Dixie has the sweetest deep brown eyes and, when she frets, above them are a fold of red wrinkles that fall from her brow in stacks of perfect pancake shapes. Dixie is tall and lean, curious and excited. She is at oftentimes sweet, generous with kisses and an occasional gentle paw gesture.
Dixie is also aggressive and struggling to find her place in this household. Cheyenne has a scab on her ear and I have a bruise on my finger, both from an episode of Dixie exploding with anger because I dropped a green bean on the kitchen floor when I was heating leftovers on Sunday and both dogs naturally went for it.
It was not the first such event. The truth is that when she wants something that Cheyenne has or is moving towards, be it food, a stick or a toy, Dixie attacks and Dixie bites. She absolutely loses her mind and I have to use force to get her to stop, to calm her down.
The truth is that this behavior is severe and has had me struggling with what to do with Dixie. I didn't choose her lightly and, although there are no vows between human and dog, when I got her my heart did promise to take care of her for all of her life.
Dixie is a happy dog but I'm not at all sure that she's living the best life she can. What I didn't consider is the absolute depth of struggle between elder dog and puppy, between Cheyenne's set patterns and our relationship and another living element thrown into the mix and what that life might need and deserve or how that life would struggle to find its place. I thought it would be, if not easier, smoother.
While the two dogs have interacted in wonderful play together at times, the past two weeks have been incredibly stressful for me and for Cheyenne, and Dixie too I suppose. If I could undo my decision to get Dixie, to drive past that moment, I honestly would do so. But I did stop, I did choose Dixie and I will not unchoose her. I struggle because the responsibility is my own, not hers. She's young, just seven months, and it's clear to me that the aggression is a symptom of a larger struggle. What Dixie needs from me is love, understanding, patience.
What she also needs is intensive training. While I've trained her on the leash and we've been working on the sit command, what she needs is beyond my ability. Tomorrow morning, Dixie and I have a meeting at an organization that provides such training, over a two-week period while she's boarded at their location. It's not an inexpensive exercise. Over the phone, I was told that she has possession aggression. Yeah, one could say that. I was also told that my armchair diagnosis was likely correct, that's she's 1) young, 2) struggling to figure out her place in the order of things, and 3) in need of training beyond my ability.
The goal is that once she receives that training, and I learn how to work with her on her lessons, that she will become a happier dog with her newfound understanding of the order in things. She deserves that happiness. Wish us luck, won't you?