Kona glared at, or bit, most people who came over. I thought it was his half-moon eye, or that herding dog stare that made him look kind of, well, evil. He was beautiful, and people couldn’t help but stare at him. I didn’t protect him from that, and I even read that you shouldn’t let a dog win a staring contest! WHAT?!? I can’t believe the bad advice I read and received, especially in this day and age. The internet was still flooded with antiquated dominance theories and alpha roll bs. We might have had a completely different life together if I had started with positive reinforcement and used a little logic and common sense, if I would have noticed that he was uncomfortable and I hadn’t forced people on him so soon. I went against my instincts and I paid for it dearly. I attributed Kona’s bites to his herding instinct, with his quick snaps to the ankle or calf from behind, which of course was part of it. I was told that "herding" didn't generally result in huge, gnarly bruises though. I was also told he was just being a jerk, although I thought he might be scared. I didn’t really know what to do yet, so I did nothing. My friends and family were so sweet to put up with it. They knew I loved him. I listened to a lot of people, but I didn’t listen to myself and I didn’t listen to him. Pet Parenting Fail #1.
On March 8th, 2012, when Kona’s wounds had finally healed sufficiently, we went in for a doggy daycare interview. I was already concerned about how he would do with dogs, because he had fought with my parents’ dog, Ronan, the day they met. He also took off after a couple dogs playing at the park, in what looked like a less than friendly charge. He was noticeably timid around the guy who ran the daycare, but he reluctantly slunk over to him for a treat after a few minutes of us chatting. He was taken back for an assessment, which he passed, and he was able to stay there & play. The next day on our walk, a little yappy off-leash dog ran up to us on the street. Kona was doing awesome, as he always had on our walks, until the male owner came running up after the dog, screaming and yelling. That was when the devil was unleashed. I was in shock and I can still see it in slow motion. I described it in an email to my friend that day as, “Kona went psycho and it was all I could do to hold him back from the guy as he let out grizzly barks and growls the likes of which I had never heard from him.” This was the same friend that only a day or two earlier had actually said that she wished Kona was more protective of me. If you are familiar with my neighborhood, you can understand why. So, it was all downhill from there. I was traumatized, and it was like a switch had been turned on for Kona. Was he finally healed enough that the real Kona was coming out? Was he just so relaxed and confident with me now that he could be himself? Was it that he finally had me, so he didn’t need to be nice to anyone else? Did he view me as such a valuable resource that he wasn’t going to let anyone come near me? Did my reaction, or lack thereof, somehow reinforce that I wanted him to freak out on anything and everything that crossed our paths from that day forward? Did my failure to protect him from crazy man & dog lead him to think that was now his job? Was daycare somehow so traumatic that he now hated men and dogs? I didn't know what to do. Pet Parenting Fail #2.
03/08/2012: Kona's first day at daycare. I was such a proud momma ha ha.
A couple weeks into daycare, we started "obedience" class there. For some reason, I thought that would be a good idea. He already had the basics down, but I thought the class would be good for distractions and socialization. I went in confident and relaxed and let him say hello to everyone. Then we had to sit in a circle… Kona started barking and lunging at a man and his dog across from us, and that was pretty much how the next hour went. That was pretty much how the next year of our life went really. At that time, I described it as the worst night of my life and I am sure that bled on to Kona. I was terrified and paralyzed with fear, and I had no idea what to do (once again). This clearly wasn’t the place for us. Pet Parenting Fail #3! I was advised by the doggy daycare owner that it was all me. Kona and I were just not a match and I needed to rehome him. He needed to be with someone who wouldn’t cause him to react like that. I was devastated and did not want to accept it, but would it be selfish to keep him? Probably, but I wasn’t ready to give up…