I met Charlie when he was a young puppy in one of our classes. He was a little nervous, but played like a puppy, and enjoyed working. There was nothing that set of my alarms in terms of ‘puppy gone wrong’. But again, I only saw him one hour a week. After that class I didn’t see this team for quite some time, maybe a year or so later. One day I received an e-mail that Charlie needed to come back to school.
When I asked why, I was told that he wasn’t being very nice to other people or dogs. Hmmmm. We decided on a class that would work with their schedule, and their needs, and I was excited to see him again. The first night was a disaster. I was shocked to see what a mess he was. Nervous, fearful, and reactive, extremely reactive to everyone but me. I was working with another fearful dog at the time so I put together a semi private class with just these two, and we focused on nosework and scent detection. I wanted some distractions from another Team, but I also wanted to give these dogs the opportunity to be successful with something they were instinctively good at.
We talked a great deal about environments and safety, and really taking the time to make good choices. And I may have said a bazillion times, “just because you can doesn’t mean you should, apply that to a walk, hike, outing, social event, whatever”. We had talks, protocols for handling, more talks, and then heart to heart talks.
Charlie and his owner excelled in our scentsABILITIES class, in fact they should really be working as a professional nosework Team, in an airport or something, they are really that good.
BUT, the letter I received yesterday is why I am writing. To all of the Teams out there that are working hard to make life less stressful, I hope this makes you smile, gives you hope, and some new inspiration! ~ Nancy
I just wanted to tell you that a year ago Charlie and I came to you after an awful vet visit in which Charlie’s very serious fear issue really came out and it was suggested if I couldn’t get it figured out something bad may someday come of the situation-like him having to be euthanized.
Today was his first visit since that time. He didn’t show even the slightest inclination of fear. He walked in the door as a happy, tail wagging guy and he walked out of the door that way. He even ate a whole hamburger out of the hands of the vet, he was so calm and relaxed. I did; however, make sure they removed all dogs out of his site before entering and before we exited the exam room.
Charlie didn’t even bark or lunge on his harness a single time. He smelled everything and pranced around the room like he’d been there a thousand times. All the months that I spent dodging animals and people, so I could manage his environment to the best of my ability always seemed like a huge effort and I wasn’t sure I was always making the right choices for him.
It’s not been easy, but I’m thankful you helped me to understand how Charlie’s need to feel safe was so important that he wasn’t aggressive just very scared. I’m so glad I made the changes. All the effort was worth every minute of him being able to have a wonderful check up and not to have a care in the world about it.
We still have a life’s worth of work to keep doing, but yesterday made all the frustrating days well worth all of it.