When we brought Finna home I confidently announced that if everyone would give me a year she'd be a different dog. Looking back I've both succeeded and failed at fulfilling that boast. Physically Finna is much healthier, she's eating better, she smells better, her coat feels soft and sleek. When she first came to live with us the only things she'd eat reliably were marrow bones and cat kibble. She craved protein. She still loves protein but now she gets it eating her Primal Raw nuggets. Her coat that was greasy feeling and shedding in handfuls is soft as satin and sheds surprisingly little for a short coated dog. She has very little odor now although when she came to live with us she had a very powerful doggie smell. I didn't want to traumatize her by giving her a bath immediately--there was still so much she needed to learn about living with a family--and as her health has improved her smell as dissipated and I still haven't given her a real bath.
The dog that had no idea how to play has learned to play fetch, catch, and tug. She's learned to solicit games from her humans and she's learned how to learn and that she can affect her environment in positive ways by her behavior. The dog with no idea of the kind of manners humans value in a dog now waits politely at the door to be released before going out. She now waits, most of the time, to be invited to jump into my lap. And she knows that sitting and eye contact are the best default behaviors.
We recently had to have a lot of work done in our yard dealing with plumbing related issues. Eight months ago the only way we could have done this would have been by tranquilizing Finna. Today, while I was exceedingly careful not to let her outside into the yard while the crew was working she was able to stay in the house and cope. She did bark some but it was never the frenzied, over the top, out of control barking that we used to get at anything out of the ordinary. We could easily call her away and reassure her that it was OK the crew was allowed to be there.
Finna is a different dog, a better, more relaxed, more confident, less fearful dog today than she was a year ago. She's come a long long way and overcome a lot of her bad beginnings. In the year I so casually boasted it would take to rehabilitate this dog we've made huge strides. Sadly, however, she was even more damaged than I originally estimated. For all our strides, for all the progress and improvement Finna remains a very damaged dog. She will not let anyone outside myself and my two children touch her. She still will not let my husband touch her. In some ways this is the most frustrating of her problems. She will gently take treats from "Dad," curl up against him on the couch, and rest her chin on his knee; as long as the contact is initiated by her and he is only the passive recipient all is well but if he moves his hand toward her she'll growl, bark, and even snap at him. Her relationship with "Dad" remains suspicious. He can engage in activities she considers 'normal' for him but she'll bark and growl at him for things he does that she doesn't expect. Generally once he comes home he doesn't go back to the garage until he's leaving for work the next morning. If he tries to go back to the garage Finna will bark fiercely at him. After almost 25 years of marriage I expect that his behavior will be unpredictable but Finna has a herding dog's need to anticipate movement and control it. Not being able to anticipate where he'll go is a serious problem for her and her choice to address this problem with barks, growls, and snaps is a serious problem for us.
Finna has also turned into a resource guarder although she generally only guards one resource--me. I'm told that German Shepherd bitches almost universally go through a phase of wanting to guard their person and Finna's paperwork identified her as half GSD and half Corgi. We're working on the problem but it is a real problem. It is incredibly frustrating when my husband tries to bring me something and Finna leaps between us barking at him to get back or my son comes downstairs to do schoolwork and Finna must leap on my lap to keep him from getting to me.
Going back to the car analogy that I've used in previous posts, Finna was adopted on the assumption that she was an econo-car sedan that we could put some work into and have a nice reliable family 'car.' Instead, we as we worked on getting this 'car' running again we discovered that Finna was really a high performance sports car with no brakes or steering. Our first plateau in her rehabilitation she was that high performance sports car that had brakes and steering that were only reliable below 35 mph, not a good thing in a vehicle designed to work at 120 mph. Today her brakes and steering are reliable to about 55 mph, after that they start getting dicey but expert handling can sometimes compensate up to about 70 mph. However, she remains that high performance sports car without reliable brakes or steering. Until she's safe at any speed she's not a safe dog.
Finna has come a long long way in a year. And the fact that she has made such a lot of progress gives me hope for the future. We'll continue to work with her, train her, teach her, and love her and we'll see what another year brings.