I currently live with one of the most complicated beings to ever cross my path - MerryBelle Wilder, the corgi I rescued back in early August (2011). Although she is supposedly a full-bred corgi (from a puppy mill that was closed down for poor breeding practices), I would swear she's got some beagle in her. In fact, I found a photo of a corgi/beagle mix on the internet that looks just like her. (Her bloodline is of no importance to me whatsoever; I'd love her if she were a Heinz-57.)
MerryBelle has well-established herself as alpha over Mac and me. She has a level of food aggression that makes Mac run for cover when I put food or water in their dishes. She's bitten me twice, both times as a result of my having to intervene for Mac's safety after she's "jumped" him over food through no fault of his own, and she's now refusing to let me hook her to a leash. As many folks on Facebook know, she slipped away from me this weekend and was gone overnight during a nasty winter ice storm. (Thanks to a neighbor who saw my phone number on her chip tag whenMerryBelle sought refuge at the neighbor's house, I was able to "rescue" her once again. And despite her fatigue, a cut to her leg and hunger, MerryBelle turned stubborn about letting us put her leash on.)
Taken from her mother at only 5 weeks old, MB must have the idea of having to "fight" for her life deeply encoded within. I also know she comes with a lot of baggage regarding abuse, as well. She was beaten pretty severely by the dad of a family who adopted her and allowed his son to approach MB's food. When MB got aggressive over her bowl and nipped at the child, the dad apparently removed her from the house to a chain outside and kicked her regularly. One of her defense mechanisms is to scream when one touches her shoulder - the area where she got kicked, I'm sure. She also cowers and runs away when one extends a hand to pet her from above. Surely she associates that with being struck, as well. She also does NOT like for one to look in her eyes. If I look at directly at her, regardless of the tenderness with which I approach her, she diverts her gaze and moves away, giving me the "I don't trust ANYONE look. Back off!".
In the time she's been here, poor Mac's taken many an assault from his "sister." When we play, MB's like the child in the neighborhood who really, really wants to join in the game, gets really excited about the prospect, barges in and ruins the moment for everyone, over and over again. Just recently, I've been able to get her to play tug-o-war with an old sock with Mac, but fetching seems not to interest her in the least. When she and Mac run and play, she doesn't seem to get that her play becomes too aggressive to tolerate, both for humans and Mac, and after a while, I have to bring it to a halt because she's just not nice.
On the other hand, I think she really wants to be a loving part of our pack. She welcomes visitors to the house energetically; she loves for me to get down on the floor and be a dog with her. It's then when I can rub her and love her and get her to respond to healthy play- always on her terms, but respond, nonetheless. I suppose we've come a ways since she got here, but the setbacks outweigh our progress at any given moment. She follows me everywhere, yet she won't let me near her to love her. As I write this, she's come upstairs to be with me and sleep at my feet, but she won't allow me to bend over and rub her at all.
Bottom line--she's a piece of work who's as unpredictable as a rebellious teenager, as untrusting as an abuse victim, and as headstrong as the most feisty adolescent! She's definitely a test of patience, a constant reminder for me to look at myself in every moment of our interaction, and a lesson in consistency of training and reward. She contradicts almost everything I've ever learned from living with critters! She's like having a child....there's no time off with MB !!
I will confess that I've entertained the thought of returning her to the corgi rescue family; however, I know when push came to shove, I wouldn't be able to surrender her back. So, I'll continue my "process of elimination" techniques in terms of what works with her, get her in obedience training, and work as consistently with her as I can. I not giving up....yet.
LoriBeth gifted us with a session with an animal intuitive for Christmas. On some levels, I think MB's picked on that, so it will be most interesting to see what guidance I get, what messages MB sends and receives, and importantly, if we can turn some things around. Keep your fingers crossed!
For now, it's back to reading Mother Knows Best, remembering to click and treat, and play "dog" as much as possible. Stay tuned!