Mean Dog, Part 3

Gimme a Hug

by Terri Florentino

It was time to call Bud’s previous family. I needed details about his past.

When a woman answered, I said, “Hi, my name is Terri, and I currently have Buddy.”

“Oh!” She tried to say more, but began to cry.

I took charge of the conversation. “It’s okay. I know you tried everything. It’s not easy.” I explained my involvement. “It would really help Buddy if I had detail about his past.”

“My husband and I got him as a puppy from a breeder,” she said, eager to help. “Things just weren’t right with him from the start, and we talked to her many times.” The breeder had refused to take him back and wasn’t helpful with training recommendations. Buddy was an unusually quirky Border Collie puppy who posed a unique set of challenges for her and her husband, none of which they were equipped to handle. Over the years they worked with various trainers, sadly, with no success. When their first child came along, they sought help from a new trainer in the hopes of building a successful relationship between the dog and their child. The new instructor’s training method did not suit Buddy at all—his behavior escalated out of control. “We were told that the only options left were rescue or euthanasia.” She began to cry again. “We were devastated. But we couldn’t trust him around the baby.”

“Of course not,” I said gently. “You did the right thing.”

“Do you think . . . is there any chance of managing his behavior? We’d really like to take him back.”

“Perfect! That’s my goal.” What else could I say? The possibility of finding Buddy another home was slim to none.

Now that I knew from his previous owner a training regimen had made him fearful of training, I confirmed it. Whenever I attempted basic obedience skills, he was adverse and dismissive. I was determined to help this dog understand that I would never cause him anguish or pain. He needed a total life do-over.

They say that when a dog needs a fresh start, change his name. In case using his name in a particular circumstance reminded him of an unpleasant experience, I decided to rename Buddy. Thinking the name should have a similar suffix to his previous name so as to ease with the transition into the new name, I decided to call him Tulley. The name Tulley is a nice Irish/Gaelic name that means Living with the Peace with God, which I felt apropos.

 DSCN0746Once Tulley became familiar with the “touch” technique, he wiggled with excitement when playing the “touch” game. I now needed to devise another technique that would promote closeness and trust. I observed that when he sat by my husband he pressed his head against his body. I decided that we would promote “hug,” offering treats and praise each time he pressed against someone. Since my husband was his person of choice, I recruited him to introduce the process of “hug.” Just like “touch” the game of “hug” became a joyful and rewarding task. No doubt the highly delectable treats were a motivator as well. Tulley also had a very high play drive that would helpful when promoting interaction with strangers. A game of “fetch” always gave him an opportunity for a positive experience. I was full of joy watching Tulley play “fetch,” “touch,” and “hug” with as many people as I could get to work with him.

I soon began brainstorming what I had to teach Tulley to get him back to his family. Their young child was a concern. It is impossible to teach a very young child how to be responsible with a dog—especially one that will bite. So, how do you teach the dog how to be safe for a home with a child?

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14 responses to “Mean Dog, Part 3

  1. The story keeps getting better and better!!! You and Ed make a great team and are Angels for having such compassion for these animals!! I am learning so much from this story that will help me more with Chase!! Thank you so much for sharing this story!!!
    Now Going to teach Chase the hug game 😉 Looking forward to Part 4!!!!

  2. Terri Florentino

    I am thankful to have a husband that will not only put up with my “dog business” but is happy to help as well. Stay tuned to find out how it turns out for Tulley! Thank you for commenting.

  3. Terri, I too love reading about your story of Tulley. I want you to know how special you are, because you are so good at understanding not only your breed, but other dogs as well. I am grateful to know you and even more grateful that you are associated with Springbrook Kennels.

  4. Way to go Terri & Ed. Tulley will be OK with you two on his side…

  5. When we got Jack, he was so emotionally screwed up I doubted if we would ever be able to trust him around people, he bonded with me immediatly though and I was his fountain of trust, I spent a lot of time lying on the floor facing him and just talking, then I would move closer and closer until i could just touch him and then talk to him. Then my husband would start having “floor” time with him, never pushing, just talking and touching. Took months to teach him to play, he won’t do ball, but loves frisbee and anything to do with water. Absolutely cannot be allowed near anything moving, he is a car chaser, I can call him off now with a whistle which is progress. Won’t chase folks when they arrive, only when they leave. Very rewarding experience, he will never be able to be adopted out, his forever home is with us.

  6. So this is the origin of Tulley
    I’m loving these episodes !!

  7. BIttersweet…I love reading Buddy’s story, and to see how much he was loved and cared for during a difficult time. Yet it brings back memories of such sad times. Surprised at how difficult this has been for me to read. Terri, please take that as a compliment about your writing ability!!! You remember what a basket case I was when all this was happening. My grief was inconsolable. You were incredibly patient with me. I thank God for you more than you will ever know. You have been a wonderful blessing in our lives!! Thank you for loving beautiful Tulley….perfect name for that special boy!!

    • Terri Florentino

      Karen, now that I have wiped my tears away I can respond. I thank God as well for bringing us all together. The Lord sure does work in mysterious ways. Through all of our struggles together we can be thankful for the fact that all’s well that ends well.

  8. Terri, the tears have been flowing since I started reading the Mean Dog series. Some stories hit close to home. This is my story, as it is yours, and it’s been a tough one. I am reminded throughout of how grateful I am to you, Ed and your family. Yes, the Lord works in very mysterious ways….it’s amazing how this story continues.

Whatcha thinking? Gimme that! Grr! Grr!

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