Carter had apparently been found running loose, with no collar or microchip, somewhere in Missouri. He wasn’t claimed at the pound, either. But someone from a local rescue recognized him as a cattle dog and rescued him, placing him with the cattle-dog rescue in Colorado. He was about 16 months old and intact when he was rescued, and I got him as a newly-neutered 18-month-old.
By the time he was two, it was obvious that something was a bit different about Carter. Not different in the way Nitro was different; Carter seemed to be physically quite healthy. His behavior, though, bordered on the bizarre. Although he followed me around the house so closely that he often stepped on my shoes, socks, feet, or pants legs, and seemed to want attention, any offer of petting or physical contact was met with rejection. He grabbed my hands with his teeth, ‘muzzle-punched’ me (struck me forcefully with his nose), raked my legs with his dewclaws, and fell on his back, flailing with his legs, kicking like a cat with his back feet, grabbing with his front feet, and grabbing my ankles with his teeth. My clothes ripped; my skin was covered with scratches from the chest down. Clicker training worked to some degree; he learned to sit and lie down in quick sessions, and he also learned to use a Yuppy Puppy treat dispenser enthusiastically. But he lost interest in any training within a couple of minutes; he would simply walk away from my and go do something else, even when yummy treats were offered.
I couldn’t play with him, either. Throwing a ball or frisbee resulted in him attacking my hand and arm, as did playing tug. Petting or patting resulted in a back-rolling fit. Getting up from a chair resulted in leg-grabbing, muzzle-punching, and back-rolling. It got hard to move around the house. The appearance of another person, car, dog, or moving object in the vicinity resulted in frantic barking, lunging, and back-rolling. At the same time, he didn’t pick up on things all my other dogs had quickly learned: for example, that pointing at the floor indicated there might be a crumb or other object worth examining there. Pointing resulted in a blank stare or in him grabbing my fingers with his teeth. Sometimes, for unexplained reasons and at unpredictable times, he’d growl and then immediately snap. Although he never broke my skin, he made contact with my fingers, ankles, and other body parts with his teeth on numerous occasions.
This wasn’t a pleasant living situation. I wasn’t unfamiliar with heelers; I’d had three of them previously, all rescues with their own little issues. Clicker and other training had been successful with them. They’d all ended up being quirky but enjoyable house-mates. Carter was not. Being around him was difficult and often physically painful. His responses were unpredictable and abnormal.
I was going to need help – professional help. And maybe a few drugs.