Friday, January 21, 2011

Three thousand, six hundred and fifty seven

Three thousand, six hundred and fifty seven days of loving Brody.

(Two thousand eight hundred and fifty five days of enjoying Thea. One thousand five hundred and fifty days of worrying about Sally. Forty some days of enjoying Phenomenal)

Brody. My heart. My rockstar. My give me everything he has plus a little more man.

I will never forget doing his intake at the shelter. It was a busy Saturday morning when a family walked in with a dog in a crate. The dog was lying at the back of the crate just staring at me. We had NO room at the shelter. None. I had two foster dogs at home (a darling little chihuahua named Gomez and a hilarious Pomeranian named Lola). I had no clue where I was going to put the new arrival but there was no way I could turn that blank sad face away. I started filling in the intake form - Dog's name? Lickey. Dog's age? 5 months. Dog's history? Purchased from a notorious puppy broker for a RIDICULOUS price. Reason for surrender? Dog was "dirty" in the house so being crated constantly and biting their child and scaring him. I asked what constantly meant and was told "We let him out twice a day. Now he is dirty in his crate. We can't have that." I charged them their surrender fee and sent them on their way.

I had Gomez and Lola with me. Unbelievably Gomez found his forever home that afternoon. (With a HUGE BIKER covered in tattoos - very funny and somehow very fitting!) I went home and obsessed about the poor little dog I'd set up in a large crate in my office. Big T very sensibly said when Lola was adopted we could foster him if he was still looking but I was pretty sure he would be adopted quickly despite his apparent baggage. I was checking emails and came across an email considering Lola. I encouraged the people to meet me at the shelter Sunday morning. They met Lola - I was SO LUCKY - I actually knew people in common so the reference checks were able to be done on a Sunday. They lived in my neighbourhood and I felt VERY comfortable doing this adoption. (I was right - we continue to stay in touch - Lola was euthanized this past summer but it was the PERFECT home for her). The little, might as well have been nameless dog came home with me that night to foster, house train and assess potential as a humane education dog. All I could really tell that night was he was the right size to compliment my large rotti x golden humane ed specialist. He hid under the cookbook shelf in the kitchen - scared to death to be out of a crate. I read all the cookbook titles and authors and the only name that seemed at all fitting was Brody (after Jean Brody). I tried to crate him overnight thinking he'd be more comfortable and he had a panic attack. That was the last time he was crated for 7 years. Teaching him to not only accept but enjoy being crated was a slow process that Sally was an instrumental part of.

There are many chapters to the three thousand plus days. (Humane educator, media spokes dog, tv star, stage star (can you say Annie?), trick boy, farm dog, and of course agility superstar!)

He's an exceptional soul. It took him a LONG time to accept the family and until quite recently he was very aloof with strangers but now he's Mr. Social. He had my heart at first stare .. and was generous enough to give me his heart very early on in our relationship as well. He's a wonderful teacher and a better friend. I hope we have another three thousand + days together!


Muttsandaklutz said...

That is such a beautiful tribute to your boy! So well written and heartfelt. I didn't know all of that stuff about him and would certainly enjoy reading another chapter or two or ten :-)

Kiyi Kiyi said...

What a very sweet story. So sad, but so beautiful with a great happy ending!
I was just wondering what kind of training did you do to get Brody over his fear of crates?
My dog had a horrible experience when I first brought her home - I didn't know anything about training and did everything wrong :(
I haven't used a crate with her since then. At our agility class they wanted her crated, but she had a panic attack/flipped out (which is not at all normal for her). How do you do agility and not crate? It seems like that is a requirement for a lot of agility classes.

andrea said...

Thanks - more chapters will follow I promise ;)

Catalina - thanks for finding your way here - and posting. Until I got to a competent place with shaping I pretty much left Brody alone - he ignored crates entirely and I never crated him (a royal pain at agility for sure - but he will lie quietly in the car or in a chair - at 11 pounds I had a few options larger dogs don't get)

When Sally came along I was determined to crate train a dog properly so I shaped her to go into crates .. she'd look at the crate I'd mark the look and reward .. she'd step toward the crate I'd mark and reward - because she had NO association with crates good or bad I'd toss her treat into the back of the crate (much as I did with the foster puppy over the holiday). It wasn't a quick process as I had lots I was working on with Sally but Brody HATES me working other dogs - he doesn't bark but he does push in if he thinks he can. One day Sally and I were shaping crates and I tossed the treat in the crate - Brody CHARGED in grabbed the treat and pretty much told me he was ready to retrain for crates!! So I shaped him to enter crates - much larger than the standard crate a dog his size would use. (I still crate him in a crate large enough Sally could use it very comfortably - people at trials get peeved - he is a small dog after all- but I just smile and continue to use his crate)
Since that day I have shaped many many dogs who weren't crate fans to tolerate a crate. They don't love them but they can be safely enclosed if needed. The key for me has not been bribing but waiting for something positive I can mark and reward. Our foster aussie Gus was pretty sure she was never going to willingly go in a crate. It took 75 pices of a treat (tiny) and one day of 4 sessions of about 5 minutes each time for her to be happy and confident enough to enter a crate by choice - stay in it with the door open or closed and need to be called out of it. In her forever home now she is crated happily every day!