Staff member: Rachel (Trainer)
When I first met Fredo, he was avoidant, untrusting, and always on edge, if not flat out terrified...and that was a significant improvement from where he started when he arrived at the K9 Turbo Farm. There was no epic, viral video moment where our eyes locked and I knew he was the one. Our relationship developed gradually, cultivated by both of us over the course of months, and slow intentional progress has become a defining feature of our life together.
Fredo was relinquished to a shelter around the time of his first birthday. His pronounced fear and aggression made it impossible to place him in a home, so he came to the Farm where we discovered just how big of a personality was packed into this ten pound dog. At first, he was too afraid to leave his travel kennel, but soon enough he was climbing the bars of his enclosure like a monkey. He didn’t like people, but he liked how good people were at throwing tennis balls, and would fearlessly do somersaults chasing them. He found all sorts of creative ways to entertain himself, and there was an incredible tenacity in everything he set his mind to.
As I began to get a feel for what he could learn, I was shocked by his natural talent for training. He was picking up on words so fast, and despite his fear, was driven to experiment with new behaviors. He was silly and creative. In short - he was perfect. Eventually we made his adoption official and he came home with me. Fredo quickly bonded to my other dog, was prevented from interacting with my cat unless training, and enthusiastically attempted to kill my husband. We had a lot of work ahead of us.
Living with an aggressive dog is complicated. Living with an aggressive dog in a duplex with no yard is extra complicated. Living with an aggressive dog that can’t be in the same room with your cat and your husband is beyond complicated. We had to implement so much management during the first few months that it completely changed my daily routines and my interactions with my family. It was frustrating and exhausting. He would make some progress, then we’d hit a wall or take steps backward. Some days were completely awful, but then he’d just look at me with those enormous eyes and I knew he was counting on me to push onward.
Then, three months after I brought Fredo home, I received the most devastating news of my life. My angel of a dog, Surah, the big sister who so sweetly accepted Fredo into her home, was diagnosed with systemic cancer. Her health deteriorated rapidly, and we had to make the awful decision to let her go. I was completely broken. There were days when I didn’t even want to get out of bed, but Fredo relied on me and he was so incredibly needy. All of the sudden, his behavior problems were the only thing keeping me going.
A little bit at a time, progress was made. The dog who couldn’t even be leashed began cooperatively putting on sweaters. Instead of waking me up at 3 am, 5 am, and 7 am every...single...morning he became comfortable enough to sleep through the night. He started to accept my husband, and now finally they are best buds. The cat is still a work in progress, but we can’t lay all the blame at Fredo’s feet for that.
Fredo’s life will always require some level of management, but even though his world is smaller than some he’s thriving. We’re learning from each other and growing together. He’s constantly surprising me with the things he’s capable of, and despite all of the challenges, I’m so grateful to have my clever, wild, aggressive little dog.