil stains and dirt.

That night itself, we brought Boy Boy to the vet to be examined. The vet treated his wounded leg and we were happy to hear that Boy Boy is in fact a very healthy 2 to 3 years old mongrel. We had him microchipped and applied for a dog licence as soon as we could, as we didn’t want to run the risk of him being caught as I realized the security guards had initially planned to call AVA to round him up.

Sadly, Boy Boy suffered from fear aggression. He didn’t respond well to my 6 year old son. Initially he would growl and chase after Samuel whenever he looked at Boy Boy in the eye. I had to be firm and corrected his behaviour. At the same time I discouraged Samuel from looking at him in the eye as Boy Boy probably felt insecure and viewed it as a challenge. I encouraged Samuel to go for walks with Boy Boy and served him his food and treats. It took a few days before Boy Boy accepted Samuel. They became best friends and played together.

Unfortunately, bringing Boy Boy for his walks 3 times a day soon became a nightmare. He would growl, lunge and bark at the sight of dogs, cats, toddlers, children, moving objects including vehicles, plastic bags, strollers, trolleys, sounds of shops opening and closing their shutters and children playing. The list of stimulus that triggered his aggression was endless. I received cold hard stares from passersby and had to apologise profusely when he behaved aggressively towards them. Putting on the muzzle didn’t help either as he tore away at it and half the time we were struggling with it while walking him.

I had Boy Boy neutered hoping it would tame his fear aggression and when it didn’t improve, I hired an experienced dog behavourist and trainer. She confirmed he suffered from fear aggression and it will take a lot of patience, time and effort to help him overcome it. Choke chain was disallowed as it would aggravate his nervousness. Instead, I was advised to adopt the treats and rewards training method to deal with his fear aggression problem.

We continued to shower him with lots of attention, love, toys and good food. I brought him out for walks early in the mornings and at midnight to avoid crowds but his condition didn’t improve. He became extremely nervous at the sounds of passing vehicles, sight of people and dustbins in the dark and would lunge and bark at them.

He would react at the slightest sounds he heard outside our door. It could be neighbours passing by, opening their doors, voices and cleaners mopping the floor. We had sleepless nights as he barked at wee hours of the morning. To minimize disturbing our neighbours we closed all our windows and doors. Climbing out of bed to comfort him at odds hours of the night when he barked became a norm. It was exhausting and my health was taking a toll as well. I had an operation done a few months ago and his lunging and pulling during walks was causing unbearable pain.

I consulted the vet again to seek help for his fear aggression problem. The vet prescribed behaviour modification drugs but to no avail. His behaviour continued to be very erratic. I surfed the net desperately searching for an answer. I was prepared to persevere and give him more time. His fear aggression probably resulted from him being abused when he was a stray. Neighbours gave negative comments about Boy’s Boy’s behaviour. Some residents suggested I surrender him to SPCA or just dump him back onto the streets. I am appalled as it’s simply an irresponsible and heartless act. Abandoning your unwanted dogs on the streets would subject them to disease, accidents and starvation. I would never do that. I was simply facing too many odds.

I finally cracked under pressure when my mother-in-law came over to stay with us during the weekends after she was discharged from the hospital. She needed help and someone had to look after her. Being extremely fearful of dogs she didn’t take well to Boy Boy and freaked out when he barked at her. She wouldn’t stay unless Boy Boy was removed from the house. Her health was at risk and we had no choice but to search for an alternative home for Boy Boy.

I was desperate for help. Housing him at pet kennels would not be an ideal long term solution as he would be locked up for long periods. This might aggravate his fear aggression behaviour. Putting him up for adoption was impossible as it was unfair to pass on his fear aggression issues to the next owner. I decided the best place for him at a second chance at life would be Noah’s Ark. I believe and respect them for their commitment and dedication to help the strays. I approached Noah’s Ark and I am extremely grateful to them for all their advice, encouragement and help they had given me. Without Noah’s Ark, Boy Boy would never have been able to experience a second chance at life in Noah’s Ark.

I strongly believe we should all act responsibly and try all possibilities to help our pets. We should continue to pay and provide for them at Noah’s Ark. It is simply irresponsible and callous to just abandon them and wash our hands off when we send them away. I will continue to be a dedicated supporter of Noah’s Ark and their fund raising activities to help the homeless animals. Thankfully, Boy Boy had settled down well and had not displayed any signs of fear aggression. I am sure he enjoys the tranquility, fresh air, freedom and love showered on him at Noah’s Ark.

Many thanks to everyone at Noah’s Ark,
Susanna Gan

*Photos and Article kindly contributed by Susanna

1 comment:

Grace Ang said...

Boy boy is a handsome dog that used to stay with my two stray friends, Ark and Copper in the kennel at Noah's Ark. Being with two of my 'old' furry friends, Boy Boy had tamed down a lot. all the 3 friends were released to run wild at Noah's Ark permises. Boy Boy and Copper are good friends now. My beloved Ark is now at the rainbow bridge.

Beneficiary of Animal Merchandise :)

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