Oliver was a victim of horrific abuse at the hands of his vicious owner. Oliver suffered both physically and mentally due to the torture inflicted on him.
This noble Great Dane then had to wait for five months in an animal shelter while his case was undergoing investigation. Fortunately his owner was charged with animal cruelty - although we do wish that the punishment was harsher than a year in jail. We were happy to step in and offer Oliver the calm and stable environment of our home and our pack.
Although he has suffered so dramatically - with the right handling and in the right environment - he can now be a dog again and still find inspiration in each new moment.
Some dogs come along and take a piece of you when you first meet them. They ask for something from you that makes you feel like a better person just for being given that responsibility. When a dog is abused by a human, it is a traumatic experience to witness the lingering issues that remain with that dog forever. We have some dogs that are neglected and abandoned leading to feral qualities that make them difficult to deal with. Every interaction is a potential challenge. The dogs that come to us after abuse situations are different. The lack of trust in humans is acceptable. Their lack of respect for us is understandable. The only thing that you hope for is that if you give them enough of yourself then they will once again learn to love again. Oliver is one of these dogs. From day one we unconditionally accepted all of his issues. There was never a moment when we questioned his hesitation, his challenge or his decisions. We gave him patience and trust and respect and love in every moment with the hope of changing his idea of what humans are capable of, knowing all the while that we would never challenge him beyond what he decided he could handle. In response we have this amazing, noble giant of a Great Dane who has unequivocally given himself to both of us. This is not to say that Oliver is without issue. He has shown on small occasion when he is uncomfortable with a new person. Although he has never followed through with his discomfort beyond a mouthy low growl or a skeptical look. Eric has earned Oliver's respect so that even in these situations, he relies on his master's control and safety above all else. Oliver can be off leash on our property and never strays. He can socialize at busy fundraisers here or in new places and be an ambassador of rescue dogs. He is beloved by throngs of people that he has met in his life. His strength and spirit is unwavering and unending.
We made a promise to Oliver when he came to us that he would never have to worry. Nothing bad will every happen to him again. And when this statement ends with 'again' it takes on a lot more meaning. I would never be able to live with myself if Oliver ever was put in a situation that stressed him. In my opinion, a dog like Oliver has earned the right to choose his friends. And if Oliver doesn't want you in his life, in his space or in his line of sight, I believe that person should stay away. Normally with younger dogs or dogs that have lacked boundaries or structure, it is your responsibility in rehabilitation to get them past social hurdles in order to make them more acceptable in a home and in this world. In Oliver's case, he has found a place where he will never be judged for what he does and will never be pressured to do something that he is not comfortable with. A good example of this is his habit when we call him in from the yard outside. Sometimes, he exhibits a trigger where he balks at the command and goes into a mode of resilient resistance. Oliver bows his head slightly, eyeballs you, kind of prodding you for your intensity, feeling out your intentions. He will take a few stalking steps and usually then lays down, asking you how you are going to proceed. This was a major issue when he first came to us and has lingered long enough, although it is rare now, that we had to question whether his abuse came in his former home after such a request. We wonder if he wasn't called inside and then trapped and abused. We have never pushed Oliver on this behavior physically. We would approach him (sometimes ALL the way to the back of the yard) and by the time we would get to him, he would jump up and run to the door ahead of you, happy and exuberant as can be. Never would we grab his collar or be stern with Oliver when he exhibits this issue. These frozen moments of his when the trauma returns as a small lack of trust are few and far between but it is noteworthy nonetheless. Thinking of this gorgeous boy having his mouth duct taped shut and receiving a brutal beating at the hands of humans is too much to think about and so we don't because the Oliver of today is safe and happy and social and adored in our family.
It was also interesting to see Oliver work out his issues with human hands. The first time that he started playing with Eric's hands with his mouth was amazing. For a dog with such a big mouth to be so gentle with human hands after even being abused so horridly was a small miracle in our eyes. You can see how much enjoyment and satisfaction Oliver gets out of this game too. For him to be 'in control' of the human’s tools, their hands with his giant mouth but for the whole game to have such a mutually trusting and happy overtone is a blessing for this dog. He knows that he does not have to fight, does not have to protect himself with his mouth. Instead it can be used innocently in a mutual exchange of playful antics. It seems again to go against the idea of rehabilitating a dog with issues, but with Oliver, it is all about what works for him.
Oliver has become a stoic old man over the past year or so. We guesstimate his age at 9 or 10, which, for a Dane, is definitely a ripe old age. He has developed some arthritis in his back legs which started to give him some discomfort after long stints of playing in the big yard. With medication, he still acts like an excited puppy and loves to explore and run and bark and play with his best friends in the pack. He is never without the desire to be a dog and take advantage of every dog centric habit that we have here. The fact that his people are home with him all day everyday and that his routine and household is always under the control of his pack leaders is his biggest blessing in his life. Although he has to be contained inside when people come in the house, he meets all new visitors outside and has made friends with all of our friends. Even the people he has met before still get his customary territorial greeting when they first come in. Oliver may have come a long way but it has been with patience and trust that we have succeeded with this.
From day one we have only wanted Oliver to regain his confidence and strength and enjoyment of life. We reached that point here and so we have been able to expand his horizons on occasion. As the months go by though, we see that his physical strength will gradually be slipping away and so his activities will have to be more limited.
Everyday that he shows us how much he loves us, we feel special. When, in actuality, it is Oliver who is special. Oliver is the miracle dog to have been able to endure so much and still decide that there was life to be lived again.