Lost Cause Beast

October 10, 2007
A sleepless Tuesday night caught up with me Wednesday morning as I blinked the fog from my eyes. I groggily climbed down from my loft and fumbled to open my bedroom door. Light flooded into my room as I shielded my eyes from the light that was coming from the kitchen. Trudging awkwardly down the hallway and tripping over my cozy sweatpants, I made my way to the kitchen, ready to start my day.

Immediately as my feet hit the stone-cold tile, I knew something was wrong; our gate that corralled our dog in half of our house was open, and that meant our puppy, a Rottweiler mix named Skosho, wasn’t in the house.

“Oh, well. No big deal.” I muttered, and began to grope around in the cupboard for some Cheerios. Really, it was a big deal to me. My puppy wasn’t in the house, and he was how I “came alive” in the morning: a warm wet tongue dragged across my face once I walked into the kitchen and an ear-scratching in return. That’s how it had been ever since our family had adopted Skosho, so this change of routine confused me.

“Morning, sweetie,” my mom called from behind me. The newspaper was in her hand, but her eyes didn’t have the usual energetic spark they always have.

I turned and smiled weakly, instead of the usual grunt, for I wasn’t about to use anymore energy on a greeting than I was to pour cereal today.

I could hear my mom pouring herself a cup of fresh coffee, and the scent seemed to ascend through the air and invigorate my senses.

“Mom?” I finally croaked.

She turned her head to face me. “Mmm?”

“Uh, why isn’t Skosho in the house?”

The coffee flow stopped mid-pour. My mom turned her head back to her simmering mug, her eyes fixed on the rising steam.

Silence. A long silence as I waited for an anwer.

“Skosho bit your brother.” She spat bitterly. “He attacked for no reason.”

I froze and nearly dropped my cereal spoon. “What?” I shrieked. My knees turned to liquid immediately and I clutched the counter for support. “You’ve got to be kidding! Skosho wouldn’t do a thing like that, would he? He’s a good dog! He’s-”

“Never min that anymore.” My mom motioned toward sher hand. “Ros’ hand was all bloodied, and I think Skosho bit him very hard.” My mom looked as if a ghost had passed between her and I, for her face was as pale as cloudy water.

I fell silent, trying to take in what had just been spoken to me. I had always known that our Skosho was a dominant and aggressive beast but he’d never shown any signs that would make anyone leery of being attacked. I bit my lip and thought hard. My baby. My sweet little puppy. He had attacked my brother, but what now?

My mom looked at me with sympathy in her eyes, and came to hug me. I think she knew what was running through my mind, because she answered, “I’ll have to give the humane society a call today. Maybe they’ll take him, though he’d never get adopted since he’s too big.” Maybe she was going to discuss this more, but my mom didn’t after she looked at the clock. “We’ll talk later, okay? But please, Olivia . . . . Don’t worry too much. We’ll get it all sorted out. I’m sorry. You’d better get ready for school now.”

Throughout the bus ride to school, I cried to myself quietly in the dark. People at school asked what was wrong with me, so I’d tell them. “Oh, I’m sorry,” They’d say. “Hope it works out.” And that was usually it. Hope it works out? What? I didn’t think that my friends even gave a thought about what I told them. Yeah, sure, like they really cared that everything “worked out”. I wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself like some people might, but a little sympathy might have been nice to show me that somebody cared.

The rest of that week was a blur. Our dog remained outside, and every time I walked by his outside kennel, Skosho’s furry face would be there like it always had: rubbing his head against the fence, and wagging his curly-cue tail while his mocha-brown eyes sparkled with that carefree joy.

No one said anything about putting Skosho down or giving him to the Humane Society again that week except for when my mom broke the news to me. My dad never liked our dog, probably because Skosho never liked my dad. And my brother, well . . . I think he put so much blame on himself that he thought it didn’t matter what we did with our puppy.

On Friday night though, everything I thought about the whole situation was about to change. I sat in my room perched high in my loft, lounging under my favorite purple throw, and reading an engaging nautical adventure when my mom opened the door. I leaned over the side of my bed and noticed a smile of relief that was painted across her face. What could she be happy about, I wondered.

“Good news,” She sang, and I put my book down. “I just got off the phone with Skosho’s previous trainer, Christine Grove, and I told her what Skosho did. She said that she had some procedures for us to follow with Skosho if we wanted to lessen his dominant side. Mrs. Grove said there is hope for Skosho, seeing as how quickly he learned his commands and responded. I think, after hearing what she had to say, there might be hope, too.”

My heart immediately leaped with joy to know that someone thought that our dog could be spared! I listened eagerly as my mom explained what Mrs. Grove had said. Starting the next day, and for the next couple of days my family would be able to bring Skosho in the house, but no one would be able to talk to him, look at him and make eye contact, or play with him. We’d be giving Skosho the “silent treatment”, as Mrs. Grove had called it. Slowly and very gradually we’d need to begin to interact with him again, but only if we gave him a command: sit, stay, come, shake, or “look”. Our trainer had explained that how we were retraining Skosho was an approach that taught our dog that nothing in life is free and everything he needs or wants shall be earned. Whether it’s a pat on the head or receiving his food bowl at night, Skosho was to perform a command for everything.

At first, my family didn’t think the information the trainer gave us would improve our dog, but we decided we’d try it anyways. To tell our furry brown beast to sit was one thing, but a command for everything? I later learned that nothing in life should be free for our dog, and over time, Skosho became noticeably better-behaved. If he wanted to be pet, he’d come right up to us and sit in our path, because he knows he has to earn attention. Also, Skosho rarely wrinkles his nose, or shows his teeth and growls. He still puppy-bites occasionally, but hasn’t attacked anyone, thankfully!

All in all, I regret giving up hope on our dog. IF we didn’t give Skosho a second chance, I’d be missing out on a lot of fun, love, and sweet memories I have of our Rottweiler. When people hear his story, they don’t grasp the fact that such a difficult problem can be overcome, and neither do I sometimes! Now I know that if I think something’s a lost cause and not worth it, I’ll surely think again, because I’ve got the dog to prove it!

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