For anyone out there feeling sorry for my poor, long suffering Mum, don’t. Luckily for me, she has a sense of humour. She had me, after all, that must mean she has a sense of humour! On with Litchi’s story. So, my “special needs” creature entered my life and all things normal immediately changed. It became immediately apparent that leaving her alone was something I simply couldn’t afford. Everything I owned became fair game. I lost couches, chairs, beds, table legs and all manner of other items to her extremely strong set of teeth. If I wasn’t watching her, a mere matter of seconds would spell disaster for some or other inanimate object. For that matter, even when I was watching her, the teeth moved at such speed that items were forever lost to her stomach before I could cross the room to stop her. Pure self preservation led to me taking her to work, where she found a whole new variety of delicious treats in the form of desks, chairs, carpets and any other manner of unsuitable dog food. While Litchi and I entered a battling of the wills, I was also battling with my parents, who found themselves mildly terrified of this new being. She had a nasty habit of whipping around, teeth gnashing and snarling furiously when taken by surprise by a touch. This was especially true if she was sleeping. Even the sound of movement, whilst sleeping, was enough to get the same response. My parents became quieter and quieter whenever I visited; sitting stock still in fear of making any sound or motion that might set her off. Needless to say, they thought I was mad. My mother began calling me “special” on a more frequent basis. They really couldn’t understand why I wanted Litchi so badly. The truth is that I was more than aware that, if I didn’t take her, the chances of her finding a home were close to zero. I was her last chance and I had no intention of giving up on her. Anyone who knows her now, will well understand how important it is to give these animals a second chance, as she truly is a fantastic, friendly and delightful dog now. At this point, my friend Joanne and her children Kerry-Leigh and Catia deserve a special mention. I doubt Litchi had ever come across children before and she was particularly unpredictable with them. Joanne was kind and brave enough to let me “use” her kids to help socialise Litchi. Children have a completely different energy to adults. They sound different, move differently and react differently. Specific socialisation with them is critical for any dog owner. Anyway, before long and with some closely supervised session, the girls had Litchi dressed up as a bride, calmly walking around with a long train of cloth following her. Well done to them for being calm, patient and truly wonderful with my dog. Hats off especially to Joanne who was brave enough to allow this to happen. Just a quick point or two for anyone else out there battling with behavioural issues. The first thing to look for is any health related issue. In Litchi’s case, it turned out that she had a serious knee problem, which, even after operating, still hurts her. Many of her “aggressive” reactions were based on a fear of pain. This leads to the second point, which is fear. 90% of problems stem from fear. If the dog is fearful and people do not recognise this, continuing to pursue the actions creating fear, the dogs last resort to communicate with you will, often times, result in what we perceive to be aggression. If you learn to recognise the fear and treat it as such, you too could land up with a friend like Litchi, who now helps me teach large classes of children about safety around dogs and animal body language. She does this with absolute delight and allows groups of 30 plus children to descend upon her with nothing but a friendly wag of the tail. Love, patience and the knowledge that dogs do not want to be aggressive could help hundreds of animals survive the ultimate fate suffered by so many that are perceived to be aggressive. More on how to help animals will pop up during the course of following blogs. Stay tuned – you never know what you might learn along the way.