Hate You Forever: For the Love of a Rescue Dog is a three-book series which tells the story of how the feral, partially deaf dog Rodrigo came into our lives, how we learned to love him, and how we worked through his partial deafness and his feral early puppyhood to help him navigate all of the difficult rules and restrictions that exist in a people house. It’s also the tale of how he learned to trust us and become the good family dog we had hoped he would be.
The books will be released in late 2017 through mid-2018. This blog has some teasers from the first book and will be updated over time to include links to resources for owners of feral, deaf, and other challenging dogs. We hope you enjoy the books and the blog – feel free to leave comments and questions at any time!
HYF is a dog I found wandering the streets of Detroit in early April, 2013. He was quite young, starving, filthy, and obviously feral. Between work, ongoing renovations to our fixer-upper, and our other two dogs, Laulo and I didn’t have the time or the energy to take any puppy — and we certainly didn’t want a wild pup who potentially had serious medical issues.
We’ve taken in other rescue dogs (our current dogs were both abandoned) and have some experience with handling strays and their many challenges but a full-on feral dog, even a young one, is a whole different level of pain in the ass.
Still, there was a chance he’d gotten lost as an even tinier thing and that someone was missing him. There was an even greater chance that he’d starve to death before someone else with any dog experience at all came along. It can take a few hours for even the rapid response rescues in town to show up, and if he was on the run he might be long gone before they arrived. I was able to talk to a few neighbors and establish that the puppy wasn’t owned by anyone in the immediate area. A couple of hours later I finally got him into the car and took him home.
Detroit-area shelters and rescues are packed with abandoned dogs, surrendered pets, and other animals in need. If Laulo and I find a stray dog or cat and know we can’t keep it, we usually at least clean it up (flea shampoo is our best friend) and sometimes even spend a few days feeding it, socializing it and/or treating any minor injuries (major ones mean an immediate trip to a rescue or shelter with an on-call vet) before turning it in. During that time, we post FOUND notices online in as many places as we can think of and spread the word in the area where we discovered the animal as best we can, just in case it’s a runaway. Many of the area’s no-kill shelters are always full and even the cutest puppies and kittens don’t have a very long window at the others.
Detroit Dog Rescue does wonderful work with strays and feral dogs. They were our rescue of choice for HYF. Like any good rescue organization, however, we know how hard they have to work to keep up with the animals they’re already rehabilitating and we didn’t want to just dump yet another wild animal on them when we could help in some small way. Our original plan was to get rid of HYF’s fleas, get him a first checkup, and fatten him up a bit so at least they wouldn’t have the total burden of his care.
For a while, Laulo and I were simply too swamped with caring for HYF to take any photos so we don’t have any shots of how scrawny and sickly he was in those early days. We’d had him for almost two weeks when the picture above was taken and although he’d filled out a bit he was still pretty skinny here: you can’t tell from this angle, but if you were standing over him you’d still be able to make out his ribs.
When I first found HYF, he was completely indifferent to humans. He wasn’t snappish like so many older feral dogs; he just didn’t care about people at all. He’s always been great with other dogs, though: when I was trying to catch him, I watched him wait for a local owned dog’s people to feed that dog; then HYF snuck under that dog’s fence and charmed the owned dog until it sat down and let him take a few bites from its bowl. He took off from that dog’s area and ran up the alley to another house, this one with a dog who’d been chained in the side yard, and repeated the entire scene.
Over time, our original plan changed. No one claimed Hate You Forever and he got along so well with our other two dogs that we thought he’d make a good fit for the household if we could just get him to trust us.
For weeks after we took him in, we couldn’t figure out what Hate You Forever’s deal was. He was feral, sure; and he didn’t understand why we so often separated him from the other dogs and forced him to hang out with us instead (he was imprinting on them too closely and completely ignoring us…as the pack leaders, we couldn’t have that); and of course he’d spent his entire life without any rules except ‘back off if the other dog barks’, which meant that the routines and restrictions of a people house were terribly unpleasant — but even with all of these stressors and changes, his behavior just didn’t quite add up.
He’d learn some things very quickly, much faster than any other dog we’ve had, and other things (like his name) never seemed to sink in. It was confusing and frustrating for all of us. Some days, it seemed he was deliberately mixing it up just to be contrary; other days, we worried he might have long-term memory problems.
It took almost four weeks for us to work out that HYF is partially deaf. With good nutrition, his hearing has improved; however, he’ll never be a dog who can hear us call across a park or even from the next room if, say, a fan is on. He has, however, learned his name.
Hate You Forever is still a work in progress, but isn’t everyone? The journey we’re making together has been frustrating and rewarding and very, very funny*. We’re thrilled to be able to share HYF’s story with our readers.
*It also involves cursing. Quite a bit of cursing. You’ve been warned.