More tales about Harry the autistic Basenji mix

  • Let me preface this by saying I have owned dogs all my life and many different breeds. I am now almost 60 years old and have never come across a dog such as Harry.
    Vets and others are starting to recognize that dogs "can" have autism. There are many websites now that talk about it. Harry has been like this since we got him at around 2 months old.
    As I stated in a previous post, my wife wanted a Chihuahua and I found Harry at a Florida breeder who told me he was a Chihuahua. He kinda looked like one at 8 weeks. Same basic shape, only 5 lbs, pointy ears, but curly tail. Heck, looked like one to me! So from day 1, Harry was put offish, would not eat, was scared of "everything" and everyone, jumped at "any" sound, did not bark or hardly make any sound. Liked to burrow under anything like a fox and cleaned his legs like a cat. He would freak out if anything was moved around the house. (IE. if you moved a chair a couple of feet to the right or left while he was out of the room, when he came back he refused to enter the room until the offending item was put back into it's original spot.)He suffers no body to enter our house, even if he knows them and has seen them a hundred times. (He has since learned how to bark, since I forced him to go for walks and he would hear other dogs barking. But for the first year or so he did not bark but would make weird noises. Now he will bark at a falling leaf or a him their all out to get him!!) He hates going outside for walks and only goes out if he has to poop (and even that took over a year or so to train him to do that.) He pukes every time if in a car. He does not wag his tail, nor is he cuddly . (He does not like being held or cuddled)
    His diet consists jerky and sometimes chicken jerky, one bottle of vanilla nutritional shake, and sweet iced tea. Once on a while we are able to "force" him to eat other stuff but we have to physically force his mouth open and push the food in his mouth. He struggles the whole time to keep from eating what we put in his mouth and at 32 pounds, he is strong and muscular plus he has no problem biting you to make his point that he does not want to eat what you are offering. (Don't get me wrong, he is not violent or aggressive, he just is very resolved to do what he wants and not what you want. He will not come to you when called, but always acts as if you have a knife behind your back and are going to stab him if he comes to you. He will usually do the opposite of what you command. Say "come here" and he runs away. You say "let's go for a walk", and he runs and hides. You try to get him to eat and he gets up and goes into his cage. When he does eat or drink, he has to sit in a specific place and turned a specific way or he will not eat or drink. He uses the doggy door but every 3rd time he wants to go out to poop he wants you to open the door. Plus, before he goes out doggy door, he spends a few minutes scanning the backyard for potential zombies or something before he will go out. Half of the time he spots something that makes him change his mind (such as a beetle walking by or a piece of grass laying next to the door) and he will not go out.
    That is just some of his issues. It took my wife and I almost 3 years to figure out his idiosyncrasies and conform our lives around him.
    Now it seems like I am saying Harry is an awful dog, but he is a really sweet and lovable dog. You just can't expect any love or tail wagging like other dogs. He is pretty emotionless. He is smart as a whip and you can teach him any trick and he can do it in ten seconds flat, but he gets bored easily and won't do the tricks unless he gets something he wants out of it. He will tell you if he wants something. There are certain places he sits for certain things. He turns his head a certain way to say he wants other things. I truly am amazed at how intelligent he is, so it is a trade off.
    Well, I guess my point of this rant is just to tell you...if you have a baby like Harry and he/she is driving you out of your mind....just be patient and as loving as you possibly can. Try different things and as they say...think outside the box when dealing with autistic dogs or dogs with dysfunctional syndromes. Try not to get mad at them. Don't let their lack of emotions and lack of love toward you keep you from loving them. I have included this autism diagnosis from mayo clinic. The same criteria are for dogs.
    According to the Mayo Clinic, the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in people is based on two key criteria:

    Impairments in social communication and social interaction. For example:
    -Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times
    (i mentioned Harry does this)
    -Resists cuddling and holding and seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her own world
    (Harry still after 4 years resists cuddling)
    -Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expression
    (Harry gets scared if you look him in the eyes and will run away)
    -Doesn't speak or has delayed speech, or may lose previous ability to say words or sentences
    (Harry did no make a sound (bark)for almost a year)
    -Can't start a conversation or keep one going, or may only start a conversation to make requests or label items
    -Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
    (Harry doesn't bark like most dogs. When he does it is one bark at a time)
    -May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them
    -Doesn't appear to understand simple questions or directions
    (It took Harry years to understand basic commands that I have taught every other dog in days!)
    -Doesn't express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others' feelings
    (that is Harry)
    -Doesn't point at or bring objects to share interest
    -Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive, or disruptive
    (He is aggressive to any person or dog he sees except us)
    -Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, such as:
    Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping, or may perform activities that could cause harm, such as head-banging
    (believe it or not....getting hairballs from cleaning himself all over, but has specific places and positions he must be in to eat or drink. )
    -Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
    (Harry has a routine for everything and gets upset if his routines are disturbed)
    -Moves constantly
    Harry never stops moving. He is either sleeping or moving. He can't seem to sit in one spot for more than a few moments before he gets up and walks around and then sits back down somewhere else and goes on
    -May be uncooperative or resistant to change
    (This is an understatement as you cannot make any changes, in his food, his enviroment anything. It scares the you know what out of him. Even slight changes he can sense and will become upset)
    -Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on toes, and has odd, stiff, or exaggerated body language
    (gotta say no to this)
    -May be fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn't understand the "big picture" of the subject
    (Harry is both fascinated and scared of "everything")
    -May be unusually sensitive to light, sound, and touch, and yet oblivious to pain
    (Harry is extremely sensitive to touch. You can see his muscles jumping under his skin when you touch him. Even if you are petting him for awhile, it is almost as if every touch is a surprise and tickle to him.)(also he has hypersensitivity to sound. Every little noise bothers him. Makes a good watch dog though.
    -Does not engage in imitative or make-believe play
    (Harry is the only dog I have had that does not like to play, and doesm't wag his tail)
    -May become fixated on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus
    (Harry gets fixated on things that I have no idea what they are...and he will just stare at something, sometimes for 3 to 5 minutes)
    -May have odd food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or eating only foods with a certain texture
    (As I said earlier, Harry eats only specific things. Duck Jerky, vanilla nutritional drink, iced tea, peanut butter. (has since stopped peanut butter)He will occasionally take a bite of something we are eating but becomes disinterested almost immediately.)
    I know some of you reading this last part will think I am a bad parent but let me tell you it has taken us 4 years to get him to eats this. Our last dog who passed away at home after 15 years from heart failure had his food made by us. We would cook a beef roast and add all kinds of vegetables and fruits and vitamins. Cody CocaCola Boy (our cockerpoo) loved his food. It was labor intensive but we knew what was in his food because we made it and he loved it. We tried this with Harry and Harry would not look twice at any food we made for him. Believe you me I wish Harry would eat food that is better for him, but he will not.
    Harry exhibits almost every characteristic. That is why I say he acts autistic. Am saying nothing bad about autistic persons or dogs.

  • Dogs have been diagnosed with OCD for a very long time. They've been comparing it to an autistic-like disorder and are now actually working on genetic studies, particular looking at fragile-X.

    What you are doing works for your family. There are many things I would do from the beginning to make things better rather than giving in and letting him set all rules. But that you have lived with the dog this long is a testament to your dedication to him.

  • Most of what you mention about Harry and equate to Autism are very much a Basenji's reaction to lack of socialisation at the right time. Although I don't doubt dogs can develop autism, I don't see anything particularly strange. For instance, failing to respond to his name can be typical of a Basenji who just doesn't want to. My boy is an absolutely 'normal' Basenji and he often won't respond to his name. I could go through your list and point out everything but for another example - not every Basenji likes to be cuddled and in my experience won't wag its tail much. I've had some that never do in pleasure but will do a slow wag of aggression or suspicion. He sounds as though he's just being rather controlling. You've obviously done a great deal with him but he's learned to get what he wants from you and has trained you quite well! Not looking you in the eye is strange as most Basenjis will do just that. I'd love to see a picture of him - he sounds quite a big boy at 35lbs. You obviously love him dearly and have reached a liveable compromise with him. He sounds a very intelligent dog. Well done.

  • RIP Harry. he passed away with kidney disease. He was my little boy and handsome as all get out.

  • @haroldmcmullen I'm so sorry to hear about Harry's passing. My thoughts are with you.

  • @haroldmcmullen

    So sorry for your loss. My deepest condolences.

  • Thank you. Harry was still walking and eating until Saturday when he stopped eating. I knew he was on his way out. Then he started puking water that he would drink. He still walked out of the doggy door by himself, but I knew his time was close. Sunday evening he was laying on bed and i told him I was gonna eat his belly... (I always told him that "those are Harry's ears, Harry's feet, Harry's tail,,,but Daddy's belly. He would then roll on his back so I could give him belly kisses. )...and even though he was feeling bad and was weak from not eating, he weakly lifted his leg so I could get his belly. I started crying.I told him I would take him to doctor first thing Monday morning so doctor could help his pain. Vet opened at 7:30am and we were there about 7:15. His back legs wouldn't work so I picked him up and held him in the vet's grassy area so he could pee...and instead he pooped. I thanked him for pooping on grass instead of in the car. (What a good boy). Took him inside and vet put him to sleep while I was holding and kissing him.
    I think because it took us so long to bond with Harry, that it affected me so bad. Everything reminds me of him and the first couple of days after he passed, I could hear him and feel him climbing in the bed during the night.
    But anyway...thank you for your kind words and nice animation. (elbrant and kembe)
    Peace be with you.

  • @haroldmcmullen

    I am so sorry for your loss. I still cry over my losing very difficult but extremely devoted Basenji, Ella.


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