Bacchus’ life story did not start out well. He was born on a cold December night on the cement floor at the Riverside County Animal shelter in Riverside. His mother was a beautiful pure bred Bichon, and the shelter staff mislabeled her “fearful” not realizing the dog was about to give birth. Loving All Animals in Palm Desert was looking for a Bichon for Doris Hale who wanted to round out her brood of 3 Bichons with a rescue dog. A surprise awaited me when I went to pull the Bichon…..she was in a basket with four nursing puppies less than a day old! The late Cookie Briney, dog rescuer extraordinaire, stepped up to foster the mom and puppies.
The beautiful puppies were posted on Loving all Animals website asking “Who’s the Daddy?” as none of the pups looked like their mother now named Valentine. One puppy was white, and the others multicolored. They were larger than Bichons, an active playful brood. Puppies are easy to adopt, and soon Bacchus, Cupid, Romeo, and Juliet went to new homes. Almost a year passed, and the dogs grew up in their respective homes. However, all was not well with Bacchus in his home out near Los Angeles. In November, Loving All Animals received an email about problems they had with Bacchus.
I was on the phone with Bacchus’ owner for an hour listening and responding to a myriad of complaints about the dog. Loving All Animals and other groups offer support and training consultation to help an owner keep a pet. But this family had already decided they wanted Bacchus gone. The owners said Bacchus was “out of control”, periodically went into a “trance like state”, growled and attempted to bite various family members, chewed everything he could find, and urinated all over the house. They said the local dog training class would not admit the dog after hearing of his “issues”. It sounded like a bad situation for the dog and the humans, and we made arrangements for transport back to Loving All Animals. Private rescue organizations usually have a policy to accept return of a dog, and this safety net ensures rescue animals don’t end up back at the pound.
How could we possibly find a foster home for a dog with so many problems? I had no idea what to expect when Bacchus was brought back. The one year old pup was large, notably overweight, with a beautiful beige coat. Bacchus appeared to be a happy animal, seemingly unconcerned when his owner drove away forever. A trip to pet friendly PetSmart was our first test of Bacchus’ behavior. Bacchus was fine with the other doggie customers, focusing on picking up snippets of food from the floor. Next stop was the neighborhood dog park, where I carefully tested Bacchus’ reaction to the canines and the people. Bacchus played happily, and there was no sign of aggression.
Cheryl Miller volunteers for Loving All Animals. Cheryl and her husband Jerry lost their beloved dog Kramer four years ago. Still grieving, they thought fostering might be a good way to have a dog without the obligation of ownership. They agreed to take a dog that might need some special help. Bacchus wisely greeted them both with kisses when we arrived at their lovely home, and happily roamed the home’s perimeter. Jerry teasingly asked his wife, “Are you going to fall for this one?” Shortly thereafter, Cheryl and I looked out the window to spot Jerry playfully wrestling on the ground in the back yard with Bacchus.
We will never know for sure what Bacchus’ behavior was like with his first family. However, he has never shown aggression or gone into a “trance” with the Millers.
Jerry and Cheryl reached the time when they made an important decision. Cheryl explains, “Bacchus has a way of looking at both of us that touched our hearts. It’s almost like he was pleading with us to just give him a chance, so we did.” Bacchus went from foster dog to adopted! The Millers credit Bacchus’ participation in a dog training class taught by Sandy Miller for Loving All Animals’ fosters. Cheryl adds, “If he was allowed to be the Alpha, Bacchus would be a different dog. The training has made him happier and more secure.” Bacchus is the star pupil in the class, an intelligent dog eager to learn new behaviors.
There was yet another surprise turn in Bacchus’ life. Shortly after he was returned to LAA, the family who adopted Bacchus’ sibling Cupid (renamed Chloe) lost their home and returned that dog as well. Meanwhile, the Millers’ neighbors across the street, Barbara and Jim Dutton, had fallen in love with Bacchus. When the Duttons heard about Cupid, they jumped at the chance to adopt her. Bacchus was peeking out the window when his sister arrived, and it was an exhilarating moment when the two dogs were reunited, clearly remembering each other. The two happily enjoy play dates!
Was Bacchus a troubled dog with serious behavior problems to the extent his first owners described? Were there some problems in that home that the dog was reacting to? Did he somehow change his behavior in a dramatic way in this new home? Bacchus has become a different animal in a new loving home. Bacchus is still not the perfectly behaved pet. He snatches Jerry’s socks from the laundry room and chews them up. But now with training, he easily gives up items with the “drop” command. Lots of love and good training have brought a happy ending for Bacchus. As Cheryl describes it, “Once they touch your heart, how do you give them back? Bacchus is a wonderful addition to our family.”
To contact dog trainer Sandy Miller call (760) 360-4085 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about rescue dogs or becoming a foster parent, call Loving All Animals at (760) 776-9397.