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COLUMN: A doggie without any friends

A rescue with a tough past, otherwise loveable Lacey assumes the worst when meeting other dogs.
Lacey enjoys a run at the North Saskatchewan River near Devon, Alberta.

Okotoks is definitely dog friendly, which would work out even better if I had a friendly dog! 

Since moving here this spring, we have taken full advantage of the endless pathways, particularly those that run along the river and through Sheep River Park. I like the way Town crews mow a strip alongside paved paths so off-roading dogs don’t have to traverse the long grass and how there are waste bags and receptacles pretty much everywhere you go. The large off-leash area in Drake Landing looks like it offers plenty of space for a good run, although we’re not necessarily welcome there. 

You see, our Lacey, an eight-year-old Lab-shepherd cross, doesn’t play well with others. She’s gentle, obedient, smart, loyal and all those other traits you’d want in a dog, so she’s great around the house, but put her in a situation where she’s around other dogs and things get decidedly less comfortable. 

After recognizing the “needs work around other dogs” caution from the shelter was somewhat of an understatement, we took her to a couple of trainers to make her more social, but after experiencing minimal success, we came to the realization that scars from a tough start in life might just be too much to overcome. 

Lacey was found on an island off the north coast of B.C. when she was about a year old. She was severely underweight, only had hair on about 15 per cent of her body, which was covered in bites and bruises, and came with a litter of pups. Being malnourished as a pup herself, her bones didn’t form properly due to rickets, which has left her bow-legged. 

She spent six months in two shelters, and even after we found her at the second one, the West Vancouver SPCA, she was still three months away from being healthy enough to be spayed. She has come a long way since that time, but the one hurdle she hasn’t managed to clear is her relationship with other dogs. 

We can only imagine what she endured during that first year of life, but whatever it was, it left more than superficial scars. Trainers have suggested gradually introducing her to other dogs, which makes perfect sense, except when one of them makes a move Lacey interprets as threatening and she decides it’s go time. It’s not exactly the situation we want to put others in. 

It would be great if she had a friend or two, but given her all-black coat and big shepherd ears, she can look rather menacing, particularly when she does that low, stalking approach, so it’s not like other dogs are lined up to introduce themselves. The ironic part is she’s the one that’s scared, almost always assuming the worst in those she encounters. 

We know she’s living a good life, and we’re certain she’s grateful for it, but it saddens us nonetheless that she’s missing out on that canine camaraderie. She’ll continue to get multiple walks a day so if you happen to see us, please say hello, but if you’ve also got a dog, it might be best to offer that greeting from a safe distance. 

Ted Murphy

About the Author: Ted Murphy

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