Yukon's Evolution

Having had an (overall) excellent experience with our rescue Yukon (who is very flattered by Linda's compliments), I would like to chime in on this issue. Yukon is not the same dog we had for the first few weeks, and he is still "evolving" in many ways. We have had him approximately 2.5 months now, and he differs in many ways from his initial behavior although not in any great way.

We have no background on Yukon. He was three years old, brought to the shelter as a stray and spent five days there before I "rescued" him. He was initially completely disinterested in food. About three weeks later that changed when he began stealing food off the counters. First, I found an entire bowl of potato salad (the yummy kind with the warm bacon dressing) that I had left on the counter for my daughter who always wants second helpings of this. We were out on the back deck and I came into the kitchen and found a big mess! Next was a loaf of french bread (knocking down a bowl of fruit and breaking bowl but leaving all fruit untouched). The final straw was a white bean and garlic spread..... Now we know -- nothing is safe and it is easier just to put it away than to worry about it. I felt better when I heard about Barney going by with a sandwich in his mouth!

Yukon was debarked by his previous owners and he didn't even attempt a "woof" for the first month! One evening we had friends over for dinner who brought Cleo (female golden) and Toby (male 1 yr old Australian Shepherd). Later that night while we were having dessert, I heard the dogs barking and looked out amazed to see Yukon barking (the muffled woofs that he can get out) along with his buddies! After that he began barking when he hears someone going by -- but I haven't figured out what triggers it because not everyone gets a bark.

Our last sort of surprise came last weekend when we were dogsitting with Cleo the female golden. We came out with Yukon on lead and Cleo off lead. Our neighbor's young male golden (about 1 year) came running up to Cleo. I attached Cleo's lead and the male golden's master began calling him. Scott was a couple of yards behind me with Yukon on a choke chain lead (thanks to Linda's recommendation). The golden ran right up to Yukon (who positioned himself between Scott and the dog) and assumed *that* posture. Head up, standing tall, direct eye contact...saying I'm the boss. (Yukon was already in this position). When the golden didn't look away, Yukon -- faster than I would believe possible had I not seen it -- grabbed him by the neck and took him down. The golden was yelping and Scott pulled on Yukon's choke chain which only succeeded in pulling both dogs towards him. Because we have both read Linda's (or is it Catherine's?) article on how to break up a dog fight, he immediately grabbed Yukon's tail and pulled him back. He released his bite and the golden (yelping furiously) took off like the wind. Fortunately the skin was not broken (but there was some golden fur in the yard...) and he seemed little worse for the wear. I was stunned and what was a few moments seemed like minutes while I saw Yukon holding the other dog by its neck.

The golden's owner apologized said his dog needed to learn that lesson. In hindsight, we should have been more aggressive and grabbed the golden's collar or yelled and chased it off. We were distracted by having another dog with us and weren't quite as vigilant because we knew the other dog (a friendly, but rambunctious golden) and could see its owner coming over to get it. To top it off we were right in front of our house, this dog was on Yukon's territory. I promptly gave both kids a lecture on how to break up a dog fight and what to do if another dog approached them unrestrained if they were walking Yukon alone (generally we are there if they walk him).

I don't view what happened as aggression or a problem, this dog was doing what everything I know about the breed tells me it will do. It is just hard to believe how the worlds largest white fur doormat can spring into action if necessary. Makes me feel safe walking him alone at any hour. It also makes me realize the responsibility in owning such a dog, and never ever ever allowing him off lead.

In response to those of you who have experienced the -- unlatched door or gate escapes, Yukon has done this too. He has escaped a few times, once before a small section of our fence was made permanent and dog-proof. (I called home to check messages one afternoon -- which I rarely do -- and there were four messages). The first from a neighbor next door saying she found him out and put him in the back mudroom. The second from her again, they went to check on him and she found him stuck in the french door. (One pane of glass is missing and we leave it for the kitties to get in and out. Yukon the shapeshifter made it halfway through before getting stuck!). She said she was leaving him in the back yard. The third call from another neighbor three blocks away, she was having a garage sale and he was hanging out laying in the shade. Fourth message, another neighbor five blocks past the garage sale -- he had followed her home from the garage sale. I arrived there to pick him up and he was in the back yard being fed kitty food and water having a great time. The next time the gate didn't latch and we realized it five minutes later and found him a couple of blocks away.

Just this weekend the gate (again) did not properly latch and we discovered it no more than five minutes after Yukon did. (I don't know how he knows to wake up and check when we have left the gate open). We looked for about a half-hour and couldn't find him. At this point I began getting worried. He doesn't move that fast, and we can usually get him within a few blocks of home. I checked the phone messages and a neighbor a block away had him. He saw him in the street and put him in his backyard, fed him and gave him a drink of water. He didn't see his tags at first (we have his dog license, a tag with our address and phone number as well as a microchip). I walked over and he was lying on their back porch just outside the back door (his usual spot) acting like he owned the place. He wagged his tail when he saw me but was really in no hurry to get home! Scott worked on the latch this weekend, but we have to double check it every time to be sure it fully engages, or we will have another escape.

Copyright © 1998 by Stephanie Bloomfield. All Rights Reserved.

Stephanie Bloomfield
Scott Presnell
Last modified: Sunday, December 18, 2005 17:14 PST