Arni is not a new guy as he's been with New Rattitude for quite a while. Mr. Arni is a unique little dude with a sad history. He has a lot of fears and is generally anxious, but he has learned over time that it's okay to relax a bit here and there. He's a really short Teddy Roosevelt Terrier and barely eleven pounds -- a tiny guy in a big world that's often scary to him. It's easy to feel compassion for a frightened little dog, but what makes Arni challenging is that his way of dealing with his fear is to go on the offense.
Arni has clearly had his growl "punished out of him" by others. This means that now humans don't get the welcome warning of a growl when he's scared and needs for us to back off. He goes straight to the bite in his own defense because he's learned that's the only thing that will successfully give him needed space. This means that when we go out, I must vigilantly maintain his safety bubble so that no one risks getting bitten. No matter how much strangers want to pet the cute little dog, he'd rather they didn't. This also means that I must pay very close attention to all of his subtle body language so that I don't get bitten when he perceives a threat. So many things in the world are threatening to Arni: a look, a gesture, a tone of voice, a movement, proximity of dogs or humans, certain noises. We humans would understand this better and faster if he trembled behind a chair, but Arni plays too-tough instead, rushing and tackling scary things to make them go away.
Arni and I have done a lot of work together and we've come a long way. We still have a long way to go. Someone interested in Arni as a canine companion would be someone willing to continue this work. Someone smarter than I who can take a lesson from my hardheadedness and do this work with no expectations. Someone who understands that a scared little guy whose brain didn't get a chance to develop normally will need a light touch, an open heart, and the freedom to make his own choices.
I'm a dog trainer and "rescue rehabber" of a number of years. I used to think that all behavior could be molded to conform to human desire with a logical plan, with enough hard work. Arni has humbled the hell out of me. What I think now is that Arni is just Arni. He doesn't need to be fixed. He needs to be helped to feel more comfortable. He isn't going to be "normal." He's just going to be Arni, an impossibly cute, weird, funny, at times happy, sweetly affectionate, morning guy who needs to be allowed to be himself.
I realize that Arni's true nature is appealing to about .0001% of potential adopters. That's okay. He and I are the stutter-stepper team (two steps forward, one step back) and we'll keep at it while he grows into a wider comfort zone. One day his new people will find him and decide that the real Arni is the one for them.