When Duana adopted Finnegan in June 2014, he was “a little spitfire” but otherwise a “well behaved dog”. Because she’s active, she’d wanted an energetic dog, and Finnegan fit the bill. Then he hit six months, and Finnegan started chewing. Everything. Especially when he was left home alone. Before she’d adopted him, he had been left tied up as puppy in the woods, and so Duana believed Finnegan experienced separation anxiety. Now making sure she’d burned enough energy to keep his chewing to a minimum “became quite the chore”. Not only was Duana taking Finnegan to the dog park at least three or four times a week, but she was taking Finnegan for LONG walks on the days she couldn’t squeeze in time at the dog park.
Instead of giving up on Finnegan, Duana decided to try the bold approach of fostering another young dog who might serve as an outlet for Finnegan’s energy. She’d fostered before and had found it “a great experience to see the change in a dog when they met that perfect family”. She put in an application with PawsUp and, in April 0f 2015, the group set up a meeting for Finnegan and another pit bull named Gus.
I really wish I had that first meeting on video, because no one would ever believe it.
The dogs had completely opposite reactions to each other. “Gus was a sweet guy, but he was NOT having anything to do with Finnegan. He didn’t even want Finnegan within a few feet of him.” In contrast, “Finnegan has always been the determined stubborn type though and he was going to make Gus like him no matter what it took! Even if that meant slowly Army crawling towards Gus.” Sometimes determination fails; other times perseverance is everything. “After about two hours, Gus finally decided maybe he’d give in and Finnegan wasn’t so bad.”
About a week later, Duana took the three-year-old pit bull home to foster. The minute she walked in the door, Finnegan showed his pleasure in reuniting with his new friend. “They immediately started wrestling and then after Finnegan gave Gus a tour of the house he took him outside to show him the ins and outs of the yard.” Within minutes, Finnegan had Gus crawling around under the porch deck, one of his favorite spots to hang out.
Before long, Duana felt comfortable enough to leave the two dogs alone together. And that’s when the real bonding adventures began. “You could tell Gus was learning things from his younger brother that he’d never been lucky enough to experience, like how to chew on a bone or an antler.” Gus had originally been scared of water and Finnegan taught him how to swim. In fact, the dogs forged such a strong connection that they began to create mischief together. “I started coming home to blankets that were just shredded! I had no idea what was happening until I was sitting at the sewing machine one night thinking they were just wrestling but when I turned around they were playing tug with a blanket…. After that I decided I would need to leave them in a room with nothing that they could destroy!” One day Duana came home to the frightening discovery that the dogs’ rough play had resulted in injuries. Being at wit’s end, she considered returning Gus to PawsUp. But, perhaps sensing Duana’s frustration, the dogs learned their lesson and played safer in the future.
I was convinced at this point that Gus needed to be adopted and there was no way I could keep him. He deserved a home where he could find peace without a bonehead younger brother constantly picking at him to play.
Despite the rapport between the two dogs, Duana felt the time had come to find a permanent home for Gus. Granted, after six months of being together, the dogs might have their moments of acting like siblings, but they were also still so very different. “Gus is an old soul and is very ‘chill,’ while Finnegan is angsty and whiny much of the time. Gus is very territorial and will charge the fence at the neighbor dogs, which is one of the few times he shows much energy. Finnegan just wants to play and have fun and would allow any animal into his yard! It took about 4-5 months for Gus to actually sit up in the car and smile on the way to our destination. He’s learned that we go fun places when I take him in the car like to the dog park. Finnegan loves going anywhere in the car and would run to ‘his room’ when I picked up my car keys or when he could tell I was getting ready to leave. And while Gus likes the dog park and has learned to interact with other dogs, he sometimes has a hard time there because when Finnegan is playing he feels he needs to jump in and protect Finnegan…. Finnegan just wants to chew on his bones until bedtime and then he needs to ensure he’s the one sleeping right at my side.” The list went on, right down to how the dogs differed in their reactions to Duana. “Gus is my protector and likes to cuddle. He wants mom’s attention as much as he can get it. Finnegan just wants to chew on his bones until bedtime and then he needs to ensure he’s the one sleeping right at my side.”
EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE was telling me that I just HAD to keep Gus.
By September 2015, Duana was starting to weigh her options. “Gus had a few potential adopters ask about him and reality was setting in that he might be gone.” Having fostered before, Duana knew letting go could be a challenge. But Duana also knew she had to make the decision with her head, not her heart. Financially, taking on a second dog would be a hard. She also knew that Gus would be okay without Finn because he could have peace and quiet. What she didn’t know is how Finn would do without Gus. It was time to see.
Duana asked a friend to take Gus for the weekend. “Finnegan became more of the Finnegan I had known before: whinier and more angsty.” While Duana knew she could convince herself that he’d eventually adjust to life without Gus, “what I couldn’t take away from him was how excited he was when Gus came back home. Finnegan was just beside himself with joy and I decided that for him I needed to keep Gus.” An unexpected bonus allowed her to pay off her car, which meant she could afford the extra expense of providing for a second dog. She adopted Gus in October.
Since then, the two dogs have “become even more inseparable”. However Gus reacts to a new situation such as a visitor at the door, then Finnegan has to follow suit. They play tug together and chew on the same tennis ball. A normal evening starts with Finnegan chewing on a bone and Gus taking a nap, but then they’ll turn to wrestling. At night, they’ll sleep with Duana on her bed, and the next day Duana will find them together on the couch. Duana often takes the siblings to the PawsUP Microchip clinics so they can see everyone there and get their nails trimmed. “If Gus leaves Finn’s side, Finn is just a whiny mess the entire time! The fact that they are so opposite seems to balance them out.”
I love hearing those who say “your dogs are the best behaved dogs here and they’re pit bulls”.
Duana remains happy with her decision to keep Gus. People think the dogs are related and she receives many compliments about the Finnegan and Gus being a gorgeous pair. It makes her chuckle when she meets people who can’t believe a “female owns two male pit bulls”.
Anyone wishing to help pit bulls directly can take advantage of LAA’s special offer to get a pit bull fixed for a reduced price. Until June, the cost is only $25. As the average spay/neuter can cost between $100 to $200, depending on the breed and the vet, the savings to an owner is obviously substantial. Also, please help LAA reach as many dogs as possible by sharing the Mighty/Tiny Project link and by donating to help cover costs. Let’s all work together to help the cause of pit bulls.