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Taking care of Denali has been fun but trying for his owners.

Reality bites

This is not a happy pet story. It will not be funny. It will not be cute.

But it will be real.

After three months of dog ownership and in the middle of a full-fledged sob session, I was thisclose to taking Denali to the shelter and relinquishing my role as an owner.

It wasn't a thought that was spontaneous or a decision I considered lightly. It was a culmination of behavioral changes that my husband and I have observed in our once beloved Siberian husky.

And those changes were never more evident than when we took him for a walk, an activity that was intended to be a treat for him ... and us. Denali began biting the leash. It seems innocent but the action isn't playful, not the way he grabs a 3-foot long branch to carry down the street. It's seemingly aggressive with Denali writhing and leaping into the air. When we make attempts to correct, his open and angry mouth come close to our hands. Never biting.

Until that morning.

I thought I was being clever, changing the way we hooked Denali's collar and harness to the leash. It would be nearly impossible for him to bite it. If he couldn't bite at the leash, he would not display the behavior, I thought to myself. But almost a mile into our walk, Denali became excitable. He nearly sprang at a dog across the street and a dog off the leash a block ahead posed a huge control risk for me. So we turned around. As I tried to move forward, calmly, with him, that's when I felt it. A big nip in my behind followed by the leash-biting behavior.

That was it, I told myself. I couldn't take it. I wrote a tearful e-mail to my husband explaining how upset I was. I searched on the Web for ways to give up your dog.

What I found, though, was an article as to why you shouldn't give up your dog. It said that there are no bad dogs, just misinformed owners. Misinformed we may be, but frustrated we are. But after the tears had dried and the anger faded, we agreed to follow the advice of that article: Invest in obedience training.

Mark will attend the first class next week, and Denali will accompany him the following week. We're not expecting miracles but we are hoping that we will become more informed and be given the tools that will lead to a happy, long life ... with Denali.

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