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(Updated 31/7/01)

A brighter future beckons for Kipper!

LYN GREAVES is the Director of Dogs R Fun, a canine clinic based in Leeds. The clinic aims to rehabilitate or re-socialise dogs who have been ill treated or who otherwise have difficult histories. One such case is that of Staffordshire Bull Terrier ‘Kipper’, whose story is told below by Lyn. It looks like Kipper is going to be one of the fortunate ones. Lyn writes:

At the end of March last year a very stressed, thin, patchy and nervous Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Kipper walked slowly into the consulting room, accompanied by his owners Stella & Mark Clayton. A year on and his life has been turned around, this is his story:

Stella’s local vets had a two and a half year old Staffie in their care who desperately needed a home. They called Stella in January last year and after much thought Kipper arrived at their home. He was very underweight, dull and with a coat in such poor condition that he was practically bald in parts and very depressed. In Stella’s own words “I spent the first week constantly feeling physically sick as I wondered what I’d taken on”.

Scarring

Kipper had already clocked up two homes and a stay in rescue kennels. He had also allegedly been attacked and hit over the head with a shovel. The amount of scarring on his head and body was too close for comfort to that of a dog used in training for fighting (of course not provable, but we all know it happens!). After seeing Kipper’s panicked behaviour later on, it was thought that he had perhaps been used as the practise dog (again unprovable).

When I first saw Kipper, Stella and Mark were understandably very worried about his condition and state of mind and wondered if he would ever be able to improve. Stella said “Kipper seems totally devoid of all emotion, he never even wags his tail and is so distant I just feel unable to reach him.” There was also the concern of how Kipper’s relationship with their other dog, Muttley a 16 year old Jack Russell, would develop.

Kipper even had problems with eating; it had taken Stella a great deal of coaxing to get him to eat. On most of their walks he was scavenging for bread left for the birds. He began eating but couldn’t put any weight on and his coat didn’t improve. He also obsessed over his tail, spending an age at a time chasing it.

The first stage of getting Kipper back on the right path was to help him to feel able to relax. Everyone involved was by now totally committed to this dog who had so much potential.

On the dietary side Kipper was given extra vitamin B complex in a natural form and whole wheat pasta was added to his diet to help increase production of Serotonin. Later fish was added to his diet as a source of Tryptophan to help him control his emotions. Stella and Mark were shown how to use and recognise calming signals, which meant they were able to show these to Kipper when needed and also so they could observe his relationship with Muttley more closely.

Quickly Kipper progressed with the signals, showing the benefits of his new supplemented diet. His coat began to improve and his muscles were starting to relax and Stella also gave him Bach Flower Remedies.

As well as this Kipper was being taught how to walk nicely on the lead and shown some games to keep him mentally stimulated.

Things were going well until I received a phone call from Stella saying he seemed to becoming stressed again. However Stella mentioned she was looking after a friend’s cockatiel (given the chance Stella would have made a great Mrs Noah!). The cockatiel was quite vocal and it was this that was causing Kipper to fall back! The cockatiel was moved to an upstairs bedroom and within three days Kipper was doing well again.

In May 2000 Kipper met Disney (a Golden Retriever owned by Judy, my colleague’s mother) for the first time. Disney spends most of the week at the training centre doing what she loves, which is helping other dogs! Bizarre as may sound, she gets a real sense of achievement when a dog that couldn’t cope with her then becomes excited at the prospect of meeting her again. Disney has been trained specifically to do this type of work; all the sessions with her are carefully controlled and on the lead.

Unassuming

The first time Kipper saw Disney he remained outwardly calm for five minutes although his heart rate increased. Disney, however was lying at the far side of the room, looking as unassuming as possible! After five minutes though, Kipper started to panic, he looked for exits and pushed himself against the wall to get as far away as possible from Disney. Kipper wasn’t aggressive towards Disney, he was simply very scared. I felt that he was expecting Disney to attack him even though she couldn’t have appeared any less threatening.

This session ended after a short time when Kipper showed his first calming signal towards Disney. He had just managed to achieve something with another dog present and, although only small, this was to be a major breakthrough.

Things progressed slowly but well for Kipper until Muttley, his companion, sadly passed away. Stella and Mark were understandably very upset, which had an effect on Kipper. Thankfully, due to his recently found spirit it didn’t take him long to bounce back. He went on to have many more sessions with Disney and then later on with Mojo, my colleague Wendy’s Standard Poodle.

Kipper still has some way to go but his achievements are now numerous. Since the first time he came into my consulting room, stressed, frightened and in poor condition, he has changed enormously. He now adores agility and is extremely good and fast at it! He’s even had a go at dancing - soul music seems to suit him well. He enjoys all this while his now best friends, Disney and Mojo, are in the room with him.

Kipper still has problems but he is overcoming them one by one. He will never go off the lead as his fear is too strong, but he can now go for walks and cope with dogs that he sees when out walking.

At the moment he is visiting both Wendy’s house and mine as he is due to go away with Stella and Mark on holiday. You may ask what this has got to do with visiting us. He still panics when he goes to an unknown place so we can help him by letting him visit!

This case was truly heartbreaking. There are times when a client has gone, that both Wendy and I find ourselves sitting in the office weeping at the pain that some dogs have gone through, and this was most certainly one of those times. Stella and Mark have to be praised for the love, dedication and care they have shown Kipper. It hasn’t been easy for them but they persevered with everything I encouraged them to do. Now when Kipper rushes into the room you can’t help but catch his enthusiasm and joy for life - and of course it goes without saying that he now sports the biggest Staffie grin imaginable!