Taking Chances: The Mike Hogan Chronicles

Making a decision whether to “take a chance” on something or someone, is part of life. We all face  decisions on whether to take chances related to work, family, relationships, finances, environment, career, artistic endeavors and so forth.  Most of the time there is no guarantee that the chance we are taking is the right one to take.

Even the most evaluated, considered and researched “chance” requires an element of risk and an element of faith that it will work out. Otherwise it would not be “a chance”, it would be “a certain”.

In September 2014 I took a chance that required a very large element of risk and faith, and that chance’s name is Mike Hogan.

(Usually any posts about the miniature schnauzers are done on Sassy the Highly Opinionated Schnauzer’s page Schnauzer Snips, but she gave me permission to post on this topic.)

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Meeting “Cujo”

For nearly 24 years we have adopted miniature schnauzers from rescue organizations. Our first miniature schnauzer, Kerie, was from a rescue organization in Houston Texas, where we volunteered as Caring Critters Animal Assisted Therapy Volunteers, visiting health care facilities, residential homes, and shelters with animals to foster the human-animal bond.

After our first rescued miniature schnauzer, we were addicted to the breed. Kerie passed away after we had moved to the Pacific NW, and we adopted our next rescued miniatures schnauzers (two brothers, Fritz and Snickers) through Miniature Schnauzer Rescue, Inc. and all future rescued miniature schnauzers.

In July 2014, after losing the second of the two miniature schnauzer brothers we had adopted from Miniature Schnauzer Rescue, and applying for another rescued dog from the organization, we were contacted about a miniature schnauzer “Michael” that needed a new home.

Michael was a troubled rescue – surrendered by his family due to excessive nuisance barking and aggression. We first met Michael at the end of July 2014 at his foster parents’ home. After meeting him, I nicknamed him “Cujo” (yes, after the terrifying rabid dog from the Stephen King book and movie), I  gave an apologetic but firm “NO” on adopting Michael.

To summarize his behavior when I first me him: He was insane.  My husband Terry however saw something in Michael and was willing to give him a chance but I quickly talked him out of it.

Alright, You Can Come Home with Us

In September 2014, we were contacted by the rescue organization asking us if we would reconsider adopting Michael (they were persistent!). He had been living between two foster homes (Michael needed to be shared!) and the rescue organization had brought in an animal behaviorist to work with him. I am not sure what convinced me to say yes to meeting with Michael (aka “Cujo”) again but I did.

When we met Michael again in September 2014, he was a bit calmer and we could see the good work his foster parents, in two different homes, had done with him. He was still territorial and moderately insane. I had a lot of hesitancy but my husband Terry felt strongly that Michael needed to come home with us, and I agreed to give Michael a chance. (My primary fear was that Michael, with all his territorial issues, would not fit into our very social lifestyle).

When we loaded Michael into our car, he became very quiet and calm on the ride home to our house. He seemed like a different dog once he got into our car. He got along well with our other rescue dog Sassy on the ride home.

The first couple of months with Michael were challenging – he had anxiety issues, engaged in plenty of nuisance barking, had leash aggression and was very territorial to anyone trying to come into our house. He even chewed on one of my quilts (it was an old quilt and I was able to repair it but it was very upsetting and I was worried for the other quilts around the house).

My husband Terry was very patient with him. We spent a lot of time working with him and renamed him “Mike Hogan”. (He appears to love his new name “Mike Hogan” and his tail goes wild whenever we say it.)

One of the Great Loves of My Life

It is now 14 months later and Mike Hogan is now one of the great loves of my life (as are all my dogs). He is still territorial at times (though we are now able to have friends over without him being too insane as well as bring him over friends’ houses); he still has a bit of leash aggression and he still likes to bark.

These things do not matter as he is the most loving, cuddly, sweet dog I have had in my entire life. Every night I go to sleep snuggled to him and every morning I wake up to him nestled against me. He insists on sharing my pillow with me. He is obsessed with my husband Terry, and I refer to Mike as “Terry’s Fan Club President”. He is also very sweet to his adopted miniature schnauzer sister, Sassy, who we got a year before Mike.

Mike Hogan now knows quilts are for napping and snuggling in, not chewing. He appeared to sense how upset I was when he chewed on my quilt when we had first adopted him. He is attuned with our moods and seems to want to make us or keep us happy. He continues to struggle with wanting to protect his home and his people versus being open to meeting strangers and giving them a chance. He has learned to trust us: if we act like someone is okay, then they just might be okay!

One of the things I did with Mike Hogan during the early days of adopting him is continually tell him “you are safe” and “we are your forever home”. You can debate whether or not you believe dogs understand human language but in my heart I feel he heard me.

He obviously suffered from anxiety, as confirmed by a veterinarian friend of mine, and by continually making him feel safe and loved, he settled down. I cannot imagine not having adopted Mike Hogan, he was a chance well taken! (I am forever grateful to the volunteers at Miniature Schnauzer Rescue who encouraged us to revisit giving him a chance).

Living with fear stops us from taking risks, and if you don’t go out on the branch, you’re never going to get the best fruit. – Sarah Parish

By the way, I now lovingly call Mike Hogan my “sweet little Cujo”…

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