Category Archives: Mean Dog

Unleash the Spirit of Generosity, Be a Hero to a Homeless Pet.

Unleash the Spirit of Generosity, Be a Hero to a Homeless Pet.

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 Adopting a dog from a shelter is an exciting, feel-good event. For many families, it’s a special moment, sure to become part of the family lore. For the dog, however, assimilating into family life can be difficult. Sadly, many dogs are returned to the shelter for behavior problems, which is heartbreaking for the family and a disaster for the dog. Experienced dog trainers can help smooth the transition, spare family heartache, and save dogs’ lives.

Every animal shelter should have an area for training.

“The Griffin Pond Animal Shelter is undergoing a highly anticipated renovation to build a much-needed area for on-site training. Won’t you make a donation, no amount too small that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of sheltered dogs?”


If it wasn’t for a shelter and rescue network along with training, I dread to think what would have become of one dog in particular. His name was Tulley.


 One day, I received a call from a trainer in New Jersey. He said he had been working with a three-year-old Border Collie that needed to be re-homed.  “Can you help? Over the last year, he’s gotten aggressive with his owners, their child, and other animals. He’s bitten a few times.”

I agreed to meet this dog. As I slowly approached I observed a beautiful black and white border collie. His body stiffened, and he averted his eyes. He became increasingly uncomfortable the closer I got. I slowly kneeled down next to him. He took a deep breath and let out a very long, low guttural growl. His fur stood on end, and his lips curled tightly, baring every one of his teeth. And yet, I didn’t feel threatened. He never made eye contact nor did he lunge to bite.  I felt empathy for the dog and decided to help him.

First, we needed to learn to trust one another. The training started with teaching Tulley the “touch” technique. It was so heartwarming when he wiggled with excitement whenever we played the game. When I took him to the obedience classes that I taught we worked him in his “comfort zone,” kept the sessions short and full of rewards, praise and fun! He learned quickly how to relax and trust. Fun With agility followed after obedience classes. Agility class was a weekly favorite of Tulley’s, where he moved, joyful and carefree, through the equipment, one obstacle at a time.

I was so proud of his accomplishments; he was truly bonding with me and my family.

After working diligently with Tulley and witnessing him become the dog he was born to be, my husband and I officially adopted him into our family.  He integrated beautifully with our children and our other dogs. Tulley was a joy and a blessing to our family for the next ten years.

Godspeed to our beloved Tulley (2001-2014).

“Tulley” – from Irish Gaelic roots, meaning “mighty people,” “living with God’s                        peace,” “devoted to God’s will.” 

 See Tulley’s full story

For the sake of so many dogs like Tulley won’t you please consider making a donation to a much-needed on-site training area at Griffin Pond Animal Shelter?  You will be helping so many dogs who are looking for their forever home, but are in need of extra love, support and training in order to thrive and flourish.  Your gift will help these dogs get the training they need in order to move on to a better life.


(Terri pictured with Tulley)

Our goal is $300,000.00 let’s spark a movement, Please share far and wide. Our animals’ futures depend on it.

Many thanks for your generosity and kindness.

Terri Florentino, Writer, Editor, Canine Behavioral Instructor.



Farewell, Sweet Tulley

Tulley 2014In sadness and sympathy we let you know that Tulley crossed the Rainbow Bridge today.

Readers know him as the “mean dog” in our “Mean Dog” series, but Ed and Terri knew him as a dear friend and family member for a good many long and happy years.

Echo and Tulley, a few days ago.

He was a very good boy. He’ll be missed not only by his people, but by his pack. The family has suffered some hard losses of late. Our heartfelt condolences go out to them all.

The pack

Pictured left to right – Meg, Deja, Echo, Wyn, Tulley and Scout.




There are so few words, the diagnosis, Lymphoma. First chemotherapy treatment tomorrow. Please share any personal experiences. Updates to follow.

Here is Tulley’s rescue story.


Mean Dog, Finale

Safe and Loved

by Terri Florentino

I must admit I felt a connection with Wyatt. He’d look at me with those big, round, dark brown eyes as if he saw and loved my very soul. I had tried not to give him too much of myself, knowing he couldn’t stay. After all, now that Tulley had joined our family, I knew too well that six dogs were our limit.

Morgan at Six Years Old

Wyatt with Karen and Morgan

At this juncture neither Karen nor I were convinced that Wyatt would make a suitable companion for their family. We all went back inside together and discuss Wyatt’s training and feeding and sleeping schedule. While we decided his fate, he trotted through the house, following Morgan and inspecting her every move. Morgan talked to him, “C’mon, Wyatt. This is a stuffed-animal tea party, and you can be our guest.” Wyatt hung on her every word, which pleased the little girl mightily.

As we talked, occasionally Jim knelt and called to him. Wyatt dashed over and wiggled as Jim ruffled his fur all over. Finally, Jim turned to Karen, “I say let’s give him a try.”

Lost in her play-pretend, Morgan had seemed oblivious to the adult conversation, but right on cue she piped up, “Oh! Can we keep him, Daddy?”

Jim and Karen blurted, “Yes!” Then Karen added, “If Wyatt is happy, we would love for him to stay.”

“Wonderful!” I said, but my enthusiasm sounded a bit forced. Puzzled, I looked at Wyatt anew—could it be this was good-bye? What in the world had I expected?

Knowing how intuitive he was, I tried to conceal my sorrow. “Do you have that crate we talked about?”

“Yes,” Karen said.

“Put him in the crate and don’t let him out until after I’m gone.” I managed to hold back my tears. “I don’t want him to see me leave.” Just then, Wyatt walked over and slid his head onto my lap. I cupped his face. “You’re a good boy. . . . I’ll always be with you.” Everyone began to sniffle.

Ed stood up. “Okay, let’s go, honey.” I let him guide me to my feet and put his arm around me.

Karen escorted Wyatt to another room and the crate. At the door, Karen embraced me—no words, just strength, trust, and love.

Merry Christmas, Wyatt

Merry Christmas, Wyatt

Karen emailed me often. Morgan loved Wyatt from the start. He joined in many a tea party, fashion show, and Disney-movie reenactment. At first, he didn’t know what to do with himself, which was saying a lot, because Wyatt had a big personality. With so much attention from a family so happy to have him, he acted like a kid in a candy store. Overcome with glee, he’d race through the house and leap from couch to chair to chair. They realized quickly how right I was about his need for training, and they diligently obliged.

Wyatt was a counter-surfer, and for this, Karen asked my advice. I replied, “Don’t leave things on the counter to tempt him, and he may forget to surf.” That cured it, but one St. Patrick’s Day, Wyatt had a little lapse. Karen had made corned beef and cabbage and left it to cool on the counter. A half hour later she returned to find the entire meal had vanished. Wyatt had sprawled himself out on the kitchen floor, lounging with a look of self-satisfaction. He practically shrugged at her, as if to say, “Hey, you obviously didn’t want it. What’s the problem?”

Morgan and Wyatt

Morgan and Wyatt

At first, Wyatt was haunted by old fears and anxieties. Whenever he rode in the car with Karen and she stopped at the supermarket or strip mall, he’d panic and try to keep her from getting out, as if remembering the day his first owner gave him up in a parking lot. Eventually, he learned to love car rides, but it took time and a lot of reassurance. Summer storms frightened him; sometimes they’d find him hiding in the clothes dryer. When left alone for long periods, Wyatt scratched up the furniture, the floor, the doors. Karen used Rescue Remedy or Anxiety Relief drops, and Wyatt learned when he felt his fears coming on to go to her and sit obediently, as if to say, “Please, please, please may I have a few drops of the stuff?” He’d lift his lip and wait for her to squeeze the medicine into his mouth. Over time, he learned he was well-cared-for, and his fears subsided.

Morgan, Jim, and Wyatt

Morgan, Jim, and Wyatt

Last fall, while Morgan was asleep in bed and Jim was outside spotting deer, Karen decided to make a cup of tea before bed. Her heel slipped off the top step, and she went skidding down the wooden stairs on her tailbone. There she sat at the bottom with a dislocated shoulder, a concussion, and a likely broken coccyx, so painful that Karen heard herself wailing in a way she never had before. Wyatt dashed over and ran his eyes and nose all over her. Then he rocketed up on the couch in front of the picture window and barked and barked and barked. Jim was was spotting deer about thirty yards away and heard Wyatt’s bark. Afraid Wyatt would wake up Morgan, he came running to scold him, but instead found Karen injured and badly dazed.

You're safe, and you're loved.

You’re safe, and you’re loved.

Wyatt and Karen had grown very close, in part thanks to the three-and-a-half-mile runs. At one particular point halfway up a hill, Wyatt would stop dead in his tracks and sit right in front of the “SPEED LIMIT 25 When Horse Rider Is Present” sign. He refused to budge. Karen spoke firmly and tired to get him to heel, but nothing worked. Karen stood there thinking, “Seriously? Just move your tush up the hill. This is not hard!” She usually had to get back home to get Morgan on the bus and Jim off to work. Finally one day, as Wyatt sat by the sign like a cement statue, she leaned down, patted his head, and said in his ear, “Everything’s okay. It’s all fine. You’re safe, and you’re loved.” He relaxed, he wriggled all over, and then zipped up that hill like an Olympic athlete.

Wyatt still oversees all the movement in the house, off to work and school, over to the barn, out to bound in fresh snow, and up to bed, when he listens attentively to bedtime stories and often stays to sleep in Morgan’s room. Whatever’s going on, Wyatt is happiest when the family is all together.

Karen works from from home, and every afternoon like clockwork, Wyatt comes to her and whines. Engrossed in her work, she tells him to hush and lie down. He settles for a moment before fussing again—right around the time Karen looks up to see the school bus coming down the road. The house sits almost 800 feet from the road, and he starts to whine and pace about five minutes before she even sees the bus. Karen still can’t figure out how he knows Morgan is on the bus and it’s time to go get her.

Morgan and Wyatt in the snow

Morgan and Wyatt in the snow

Karen emailed me the other day, “I just said to Jim tonight that we’ve had Wyatt longer than we’ve had any dog. Hard to believe he’ll be ten years old in a few months.”

So many things had happened since their dear Raine had died. The whole world had changed for the mean dog who had become our own dear, old Tulley.

Karen wondered, “Where does the time go?”

I believe that there is an explanation for everything, so, yes, I believe in miracles. ~Robert Brault

Mean Dog, Part 8

Why Not Wyatt?

by Terri Florentino

For the first few days, Whiskey seemed depressed. He never left my side and barely ate a thing. Time passed, he started eating again, explored a little, and romped around with Tulley. When people came to visit, he greeted them with his whole body, wiggling with delight. It turned out that Whiskey was a delightful character, full of adorable antics.

I decided that a new name might help him progress. Because he was such a clown, I’d nicknamed him “Cowboy,” but thought the new name should resemble the old. Wyatt Earp was a cowboy, so why not “Wyatt?” It didn’t take that cowboy long to learn his name, and after a trip to the vet for blood work, vaccinations, and neutering, he got a clean bill of health. I started training right away.

The worst thing about Wyatt was serious: he lifted his leg on everything in sight. My biggest fear was that neutering wouldn’t change it. If he couldn’t be housebroken, I probably couldn’t find him a loving family of his own.

I kept him on a leash indoors and gave him a firm “No!” each time I saw him sniff and lift. Fortunately, he was easily shamed. Basic obedience moved swiftly; he wanted very much to please me. He learned so fast that I soon looked for a permanent home for him. The longer it takes to find a home, the harder the transfer is for the dog—and for me. Sometimes, after I’d placed a rescue dog I’d had for a long time, my husband, Ed, caught me crying. “Self-induced misery,” he’d tease.

Wyatt was a lively, loving dog and needed a home where he could get plenty of exercise, perhaps with children and other animals for company and fun. He’d also need someone willing to keep training him. That got me considering Karen, Jim, and Morgan. Karen was a runner and wanted a running partner. Jim was an avid outdoorsman. They would train him. What cinched it, though, was seeing how Wyatt loved children. He was sure to put a smile back on little Morgan’s face.

I wrote them an email: “How are you since losing Raine? I know it must be hard. I’m writing to tell you about Wyatt.”

“We’re still grieving,” Karen wrote back. “Thank you for letting me know about Wyatt. I need to talk to Jim. I’ll be in touch.” The very next day she wrote to ask a few questions about Wyatt. I answered her and offered to bring him to meet her family. “We’d love that!” she dashed back.

Tulleygoingride (1)The following weekend Ed and I packed up the truck with our two black-and-white buddies, Tulley and Wyatt. We headed out for the two-hour ride to New Jersey. Both dogs got along well, but liked to have their own space. Wyatt jumped all the way into the third seat, and Tulley camped out in the middle. After a long, companionable ride, we passed a large farm that brought the scent of manure rolling through the windows, and Tulley began to whine and pace from window to window.

“We must be getting close,” Ed said. “He remembers.”

“It’s been four years,” I said. “He can’t possibly know where we are!” How could Tulley remember a place he’d only seen flash by a car window at fifty-five miles an hour?

Sure enough, Ed was right. A few minutes later, as we pulled into their driveway, Tulley wailed with joy. He flung himself from window to window scrabbling to get out of the truck. Karen, Jim, and Morgan heard us arrive and came out to meet us. When we opened the door for Tulley, he rocketed straight at Jim and Karen in glee, almost knocking them over. They threw their arms around him. The worst had been forgiven and forgotten, and all they remembered was love. As for Morgan, who had transformed from a baby to a four-year-old girl in his absence, she kept her distance. Tulley paid her no attention.

When it was time, Ed kept Tulley busy with a tennis ball while I got Wyatt out of the truck. Wyatt met them eagerly, all wiggles. Morgan giggled and patted her new friend. So far, so good. Greetings over, we put Tulley back into the truck and brought Wyatt into the house. I kept him on lead and walked him through the main area of the house, room to room. He sniffed everything and never even considered lifting his leg. Then, we let him run off-lead in the fenced yard while Morgan sat nearby on her swing set. He zigzagged every inch of the yard, nose down, and thankfully did his marking there. Every few moments, to Morgan’s delight, he’d check in with her for another wiggle and kiss. She began to swing on her swing and sing to herself, improvising a song about wiggly Wyatt. Karen and I exchanged glances and smiled. So charming, so peaceful, so perfect.

She and I stepped back into the house to speak privately, leaving the men to watch over Morgan and Wyatt. No sooner had the door closed behind me than Wyatt was jumping and yelping against it. When we returned to the yard, he leapt on me in joyful relief and planted himself beside me. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight.

Apparently, Wyatt had grown very happy to consider himself mine. Now Karen and I exchanged worried looks.

How could we help Wyatt feel happy to belong to them?

Mean Dog, Part 7


By Terri Florentino

“Will you rescue my dog?”

Through the phone, I could hear his voice crack.

“He’s a Border Collie mixed with English Shepherd,” Bill said. The dog was living outside part time and in a basement of a building he was helping renovate. “This is no life for my best pal,” he said, “but right now I don’t even have a home for myself. It would destroy both of us if I had to leave him at a shelter.” The dog would need basic training, neutering, and vaccines. He choked up again as he said, “But he’s absolutely wonderful.”

WyattAs I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a man who looked like Grizzly Adams standing with a handsome, densely coated, tri-colored dog calmly sniffing around the end of a leash. As Bill and I shook hands, the dog walked right up to me, tail wagging. I put out my hand to let him sniff, and he nudged it, inviting me to pet him. I chuckled at his forwardness. I massaged my fingers through the thick fur on his neck then behind his ears, gradually moving down his back, under his belly, and toward his paws and ears, making sure he was safe to handle. He didn’t care what I did—he loved the attention.

“Like I told you, he’s friendly,” Bill said, smiling proudly through his beard.

“He sure is!” I ruffled his neck and ears. “What’s his name?”

“Whiskey’s what I call him.” Bill got him as a puppy from a friend. “We’ve been inseparable ever since. Four years.” Bill warmed to the subject and reminisced about Whiskey’s mischievous puppy days, his awkward adolescence, his good-natured adulthood, and many happy adventures up until now. “Four of the best years with my best pal.” He reached down and scratched Whiskey on the chest, and Whiskey looked up with adoration.

“How does he do with other dogs?”

“I don’t know,” Bill said. “We don’t really run into them.”

“We’re in luck—I brought one of mine.” I’d brought Tulley—he’d always been good with other dogs. I got him out of my truck, and we walk around together, keeping a a distance. Tulley wiggled and lowered his head, and Whiskey barked and pulled on the leash as if he wanted to bound over and say hello. I was pleased to see no sign of aggression. I let Tulley lead me over for a three-second meet-and-greet–more wiggles, wags, and noses. If anything, Whiskey was almost too friendly; he bounced in the air and tried to wrap his front legs around Tulley’s neck. Tulley welcomed the play, but Bill and I had business.

“You were right,” I said after returning Tulley to my truck. “Whiskey’s a great dog. I can find him a forever home.”

“Thank you,” Bill said, and his whole body seemed to slump. “Thank you, so much,” he said, his voice now quivering with emotion. He knelt and pressed his face to Whiskey’s muzzle. “Be sure to let me know if there is anything he needs.” He squeezed his eyes closed, and I thought I saw tears on his lashes. “Let me know how he’s doing.”

“I will. And you can visit any time.”

While Bill loaded up my truck with the dog’s crate, food and favorite belongings, Tulley watched intently from his crate, and Whiskey became uneasy—pacing, panting, and jumping onto Bill, sensing his anxiety. Bill’s tears were falling frankly. Once all of Whiskey’s belongings were loaded into my vehicle, Bill bent down to say his final goodbye. He buried his face into the dog’s neck, no longer able to contain his emotion. He sobbed, inconsolable. “You’re my best pal, okay? My best pal ever. This is what’s best for my best pal.”

Mean Dog, Part 6

Looks Like ‘Raine,’

by Terri Florentino

I went straight into the house and called Karen. “I have a lovely little female Border Collie that I’d like you and your family to meet.”

“How exciting!” she said.

I gave her some details about Raine. “She loves children. She just lives for them. Can you come meet her this weekend?”

“That would be great!”

Jim, Karen, and Morgan came to meet Raine and visit with Tulley. Tulley had not seen them since the day they dropped him off at the farm. Ed and I were curious about how Tulley would react, but decided that time alone with Raine first was more important, so we put Tulley in a crate to wait his turn.

Raine and Morgan

Raine and Morgan

Sweet and gentle, Raine was not the type to jump all over and get too excited during an initial welcoming. We allowed her to wander freely as they came inside. Little Morgan, now three years old, huddled close to her parents as Jim and Karen bent down to greet Raine. Tenderly Raine approached, calm and welcoming. Once Morgan realized that she could touch Raine without the fear of being bitten, she relaxed. I took Raine through a sequence of obedience commands to show them what she could do. I also brought out some toys and treats so they could all have some fun together. They absolutely adored her, and she seemed content with them. As I suspected, she was most fond of their little girl.

Then we let Tulley out. He greeted Jim and Karen then grabbed a ball.

Karen’s eyes lit up. “He wants to play!”

Morgan stayed close to her parents, and Tulley paid no attention to her. All the while Raine stood quietly and watched Tulley playing with the toys and people. As we discussed the details about Raine, Tulley ran up to Ed and stood next to him. Out of habit, Ed reached down and pet him all over his body.

“You can touch him on his back end?” Jim asked with amazement. “Tulley would never allow anyone to touch his back end. If someone tried, he would’ve bitten them.”

Ed was taken aback. “Once he trusted me, I could touch him anywhere.”

We all watched Morgan stroking Raine, who wagged her tail and dipped her head, sweetly looking into Morgan’s face. “Well?” I said, grinning.

Jim and Karen looked at each other, beaming. “We’d love to take her home!”

Raine and Morgan passing happy years.

Years pass for Raine and Morgan

We agreed that there would be a trial period. We would keep in close contact. And so we did, there were frequent emails with updates. Most were of charming pictures, stories and updates about how well Raine was doing. They loved that Raine was a social butterfly; all of the neighbors quickly got to know and love her. The relationship between Raine and Morgan was all I’d hoped–they adored each other.

A couple of years passed, all was well, and we kept in touch with the occasional email, pictures, and Christmas card exchange. Karen remembered Tulley’s birthday every year and sent him a toy through the mail.

One day Karen phoned, crying so severely I could hardly understand what she was saying. “Raine ran out into the road, right in front of a car.”

I could hardly breathe. “Tell me she’s at the hospital. Tell me she’s going to be okay.”

Karen wept. “She didn’t make it.”

There was a long pause. I was speechless; my lips quivered, my eyes streamed. I took a deep breath. “How are Jim and Morgan?”

“She doesn’t go down to the road. She stays with us. It was a teenager, a new driver, but that shouldn’t matter because she never goes down to the road. Never!” Karen stopped crying, as if it simply couldn’t have happened. It couldn’t be true; it must not be true. “She never goes down to the road. We have so little traffic here. So few cars, ever. And she never goes down to the road. She wants to be with us. She stays close to us.” Her voice began to break again. “It was dark. The kid said he didn’t see her. Oh, Terri! This is my worst nightmare!” She began to cry again. We both did.

Karen and I spent a very long time on the phone consoling one another. When we finally hung up, we promised to keep in close touch. I put down the receiver, buried my head in my hands, and sobbed until I had no more tears.

Morgan drew this picture and said, “Raine is sad because she misses us.”

Morgan's drawing "Raine in Heaven with God and a hairbrush"

Morgan’s drawing, “Raine in Heaven with a Tick, a Hairbrush to Remove the Tick, and God, Who Will Take Care of Her Now”

Mean Dog, Part 5

Tulley Finds a Home

By Terri Florentino


Tulley plays fetch with a young friend.

We were delighted with Tulley’s progress. We played the “touch and treat” game with as many people as possible and took him to a weekly agility class, where he moved, joyful and carefree, through the equipment, one obstacle at a time. He enjoyed inviting people to play fetch. Fetch allowed Tulley to work his “comfort zone.” Playing fetch seemed to be the only way Tulley was comfortable with children. I knew, if a child were to run up and touch him, he would have bitten him.

I called Tulley’s owner, Karen. “I’m pleased to tell you that he’s better-behaved with adult strangers.”

“How about children?” Karen said. Their daughter had already sustained one serious bite wound—they could not let it happen again.

“Well, he’s still uneasy with children when they come close, but he will play fetch with them.”

“Will we ever be able to completely trust him with our daughter?”

What could never be.

What could never be again.

“I wish I could make you that promise, Karen, but I can’t.”

“Ever?” Her voice quavered.

“I want more than anything to make you that promise, but I’d be remiss in giving you that guarantee.”

Karen sobbed as she spoke. “I understand. I’ll talk to my husband and let you know if we’d like you to continue the training.”

I hung up the phone, my heart heavy.

A few days later, Karen called. “What happens to Tulley if we can’t take him back? We couldn’t stand for anything bad to happen to him.”

“I’ll try to place him in a home without young children.”

She started to cry, this time so hard that her husband Jim took the phone from her. “If you’re absolutely sure that you can’t make him safe for our daughter, we’d like you to find him a new home.” Even Jim could barely speak the words.

When my husband got home later that day, we discussed Tulley’s fate. Ed agreed Karen and Jim were making the right choice. I told him I was afraid Tulley would lose ground during a re-homing process. “But the longer he stays with us, the more bonded he is. That’s going to make the transfer into a new home even more difficult.”

Ed sighed. “I don’t know, Terri.” He gazed at Tulley, who sat panting and watching us as if he knew we were talking about him. “We’ve always felt a kind of kindred spirit with Tulley, haven’t we?”

I smiled. Tulley had shown an immediate fondness for Ed. “You know,” I said, “Tulley chose you to be his person.”

Tulley and his "Forever Friend," Ed

Tulley and his chosen person, Ed

I called Karen. “Ed and I decided that Tulley will stay with us.”

“Really, you’ll keep him? I’m so happy!”

“Yes”, I said, “Ed and I have gotten very fond of him, and we’re concerned that he’d lose ground if he were re-homed.”

“I can’t thank you enough.”

“To tell you the truth, we’re thrilled to have him,” I said. “But will you do one thing for me?”


“Will you let me find the perfect dog for your family?”

“Yes, please,” she said, laughing. “Nothing would make us happier.”

It came to pass that a sweet, two-year-old female Border Collie named Raine entered our lives.

Raine’s previous family had acquired her from me as a puppy. All new families make me a promise that if for any reason during the lifetime of their dogs they can no longer keep them, they must return them to me. My kids are always welcome to come back home, regardless of the circumstances.

Raine’s family, due to personal issues, could no longer keep her, but they were a nice family with a few young children whom Raine adored. The day the family brought her back to me, I will never forget. Three very young children embraced Raine while tears poured from their eyes and ran down their soft little cheeks. Raine stayed close, obviously sensing their sadness, licking their tears away as quickly as she could. As she watched them load into their vehicle, she became slightly frantic, sensing that separation from “her pack” was imminent. She paced, whined, and pulled on the leash as they drove away, leaving her behind.

It took Raine time to come out of her depression. Eventually settled into our day-to-day, however, she always seemed to harbor an underlying sadness. One particular day Raine was out in the front with my husband while he was doing some yard work. She was so mindful and well behaved that she would never leave the property, but this day, Ed called to me, “Terri! Have you seen Raine?”

I looked but didn’t see her anywhere. Then, a few houses away, I heard children’s laughter. “I think I know where I’ll find Raine.” I followed the sound of the children’s play. There amongst many young children sat Raine. She was the happiest I’d seen her since she lost her previous family.

Right then and there, I knew what I had to do. I left her playing with the children and went to make a phone call.

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!”

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?