Roscoe is a black and white mixed breed around 2-3 years old. He'd been saved from a shelter by CrisisDogsNC, a rescue organization that puts hard-to-adopt dogs with families who foster them until a permanent home can be found.
His foster family soon realized that he couldn't be placed in a cage or carrier because he'd quickly destroy it. The family wanted to know if I could help him change his behavior.
They also wanted to know why being in a cage was so upsetting for him.
When I connected with Roscoe, the first thing he told me is that he really doesn't like his name. Being given a new name seemed to be his first priority.
(After our consultation, his foster family tried out several new names, and the one he really seemed to respond to was Duke, so Duke is his name now.)
Next, he told me that he would NEVER accept being confined in a cage again.
When I asked him why, he told me about a very tragic event that took place when he was inside a cage at his last home.
A man came in. (Later I found it was a boyfriend.) There were lots of screams and then a loud bang, followed by another and another.
He sent me images of the sounds he heard, the fear he had, the desperation of not being able to get out of the cage he was in, and even the smell of warm blood spilling onto the cold floor.
He'd witnessed the murder of his human Mom, as well as that of her young daughter, committed by a man whom he knew well.
All this time, he was trapped inside his cage, unable to offer the protection he was so willing to give.
From that moment on, any loud voice, any sound, or any bad intention on anyone's part would make him relive his past.
This is exactly what people in the military suffer from when they have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD are:
- Feeling upset by things that remind a person about traumas that happened in the past
- Having nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks that make the traumatic event feel as if it's happening all over again
- Feeling emotionally cut off from others
- Feeling numb or losing interest in things one used to care about
- Feeling constantly on guard
- Feeling irritated or having angry outbursts
- Having trouble sleeping
- Having trouble concentrating
- Being jumpy or easily startled
Animals who have witnessed traumatic events often suffer from PTSD, just as humans do, and Roscoe had all the symptoms.
When I explained what Roscoe had shared with me, the head of CrisisDogsNC told me that, the day before our appointment, Roscoe was lying around the living room with his foster family.
At one point, the father, in a very easy manner, told the oldest daughter that because she'd done something wrong, he needed to take her iPad away from her. There were no screams this time. It was simply a quiet verbal exchange between the father and the daughter, but the daughter started to cry.
Roscoe immediately jumped up onto her lap and put his paws around her neck. When she stopped crying because she was so startled by his demeanor, he simply turned around, but remained sitting on top of her, looking intently at the Dad, who fortunately did not immediately move.
Realizing that something was very wrong, he simply turned away. His quiet reaction diffused the situation, but Roscoe had been very ready to pounce on the Dad, and he would have inflicted serious damage if he had.
At this point, I seriously wondered if Roscoe would ever be able to be placed in a forever home.
He needed an experienced handler who knows and can recognize the signs of PTSD, and who could deal effectively with any setbacks. I knew the best place for him would be with a woman who could always be with him, and could offer not only love, but patience, discipline, and a routine he could follow every day.
Originally, one of the reasons I wanted to share his story with you was to ask if you knew anyone who had the qualifications who might want to adopt him, but I'm very happy to tell you instead, that Roscoe has already found his new forever home!
His new mom works with veterans with PTSD so she recognizes the signs right away, and she knows exactly what Roscoe, now known as Duke, needs. In the last email I received from CrisisDogsNC (crisisdogsnc.com), I was told that she really loves him and he's very happy in his new home with her.
Now, he can begin to make some happy new memories, and hopefully in time, his symptoms of PTSD will subside at least somewhat.