Our Sweet and Crazy Coonhound ...

Our Sweet and Crazy Coonhound ...
Run Free: birthdate unknown - Oct. 17 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Toothless Terror

I felt nothing but gums on the bottom. Eight weeks we've had this dog, and I am just getting in to inspect his mouth. We had discovered that it is prone to drool, and liberally let loose long, low coonhound bays, but I hadn't actually had my fingers in there. Out of respect, and he's not much of a licking, kissing kind of dog, anyway.

So the other morning I opened his mouth to count his teeth. "Alright," I laughed, "he's got hillbilly teeth. Or rather, lack-of-teeth." On the bottom, all six incisors are gone. Nothing but gums. On the top, the six incisors are gone and the two canines - his "fangs" - are broken in half. What could have happened to him?

With a rescue dog, a large part of their history is irretrievable. Speculation has to suffice, and often doesn't answer the puzzles of their behavior, habits or maladies. I sent a quick e-mail to the rescue coordinator. Often, she responded, hunting dogs are neglected, left in cages or chained for endless hours, and they chew on the metal, or even on rocks, out of boredom and frustration. Compound that with inadequate nutrition, and teeth suffer. I had visions of Booker in his past life, viciously tearing up trees in his fervor after a raccoon, and that his missing teeth are a badge of courage. Sadly, they are probably more a reminder of abuse and neglect.

Many of his behaviors are reminders of sketchy history. We have gotten past his food aggression, for the most part. It's a work in progress. Booker now gets two meals a day, and his bowl is offered after he takes a few kibble directly from our hands. We leave a hand non-threateningly in the bowl for his first bites. We are practicing being "Good Waiters" to ease him past the behavior that makes more sense when we remember that he was found weighing 29 pounds. He starved, and food is precious.

Toy agression with Booker is also an issue. So toys are doled out and controlled. David is working with him on "release" and he is getting much better. One item is really a psycho-dog trigger, though. He almost attacked David over a real marrow bone from the butcher. Booker became rabid and intimidating. David was afraid that he would really bite. David said, if anyone ever threatens you, I hope Booker acts like that - although we doubt that he would. He is dog-friendly, stranger-oblivious, generally a quick "hello" and he looses interest. This aggression is specifically reserved for things he eats. No more marrow bones for Booker.

Last night, though, he snapped and growled menacingly at David over a pillow on the bed. Booker was crunching on the decorative fake-bone balls. He probably thought they were edible. The line is drawn. We will not tolerate a biting dog. Booker must accept his place in our pack, without challenge.

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