This story begins in Syracuse, New York. Now, if you're a lover of dogs and feel-good endings, then you've come to the right place.

A good friend of mine, Kevin Dean, lives in Dartmouth alongside his wife, kids and their two dogs: Bentley, a white lab, and Diesel, a black lab. Both dogs are a little over three years old and are brothers from the same litter.

Dean and his family drove out to New York to pick up Bentley when he was a puppy. Upon arrival, the Deans were offered his brother for half the breeding price in order to keep them together.

"We didn't want to leave the other one behind," Dean said. "There was no way we were going to separate them. We did what we thought was right and I'm glad we did."

Little did Dean and his family know that rough times were ahead of them, and it came with some warning from family members and friends who could see the situation from a mile away. The Dean family was about to be introduced to something called "Littermate Syndrome."

According to Canine Behavioral Services: "Littermate Syndrome (also knows as Sibling Aggression or Littermate Aggression) is a non-scientific anecdotal term that refers to a whole host of behavioral issues that tend to present when canine siblings (Littermates) are raised in the same household beyond the normal 8 to 10 weeks of age, when puppies are usually placed in homes." In other words, the siblings become each other's enemy, making it very difficult to raise them together, especially in the same household.

The Deans knew they had to take the necessary steps to cope and help with the situation and they were well aware of the long process, but it was going to take a team effort if they were going to train the dogs themselves. The whole family had to be involved and work together in order for the training to work.

Bentley and Diesel were the family's first dogs together so it meant working hard or getting rid of both of them.

"I was absolutely torn," Dean said. "However, I knew what needed to get done and I made sure we paid close attention to the training and each dog individually."

For the first eight months, the dogs were inseparable. Then, all of a sudden, they wanted to be on their own, which lead to fighting and biting each other, making it an on and off thing.

"We began introducing them to each other slowly, with like a baby gate," Dean explained. "Sometimes it worked, but other times it was as if all hell let loose.

Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, the Deans kept plugging away and never gave up hope.

It wasn't until this past weekend that something magical had happened.

"Finally, one day, we could tell they wanted to be outside playing together, judging by the whimpers, and for the first time in three years, there was peace," Dean said with a sigh of relief. "It was the first time the whole family, dogs included, sat together in the same living room. It still gets me emotional just thinking about it. My family finally felt whole, complete."

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Dean
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Dean

Dean's final message to anyone who is going through a similar situation is to stay determined and don't give up. With hard work, you will succeed.

"People in my life have no idea what it took," Dean said. "We had to plan vacations at different times. Camping was a project, I would go to camp with one dog for a weekend and the wife would stay home with one dog. Then, the next weekend, I would stay behind and the other dog would have his turn. Just telling people this, they think I’m crazy but that was my reality."

He leaves us with not only a happy ending, but proof that two brothers from the same litter, seemingly destined to hate each other, found love after all.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Dean
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Dean

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