This is our poor baby Ghoulie Bug, with the addition of 5 stitches in her head, various nicks and cuts, and 2 more stitches in her lower eyelid. Although Grimmy did this, the blame falls squarely on me. I knew he had food aggression since the first week I was home with him and he growled at me when I tried to add a forgotten pill to his bowl after he'd started to eat. I've been working with him on this and have finally gotten him to where he will tolerate me petting his head after he has his food bowl without growling (a growling 160 lb dog is a scary thing, let me tell you). This does not, of course, extend to dogs, and I know that. It's not an issue, as by the time Ghoulie finishes her food, Grimmy is licking an empty bowl and no longer feels protective about it; Groot eats inside.
Grimmy has been having some digestive issues, so the vet started him on meds; alas, they upset his stomach. He yarked up his breakfast yesterday in 3 portions, but the heavy dose of meds had already been given so I figured he wouldn't throw up again but he would definitely be hungry at dinnertime. He surprised me by picking at his food and finally trying to upend the bowl (like Goblin used to do when he wasn't hungry-- it's like an attempt to "bury" it). What didn't register in my brain was that if he wasn't eating, this meant Ghoulie would finish first.
I went inside and checked on Groot; he's an anxiety-riddled pup, so with me on the patio, he stopped eating and came to the window. With me inside, Grimmy started trying to bury his food instead of eat it. I ran back out, then back in; Groot finally finished his food so I headed back outside. But I didn't make it in time.
Ghoulie is a good girl and she doesn't sniff up to another dog's bowl, but her path to head onto the rocks and go potty took her too close to Grimmy. He perceived her as a threat to his food and attacked. I didn't see the whole thing-- Wes started bellowing and grabbing at the doggy door (there isn't enough space between it and the patio door for him to get through) and I leaped through the space. I caught a glimpse of Ghoulie crouching and heard the horrible snarling that any dog owner knows has gone way beyond the warning phase. Then I was outside but Grimmy had, thank God, already stopped and was back over by his bowl.
My heart breaks for our blind Ghoulie baby when I think how terrified she must have been, trying to defend herself against a dog she'd thought was a housemate and not understanding the reason for the attack. She's fine now, all stitched up and calm, with the All-Seeing Eye of Mommy firmly following her every move. But my heart hurts for Grimmy, too. I don't know what happened to him in the time before we got him to make him so afraid that someone will take his food away. Was he underfed and hungry? It's hard to imagine that, given his size, but it's a definite possibility. Was there another dog in his original home or at some breeder's, one that chased him away at feeding time? I read from his records that when he was turned over to a shelter in San Antonio, Texas at about seven months old, he had to immediately undergo surgery because he'd eaten a can of cat food. You read that correctly-- a CAN of cat food, not just the food. I think it's a valid speculation that whoever owned him didn't want to bother with the expense of the surgery. He lucked out when San Antonio Great Dane Rescue stepped in.
Can a dog be sorry for something he did, immediately afterward? It's interesting that after the chaos stopped-- we got Ghoulie inside, dosed her with hydrogen peroxide, and got the bleeding to stop-- I went back out on the patio to check on Grimmy. He was like a different dog. Wes's deep-toned shouting broke up the fight before I could get to it; although Grimmy is deaf, he feels sound vibrations and reacts to them-- shouting, barking, my overly loud sneezes. He was contrite and submissive and kept running back and forth from his bowl to me. This morning? He still doesn't have his usual appetite, but after watching me carefully as I stirred his food to moisten it, he was totally okay with me being there... even to the point of not batting an eye when I repeatedly took his food bowl out from under him (as I kept hand-signaling that he was a good boy) and sprinkled little bits of Parmesan cheese on it to entice him to eat.
So here I sit, typing away while all three Danes-- the Beastie Boys and Ghoulie-- are sound asleep in my office. They aren't cuddling, but they aren't avoiding each other either. Ghoulie, bless her grumbling little soul, seems to hold no animosity toward Grimmy.
Maybe we should all be a little more like dogs.
(Inspiration for the title goes to Joe Lansdale, who wrote a terrific story called "Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's Back.")