SHARED BY LIZ GAHN
About 2 years ago, a woman I know who was a breeder had a home full of adult dogs and puppies, where she and her husband were living together. Her husband was dying a slow death of cancer, and was more in the hospital than not. She needed to find homes for most of her dogs. So I agreed to take a 10 mo. female puppy, who I named Ricky.
Ricky was a beautiful sable coated female, and was very frightened and most likely had not been socialized with humans due to the health problems in the home. I knew I needed to do something. So I enrolled her in obedience, and although it did help with civility, it of course did not “fix” her fear. But I kept on spending hundreds up to thousands of dollars on everything training. I began watching and have probably memorized ALL the Cesar Milan Dog Whisperer shows. Although I learned a lot, I could not ease her fear of humans. So I tried a Dog Aggression class offered in a city nearby. What a mistake. Being in a class with nothing but aggressive dogs actually made her much more fearful and aggressive.
At my wits end, I re-watched Cesar's shows and noticed a common theme. “Daddy”. Daddy is the pit-bull that Cesar rescued many years ago, and was his companion in his earlier shows. Cesar nearly always used Daddy, who was calm and obedient, to help the frantic dogs become calm dogs again. Cesar gave Daddy credit in nearly every show for being his partner and for influencing the fearful dogs behavior. Great, I thought. Simple. I love dogs anyway and have usually had two dogs. I’ll go find a calm obedient easy going great big happy male GSD, and that will solve the problem.
So my search began. I searched PetFinder and did find several GSDs that seemed to fit the bill, but none of the foster parents wanted their dogs to go to me. They all said they needed a home with children. Now I was frustrated because everyone who knows me says that when they die they want to come back as my dog. My dogs are family. They are in the house and have a doggy door to go outside into a big cyclone fenced back yard. They have more toys than most kids, and come with us on out trips. They eat premium food. The only time they are alone is when I work. I couldn’t figure it out.
Then I saw “Bear”. Bear was way up in Ashland, Wisconsin, at the Chequamegon Humane Association. A purebred GSD. His picture was posted on PetFinder and I immediately fell in Love with him just from the pictures. The description said he liked all people, dogs, children, and Cats. CATS TOO??? WOW. This had to be an Angel dog meant for me. God had answered my prayers, I hoped!
I applied to adopt him, as did many others. I expected to be declined. But then came the call, I could adopt him if I wanted to!!!! YEA!!!! A miracle. So that Monday, I set off on the odyssey to Ashland WI from St. Paul, MN. A beautiful cool sunny day for a beautiful ride to pick up my new boy. He did not know the job I wanted him to do, besides being the love of my life. I didn’t even question that my plan was going to work. I would get another love of my life, and I knew that he would love and help Ricky right? Well, not so fast uneducated one. HA!
The day I picked him up, I could see he was everything I had ever wanted in a dog. He gingerly hopped up into my Ford Explorer, (I don’t think he had gone for many rides before) and stuck his nose up in the skylite of the car which was cracked open, and off we went. He must have kissed me 1000 times on the drive home. Such a love. I stopped at McDonalds and got him a hamburger patty to tide him over until we got home, because the Humane Society said he had not eaten yet. We stopped at the vet for a going over, some heartworm med, a bath, nail trim, and Frontline. He was also micro-chipped in case something should happen, so that he can be returned to us if, God forbid, he should somehow get away. He was very scared of the vet, but did not bite anyone, he was calm and obedient. Then, time to go home for the first time. YEA! Right?
I called my trainer and asked him to meet me at home to help me do the introduction correctly, between the two dogs. He did, but to my dismay (I was so uneducated, it is now clear!), Ricky was aggressive to Bear. She had never been aggressive to a dog before.
I had to alternate them hour by hour into crates, and was so upset that Ricky did not accept him. She would throw fits if he even moved or if I petted him. I called Ashland to let them know I was not sure if this was going to work, so please not to throw away the names of the other families. I had dreams of Ricky hurting poor Bear. I felt so bad for Bear.
Bear, on the other hand, was totally nonchalant. He was respectful of Ricky when she threw her fits, he never barked back at her nor was he ever aggressive to her, and he always gave her a wide berth, never doing anything to upset her. But it didn’t matter. Ricky was upset. I'm sure she was asking “who is this interloper who is taking up residence in my house, and who asked me anyway? I don’t need and don’t want a friend.”
Nothing I was trying was working. I asked David, “is this fair to Bear? Should we let the Humane Society know in case they have a better home for Bear”? He emotionally returned “Liz, I really like Bear. I don’t want to return him”. I agreed. Somehow, someway, we will fix this. Bear was learning quickly. I don’t think he had ever been in a home before, because he lifted his leg on my walls and furniture. But after two gentle “NO, we don’t do that” comments, he never did it again. He was a leash puller, but one training session with me and the Trainer and he was walking peacefully and not pulling. Someone had evidently fed him beer in his past life. Whenever David pours a beer, there is Bear wanting his share, which of course, we do NOT give him. In his past life, someone must have treated him well, as he showed no signs of being abused. He was and remains a LOVE. And gives tons of kisses. But now for the interrelationship between Ricky and Bear.
I tried trainers. No one could help. I considered $5,000 live in programs for Ricky to learn not to be aggressive. However, folks told me that Ricky’s problem was probably genetic and probably could not be fixed. One guy wanted to put a shock collar on her and I told him NO WAY. She is too fearful to do such a thing. I have a friend who is with the St.Paul Police Canine Unit and trains those Police dogs and trains the Police trainers and Police Canine Unit. He recommended something no one else had recommended. He said to get a 10ft by 10ft by 6ft tall dog run with a divider in the middle, and put one dog in each side, and have them spend 8 hours a day in the kennel and see if that works.
So, off I went to Menards to buy the kennel. I had it assembled in about 20 minutes, and in they went. At first, lots and lots of grandstanding with Ricky lunging at Bear, and Bear barking back to her “oh no you don’t!!” She looked like she wanted to kill him. I thought, oh no, this isn’t going to work either. Four days into this experiment, David said, “something has changed. I don’t think this is aggression anymore. I think they are getting along now! They are trying to play. Lets turn them out together”. I said no, I’m afraid to do that. Let me call the trainer tomorrow.
So Bear went to the half of the house David was in and Ricky into the half of the house I was in, as they always did. They could somewhat access each other over the gate between the two halves of the house, biting each other's hair through the gate and barking at each other. I could not tell if it was aggression of playing. David insisted it was now playing. Suddenly, David called to me laughing, he said “Bear has lifted his leg on the wall again”. So I ran in with the cleaners, and forgot to close the door behind me. Next thing I know, out the doggy door they ran together, followed by me trying to grab one of them, but they chased eachother around the back yard full blast for 15 minutes without stopping. Round and Round and Round in circles. When they finally stopped, they were actually enjoying eachothers company, and were exhausted. And HAPPY. NO FIGHTING!!! I was so amazed. And so happy. Now, they are so cute. They enjoy each other.
And Cesar was correct. I found the right dog - Bear. Bear had done what thousands of dollars in trainers and equipment could not do. Bear showed Ricky that she did NOT have to bark non-stop at the neighbors. And that she did NOT have to bark non-stop at the people who came to the door. And that she did NOT have to bark at every noise she heard. But best of all, he showed her that he was here now, and she could lean on him, and she does not have to be afraid.
Bear sleeps at the side of my bed every night by his choice. He can sleep anywhere in the house, but he has bonded very tightly to me. Every time I move, he is like Velcro, there he is. That is something I have always wanted in a dog. So now, I have what I wanted, two loves of my life, Ricky and Bear. AND an added bonus of Ricky calming down, and learning that she doesn’t have to fear people and the world. Bear gave her that gift. Bear has become her rock. I thank God and the Chequamegon Humane Association, for sending Bear to our family. WE LOVE HIM!