Gruber the Pit Bull gets this funny, skeptical, smirky, sort of embarrassed look on his face sometimes. You’ve probably seen it. Your mom has probably seen it, too.
Gruber is the subject of one of those super-hyper-viral memes that come on so quickly and then seem like they’ve been there forever. Gruber’s so fetching, and famous, that George Takei—the giant of social media—even recently shared his adorable mug.
That post alone got more than 81,000 likes.
The thing is that Gruber has other expressions, too. They aren’t all so cute.
His mom Shannon Sanzi would like people to see them, too.
Gruber landed in a busy city animal shelter about two and a half years ago. Shannon recalls that his shelter paperwork said he’d been found as a stray, with a chain around his neck. The chain was held together with duct tape.
He got lucky; he got noticed, and taken out of the shelter by a rescue group called Pibbles and More Animal Rescue.
Shannon’s husband Matt saw PMAR’s photo of Gruber. The same silly photogenicness that made him a meme also got him a home. Matt fell hard, right away, “and said that we had to foster him. Little did he know he would never leave,” says Shannon.
Gruber joined the family in January of 2014, at their home in upstate New York. And, despite that cutie-pie adoption photo, “he was a wreck,” says Shannon. “He was so broken.”
The young dog was skinny, and covered in cuts and bruises from having tried to bust out of a kennel.
He also had terrible anxiety. He has terrible anxiety.
Gruber once got accidentally shut into Shannon’s daughter’s room, and destroyed it. If he can’t get into a space he wants to enter, he will pant, and run, and jump, and slobber, and work himself generally into a tizzy.
Just this past weekend, Gruber jumped off the couch and started barking when Shannon’s daughter came into the room. That woke up the youngest child—a brand new baby—who started to cry. He topped that off by pooping in the house and wrecking a few things.
Attempts at crating Gruber merely made the anxiety worse. Then Gruber would hurt himself, desperate to escape confinement, on top of being distraught.
It can all be very hard for the humans, as well. It can be exhausting.
“We had him put on Prozac and it seemed for a while to help take the edge off,” Shannon says.
Shannon worried that Gruber’s anxiety would grow worse when her middle child, Caiden, was born, about a year and a half ago. But at least there, Gruber was fine.
“He just loved him. He would lay by his crib or whatever equipment he was in and just give him kisses,” she says.
Gruber is meeting with a dog behaviorist. The vet is tinkering with his meds. They’re trying to help the anxiety decrease, even just a little.
Being around his dog sister Roxy helps, too.
But the anxiety is still there, for now. Gruber shows it in his face. He shows it in his behavior. He shows it everywhere.
“It’s hard. It’s a lot of extra stress,” says Shannon.
So, Gruber is kind of a mess. He makes a big mess, for sure.
But Shannon loves him. Her whole family loves him — though Shannon’s daughter wishes he’d stop barking when she comes into the room.
After Gruber’s cute, skeptical face spread across the internet—most recently thanks to George Takei’s magical Facebooking—Shannon started a Facebook page to show the other parts of Gruber’s life. His other expressions. The cute ones, and the trying ones, too.
She thinks it’s likely that Gruber is the way he is because he wasn’t treated very well when he was young. She wants him to know that even though he is still not quite through to the other side of that early life, she loves him. She wants the people who’ve admired his funny photos to know that, too.
Gruber deserves that. Perhaps even more than a dog who doesn’t wreck furniture or bark at very inconvenient times, or empty his bowels in the wrong places.
“He is a fantastic, loving and loyal dog, and he tries so hard to just be a good dog, but his anxiety gets the best of him,” says Shannon. “We as humans did this to him, so I have to at least try to give him what I can.”
That funny, wry expression might have made Gruber famous. This look here, though—the one you see in the photo right above—is Shannon’s favorite.
It’s the look he gives her when she’s doing the dishes before bed. He’s watching her. Just sitting, and watching, and waiting, before they’ll go watch television in the living room.
Gruber can’t lie on the couch with Shannon, because he becomes overly protective; he’ll “freak out at every noise or anyone that walks in the living room.”
“He just still waits for me,” she says. “He’s just a loyal best friend and he doesn’t give up on me, so I can’t on him.”
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