“Kirby is the punk of the shelter.”
That’s what the volunteer at the Nevada Humane Society told us as we visited with this adorably vocal and desperate-to-be-adopted Chihuahua.
But Kirby didn’t seem like a punk to us at all. In fact, he seemed just the opposite. When the volunteer brought him to our visiting room, he practically dove into my lap and made himself comfortable, snuggling right in between my legs and my chest (I was resting with my back against the wall in a squatting position).
We asked how he came to have such a notorious reputation.
“He doesn’t like it when people try to put a harness or jacket on him. He doesn’t do well around kids. He’s a biter. He’s been adopted and returned three times. His last owner brought him back because she was afraid he would hurt her elderly mother. He’s spent over a year here.”
We could hardly believe that this sweet little guy could be so hard to get along with. His little whimper. His desperate eyes. His sweet disposition. His 1000x cuddle factor. The punk of the shelter? Impossible.
We told the volunteer about how he jumped straight into my lap, and not only let me take his little jacket off, but let me put it back on him when our visit was going to be over. She was surprised and impressed.
We decided to adopt Kirby the next day.
The folks at the shelter were happy to see him going home. They knew as much as we did that he deserved a good home with people who would love him.
Fast forward to two years later.
Kirby has bitten everyone we know, including us, and a few people we didn’t know or had just met. That’s right. He’s bitten us, our friends, family members, and a few strangers (including several children). It’s a miracle he hasn’t been taken away from us. He also bullies Bella (which in all honesty she probably deserves, since she used to bully Jasper).
In a sentence, he hoodwinked us. He put on the performance of a lifetime to get out of the shelter. And we bought it. The little bastard hoodwinked us.
Not only has he bitten everyone we know, but what we weren’t told of when we adopted him, was that he has extreme separation anxiety and a bark ten-times louder than what it should be. This can make for some rather uncomfortable situations when we have to leave him for any amount of time (for example, when we leave him in the car for a couple of minutes at the grocery store).
There is no way to know the full extent of trauma Kirby endured on his way to becoming “the punk of the shelter,” but I am quite sure based on his behavior that it involved domestic violence between adults and between children and adults. I’m also quite sure that he had his ears and tail pulled on by small children.
But this isn’t a story about how bad our dog Kirby is. No. Rather, it’s a story about how much he loves us, and how much we love him.
You see, despite his behavior, I know that he simply misunderstands the world and in turn, the world misunderstands him. When he sees a high-five between friends, he perceives violence, and he doesn’t like it. So the sweet and loving Kirby becomes the snarling, biting enforcer. He wants to jump into the middle of things and protect whomever he thinks is being abused.
I’ve witnessed this dozens of times over the course of the last two years and I’m quite sure that one of his triggers for biting is this misperception of his where he sees people doing what is between them a friendly or playful gesture, and thinks there is violence or abuse happening and he feels compelled to try to stop it. He is the bravest Chihuahua I know.
What about his separation anxiety? Well now that one is much harder to explain. Sometimes he will bark for hours while we’re gone, but sometimes he won’t make a peep. One of the worst nights was when we first brought him home and wanted him to sleep in a crate instead of in the bed with us, which was his first preference. He barked for eight long hours without end. That night made me question whether we had brought home the right dog for us.
But I had patience. I worked with Kirby during the day to get him comfortable in his crate. That patience paid off and now Kirby loves being in his crate at night. He practically can’t wait to get into it when it’s time for bed.
Over the months we’ve worked to desensitize Kirby to the things that set him off. Slowly, he is becoming less volatile. Why have we not returned him to the shelter as three previous owners have? Because Kirby is our little dude. He’s a part of our family. We love him and he loves us. And though his volatile behavior is not acceptable, neither to us is sending him back to the shelter to live out his days.
So we have patience, and we work with him. The use of Doggy Dan’s training techniques have helped tremendously, and we continue to apply his techniques every day.
Kirby gives us so much love and joy that the only option for us is to help him become a well-adjusted dog. I've also written about some of the things I do love here.
If you have a dog with issues similar to Kirby’s or know someone who does, share this article with them. And check out our favorite dog trainer – Doggy Dan. You’ll be amazed how quickly you will see positive changes in your dog’s behavior.