Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Anderson Cooper's Story

Anderson Cooper's story ended on Friday, May 25, at the age of 16 1/2.  He was one of the kind of dogs that BRAT sees all too often. 

When he came into rescue, he was already 11 years old.  The family that had him since he was 1 1/2 was moving and wouldn't be taking him with because he didn't like their little kids.  As are all BRAT dogs, he was vetted.  He had to be neutered.  He was found to be hypothyroid and his dental exam resulted in the extraction of half of his teeth -- everyone of which was abscessed.  The vet said he tried to tear her face off when she did the initial exam.

Anderson Cooper shortly after coming into rescue.

I took him home to foster after he had spent 3 days at the vet.  He seemed very willing to come with me and walked nicely on the leash.  When we got home, the first thing he did in the door was mount my other male Basenji.  Next, he let me know that he didn't want to be touched or interact with me except on his terms.  He would steal silverware out of the dishwasher and viciously guard it.  He would lunge at me and bite me without apparent provocation.  After biting me five times, it was at a point where BRAT was going to have him put down because his behavior made him unadoptable as a BRAT dog.  He would have been too big a liability for the organization.

In spite of his behavior, I didn't believe he was mean.  I asked if I could adopt him under a hold harmless arrangement.  I was allowed to do so after agreeing to have him put to sleep if there was another biting incident. 
He was called Andrew when he came to BRAT.  I wanted to change his name to give him a new start but because he was older, I wanted to find a name that was sounded similar to Andrew.  I hadn't been able to find one that I liked.  He would sit near me when I was working at the computer.  One night, Anderson Cooper came on the TV.  I asked him if he would like to be called Anderson Cooper.  He looked at me and wagged his tail.  (It was the only time that he wagged his tail in the five years that I had him.)  He answered to it immediately.  I knew then that he had bought in.

After doing some research, I discovered that he had a bite history that was not disclosed to BRAT before he was surrendered.  He was purchased from a breeder who said he didn't like to be on the show table.  He bit his new owner, family members and neighbors.  We don't know but we are guessing that he objected to being on the show table and was punished.  So, he learned the only way to express his displeasure and have someone pay attention was to bite. 
He did not consider that being touched by a human could be pleasant. He would snap and attempt to bite if I tried to touch him.  So, we took a class in Tellington T-Touch and using the technique, he learned little by little that touching was a good thing.  His favorite spot to be scratched became the top of his head.  He still had to learn impulse control and to release his fear.  We worked with a behaviorist.  After 3 sessions, he was no longer resource guarding.  He was still fearful but he released his fear by snapping the air instead of biting me and over time, he didn't need to do that anymore.

Anderson Cooper on May 24, 2012

After a short time, when people would come to visit, he would look for a hand that was within reach and stick his head under it waiting for a scratch.   He would be fine with being touched all over and even stood by without reaction when a neighbor child repeatedly uncurled his tail.  He loved for me to hold him and kiss his neck. 

By the time he transitioned, he had become a sweet old boy.  You can see the difference in his expression between his early picture and the one taken just before his transition day.  His expression changed from one of apprehension to one of pleasant expectation.  He never lost that Basenji dignity and air of superiority but he was friendly and no longer fearful.  He is a wonderful example of how far a dog with long-standing issues can come if they are given a chance and supported with love, understanding and training.
Rest in peace, my sweet old boy.  When I cross the Bridge, I am looking forward to seeing you there to greet me - young, healthy and happy. 

-B.Ann Hageman


  1. This is just a wonderful and heartwarming story. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. You were so blessed to have each other.

  3. It was definitely Anderson Cooper's lucky day when he came home with you! Without a doubt, his life would have been shortened by 5 1/2 years if he hadn't.

    It is nothing short of amazing that you were able to eradicate his dangerous behavior, and so encouraging that these therapies can help re-establish trust and enable a damaged dog to live a comfortable, loved, and loving life. It is an unfortunate fact that few fosters or adopters have a lifestyle that can allow such commitment to rehabilitation.

    Thank you for sharing Anderson Cooper's story with us, B. Ann. Sincere condolences for the loss of your sweet companion.

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss. He was lucky he had you. Your story made me cry and hug my babies. <3