The good news: nobody died.
The bad news: After a year and a half of being best friends, Nia and Brinkley can no longer live together. The short version of the story is that Nia developed an aggressive streak that she was taking out on Brinkley.
A little longer version: We think it stemmed from the dog next door. Our two dogs run up and down the fence, barking with the German shepherd next door. It is something we have tried to discourage, using a schedule of when our dogs will be out and when their dog will, but schedules are never perfect. One day, Nia was watching said dog in its backyard, quietly woofing. Brink jumped up to see what she was watching and she attacked him, grabbing his skin around the bottom of his neck/top of his shoulders and would not let go. She would viciously shake her head, which I know is a move dog instinctively use to kill. My husband wasn’t home and it took me a minute or two to get her to let go. I put them in separate rooms and inspected Brinkley. He had some open wounds but seemed more scared of the incident than hurt.
We hoped it would be a one-time thing, but it continued. We could go several days to a week without any fighting, and in the meantime they’d act almost as if nothing ever happened. Brinkley was wary of Nia, but she would be submissive to him and they would play and even cuddle. Suddenly, her posture would change, she would stare at Brinkley, and then go after him. We wouldn’t leave them together unsupervised, and could often catch her before she made contact. Once contact was made however, it was a feat of strength to get her off him.
We had her tested for several health concerns that can trigger aggression, but she was healthy. We met with a behaviorist with no success. She did theorize that it is redirected aggression, which comes up when something is frustrating a dog, getting it worked up, but the dog cannot go after the frustration so it turns on the closest option. She remained submissive to us, but when she was focused on him, it was like the rest of the world faded to black. Food didn’t work. The vet suggested dumping water on her, but then just resulted in a wet dog fight.
Gradually, the fighting became more frequent. Brinkley initially would just run away from her, but started to try to defend himself. Everyone suffered injuries. We finally said enough is enough and Nia now lives with my in-laws. She’s perfectly behaved as the solo dog there, and my in-laws love her and dote on her.
The stress of the constant vigil was terrible. It preoccupied our lives, having to always be on guard. February and March are just a blur. I miss her, but I don’t miss that threat. Brinkley has recovered. Some of his injuries became infected for a while, but those are healing. Happy to be coming home from the vet:
Right after that, he suffered an unrelated nail injury, which required surgery, a cone, a foot bandage, and more medicine. The people at the vet all know Brinkley quite well, and my voice is recognized when I call in. I’m hoping the rest of 2012 involves less vet visits.
So we’re a one dog house again. The good thing is we can see Nia whenever we visit my in-laws. She no longer feels like my dog, which is good. I just feel fortunate that we all survived and I still have Sir Brinksalot.