Bear, another one of our superstars. Also known as Baby Bear, Queen Latifa, Queen Bear, Moon Bear…. I could go on and on and on here. There is no singular name that encompasses all that is Bear.
The She-Bear came to the rescue in 2013. She was approximately two years old and was an absolutely stunning example of the long-haired variation of the German Shepherd breed.
Unfortunately, Bear was also as crazy as a box of frogs, or in more behaviourally appropriate terms; severely psychologically damaged. She is a tail chaser and not to the point where she does it every now and again. At even a hint of stress, excitement or even the changing of the wind, Bear will spin.
While her history is filled with gaps, generally this obsessive behaviour can come about for a few reasons. The first is boredom and lack of stimulation. The dog has nothing to do but chase their own tail for entertainment. A second cause of this behaviour can be stress, almost like a dog version of nail-biting in humans. Oftentimes, the dog will also pull the hair out once they “catch” their tail, ultimately leading to an issue with balding.
This behaviour can also be learned. Think it’s funny when your puppy tries to chase its own tail? As cute as it can be, reinforcing this behaviour early on can lead to it becoming habitual and severely problematic for the dog.
We know very little about Bear before she came to us, but we do know that she was locked in a shed with very little stimulation. When she was initially rescued by West Cork Animal Welfare Group, her stress level had been so severe that she had bitten off the tip of her tail. Understandably, after this experience, Bear did not do well in a kennel environment so she was quickly taken into foster care.
Bear’s foster mum soon realised that this particular princess was much more of a diva than first anticipated. Coming to the understanding that Bear needed a bit more attention than her busy schedule allowed, Emma reached out to see if there was anyone out there who would be game enough to take on such a prima donna. That is, of course, where GSRRR comes in.
Given adequate time to refresh herself after her long journey up North, Bears rehabilitation began. Initially we found that any kind of wide open space (e.g. the entirety of our site,) would set her into a spin. Being enclosed in a small space (like a run) for any length of time would also send her into a spin. Basically, Bears entire life had been one gigantic whirlwind of spinning and twisting and turning. She had known very little else.
Emma, thankfully, had already started the foundation work for us. Bear would not spin if she was on a lead, so at times where her stress level reached critical spinning mass, she would be clicked on lead, and tethered to a human.
Everything we would try however was just a short-term fix. Bears main problem is in her head. During key developmental phases in her life, she experienced very little outside of her shed, so anything new or slightly unusual was met with anxiety and uncertainty. Spinning was, and remains to be, her main coping mechanism.
Due to this inability to cope with any kind of new experience, it was decided that it would be kinder for Bear to remain with us at the rescue. The stress involved in another change of environment through re-homing would have probably ended up doing far more harm than good. Like all of our lifers, she very quickly became a firm favourite and became a very well recognised face.
Bear is another example of what happens to a dog when their key needs are not met. She is a severe example of how bad things can get and how hard those problems can be to fix – if they can be fixed at all.
These days, Bear can either be found at the rescue or occupying her holiday home in Bangor, all in the style she is accustomed to, of course. She still has her off days, but she is by no means as extreme as she used to be. Her spinning is an issue that will remain with her for the rest of her life, all we can continue to do is try to keep her routine as consistent as we possibly can. That said, all of our flaws aside, she’s decided that she likes it here, (even if she has to share her space with mere peasants at times) and we hope that she will remain with us for many years to come.