Mean Dog, Part 4

Trust Me

by Terri Florentino

Before I started to work with Tulley around children, he and I needed to spend more quality time together and build a more trusting bond. He was still timid with people he didn’t know, never mind children. If someone reached out to touch him, I couldn’t trust him not to bite.

A safe and structured world for Tulley.

A safe and structured world for Tulley.

I started taking him to my obedience classes. Anytime we entered a setting that had anything to do with training, he worried, so I kept our sessions  short and full of rewards, praise, and fun. Encouraged, I signed him up for a basic agility class, something he had never done before. Tulley enjoyed going onto the frame, through a tunnel, and over the jumps.

During one of the classes, an instructor, Cynthia Strada, approached him. “Hi, handsome,” she said. Noticing him cower, she bent down to his level. “You’re okay,” she said, and offered him a treat.

Warily, he approached and took the treat from her hand. I showed Cindy his “touch” game, and Tulley played with her. Every week, Cindy gave Tulley extra time, attention, praise, and treats. I can’t thank her enough, because after each class with Cindy, he was more comfortable and confident. The progress was slow, but it was progress. I often wondered how far I would be able to bring him along and build his trust in people.


Over time, Tulley developed his own effective methods to cope with stress. Now, rather than growling or–worse yet–biting, he came to Ed or me, gave us this deer-in-the-headlight look, and pressed his head against us. He trusted us; we were his soft place to fall. We never relented in our efforts to socialize him, but were careful never to put too much pressure on him. We let him approach people on his own terms.

One day, we took him back to the farm to visit. As we parked and got out of the truck, we noticed several people standing by the fence, some of whom we and Tulley knew. Tulley took off running to say hello. One by one he greeted everyone with a wagging tail.

“Wow, that’s good to see!” Ed said.

“He’s free and happy!”

IMGP5752-001Suddenly Tulley bounded up to one man he didn’t know, and froze. His tail and head dropped.

I turned to Ed, “Look. Do you see how Tulley’s reacting to that stranger?”

“Hoo, boy! He seems nervous.”

Tulley whirled and galloped back to us with a terrified look. He ducked behind Ed and pressed against his leg.

“Is he more frightened than usual?” I asked. “You think he knows this guy?”

As we approached the group, Tulley followed timidly behind. My friend introduced Ed and me to the stranger.

Tulley cowered and trembled behind us.

The man stuck out his hand and said, “Hello. I’m the trainer who first called you about that dog!”

16 responses to “Mean Dog, Part 4

  1. Wow!! So amazing how animals never forget! I have tears in my eyes reading this. What a great story and its keeping me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what comes next even thou I know what happens. You are truly capturing the moment and it feels like we are walking Tulley’s journey with you!!!

  2. I am fascinated with this story. It is an amazing journey you have been on with Tulley. I have experienced first hand what an amazing and positive dog handler/trainer you are. I have also experienced the intuitiveness and memories of our dogs.

    • Terri Florentino

      Thank you, Judy. As we have always said, “First Do No Harm”. These dogs sure are amazing creatures.

  3. Lavonne R. Newman, V. M. D.

    Teri, I look forward to each new installment. You are very good at building up suspense and leaving the reader wanting more. Kudos.

  4. And that is where you are going to leave me…………..(im)patiently awaiting the next clip!

  5. Terri Florentino

    Thank you Vonnie, my intention is to 1) offer a learning experience 2) share a poignant moment 3) and keep our readers interested.

  6. Love this = keep it coming!!

  7. Chris, I can’t type fast enough! I think my brain might explode. Thanks again for your encouragement and support. Send in a little story about the “girls”. Include Jenny’s advertisement for fun!

  8. Donalee Slater

    Terri, Love your story about Tulley. While my Finn is not a rescue (I picked him out at 8 wks old ) I can relate to the ups and downs of living with and training a fear aggressive dog. AND the joy in watching them transform. While it has been a challenge and I don’t wish to raise another reactive dog I would pick Finn all over again just for the lessons he has taught me. They are special. 🙂

  9. Awesome! All the elements of a great piece of mystery writing. Keep it coming!

  10. Terri, you tell this part so beautifully. Smart boy Tulley definitely remembered that trainer.

Whatcha thinking? Gimme that! Grr! Grr!

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