Tag Archives: stockdogs

Tulley and Life’s Precious Moments – Living with Lymphoma

TULLEY and LIFE’S PRECIOUS MOMENTS

Tulley’s had a busy month. Our goal has always been to make sure that his good quality of life never wavers. We were thrilled when his most recent bloodwork was perfect. He was far from anemic so we decided to administer another round of chemo. As before a few days post chemo he had a couple days of feeling nauseous so we administered antiemetic medication, which helped. The days that he was inappetent I would mix meat flavored baby food with liquid Pediasure and feed him through an oral syringe. He never minded the shake; in fact I think he enjoyed it. We did find a brand of food and treats made by Orijen that he really likes so the cupboard is well stocked.

It was the last weekend in October when Tulley escorted Ed, Mirk, and me to Maryland for a sheepherding competition. We packed up the truck first thing in the morning and got on our way. We anticipated about a 4 hour drive and wanted to be south of the DC area before the evening rush hour. Other than the usual traffic delays the trip was pleasantly uneventful. As we neared our location and drove over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge it was a pleasure watching both dogs window surfing while taking in the ocean air. Tulley8

Our hotel was located in an area known as Kent Narrows. The Narrows channel barely separates Kent Island from the mainland. The region is rich with history, beautiful nature preserves and spectacular restaurants. We arrived late afternoon and checked into our room. Once the dogs were walked and the truck unloaded we headed across the street from our hotel to admire the beautiful water view and have a nice seafood dinner.

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The following morning we were up and out early, Mirk and I were entered to compete twice. The weather was fair, there was a little chill in the air in the morning but by the afternoon the sun came out so brilliant and warm. The trial was held at the beautiful Long Shot Farm in Church Hill, hosted by Sherry and Dave Smith. Sherry made a beef stew for lunch which was absolutely delicious, so much so that Tulley decided that was what he wanted to eat. I was so relieved that we finally found something that Tulley really enjoyed and ate readily. Mirk and I finished up our runs, both respectable runs but not good enough to finish in the ribbons. I wasn’t disappointed, Mirk did a great job. Tulley6

Truthfully I felt like we had already won when Tulley ravenously ate so much of Sherry’s stew. As we were packing and getting ready to go, we went to say goodbye to everyone and thank Sherry and Dave for their hospitality. Sherry handed me a large container full of the stew for Tulley.  Her kind gesture meant so much more than she could ever imagine, I couldn’t thank her enough. We headed back to our hotel to get some rest; we’d be heading home in the morning.

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I take Tulley to work with me as often as I can; he loves riding in the truck. There are always plenty of people wanting to feed him. Barb always makes sure she has lots of beef treats for him every time she walks into my office. On occasion Dr. Lagana will return from her lunch with a yummy cheeseburger and the bank drive-thru always keeps an adequate supply of biscuits on hand. He really enjoys being outside, getting some fresh air and playing a game of fetch. There are never a shortage of other dogs to play with and a fenced yard at the hospital so we go out as often as my time permits.  The hospital cats are also a form of amusement to Tulley; he’ll chase them whenever the opportunity presents itself. Of course I make every effort to deter that behavior.EchoTulley

Recently a package arrived in the mail for Tulley and he was thrilled—it was like Christmas morning! As I put the box on the floor Tulley hovered over it with anticipation. As I tore back the packaging tape and opened the top he promptly stuck his head into the box and promptly rooted through each item removing the contents one by one.  In the midst of his rummaging he found an awesome squeaky sock monkey, pulled it out of the box and promptly took off running into the living room, squeaking it all the while. We can’t thank Karen, Jim, Morgan and Wyatt enough for making Tulley’s day and ours as well. We cherish every moment.

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The weather this fall has been beautiful. Tulley enjoys spending the nice days outside with Ed while he clears the leaves, stacks wood, and prepares for winter. We delight in watching Tulley so carefree, jumping in a pile of leaves and bouncing around like a rabbit. He’s also always on guard making sure that the local herd deer stay off of his yard. Echo’s always nearby as well; she and Tulley are nearly inseparable. They truly are the, “cutest couple,”Tulley5

So for now we’ll continue to take it day by day and make sure that Tulley is enjoying each and every moment.

Dangerous Chase, Part 6

Our Lovable Little Bother

By Terri Florentino

Chase, Part 6

The Remarkable Journey

ChaseDebbieFast-forward to now.  Five years have passed since Debbie, Sam, Chase and I made this deal: give our training three months. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll rescue him. Needless to say, Chase has a permanent and loving home! I’m so proud of their accomplishments.

Debbie has also gone beyond my training and taught Chase many playful and clever tricks; she was always diligent in making sure she kept the learning process fun. I was so impressed with their tricks that I invited her to teach a Tricks Workshop at the training center. It’s a great success; the students enjoy the amusing and interactive activities with their dogs. Watch Chase’s video on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5XmqxNqFaE&feature=youtu.be.

Chase will always be a work in progress. When Debbie and Sam leave the house, Chase must go to his room. There he finds a yummy interactive toy that keeps his mind occupied for a short while. Now Debbie and Sam can go out the door without Chase jumping and biting at them.

When it comes to interacting with other dogs, he’s still no social butterfly. In fact, Debbie knows that bringing another dog home is not an option. Chase does fine with my dogs so we get together as often as we can. Their interaction isn’t the tumble and play, but rather a coexisting in the same space, running and chasing a ball or swimming in the lake. They have a mutual understanding and know the no-fighting rule. It’s my job to enforce it, so when I suspect one of the dogs is getting a little too pushy, I remind them, “Get out of it!”ChasewithDogs

When company comes to Debbie’s home, depending on who’s coming to visit and how long they’re staying, she handles Chase differently. Chase is comfortable with older children and adults that he is familiar with. Very young children and infants make him uneasy. Their quick, unpredictable movements, loud high-pitched voices, and crying make him anxious. If the young children stay just for an afternoon, Debbie can manage Chase at the house by keeping him with her on a leash, giving him an occasional time out in his room, and making sure he gets outside often to exercise. When they have out-of-state visitors stay at their home they take Chase to a boarding kennel at the training center. Chase knows the facility very well and does fine with his stay.

The Gentle Leader is a mainstay for walking, because keeping control of Chase’s head and mouth is essential. If he happens to see a squirrel, for instance, he’ll lunge and bark. The Gentle Leader keeps him from pulling Debbie down to the ground. Also, for no obvious reason, he’s not comfortable with certain people. He might grab and bite them. Again the Gentle Leader affords Debbie the head control to keep him from endangering others, and therefore himself.

When it’s time to exercise outside Debbie puts a collar on Chase and secures it to a 30” long line. Chase can never be trusted off-lead unless in a fenced area. While outside on the long line Chase gets to explore, play fetch, practice recall and run. If while on the long lead he encounters a wild animal or a neighbor that makes him uneasy, Debbie can use the, “Leave It” and “Come here” commands. Fortunately Chase is food-motivated and knows that if he immediately returns to Debbie he’ll be rewarded with a mouth-watering treat.

Debbie keeps a crate in her car for travel. Chase jumps right in and lies down quietly. If not for the crate, Debbie would never be able to safely exit her vehicle. Chase gets far too anxious when she or anyone else tries to get out of the car and walk away. He barks, bites, and grabs the clothing of whoever tries to leave the vehicle without him. So as you see, for the obvious reasons, it’s safer for all parties involved that Chase rides in a crate.

His separation anxiety, for the most part, is under control. He no longer redecorates the walls, baseboards, and floors with frantic claw marks. A person leaving the home is still a little bit of an issue, so Sam and Debbie are diligent with the down/stay exercise. Chase is not released from the position until the person has exited the house and driven away.

All in all Chase is a nurturing, sensitive, affectionate, and lovable dog. Even Debbie’s Mom isn’t afraid of him anymore. She brings him a toy every time she comes to visit. He’s so intelligent that you need to spell certain words in front of him, such as “walk,” “ride,” “lake,” “out,” and “training.” He also knows certain ChaseSamDebbietoys by name, like “monster,” “football, “Santa, and “tumbler.”

Chase, has become my buddy. Sometime I look at him and say, “There’s my adorable little bother,” and he wiggles so hard he keels over and shows me his tummy. Debbie and I have also become great friends, a relationship I value very much.

I’m thankful to be a part of this remarkable journey.

In closing Debbie wanted to share her thoughts:

For how frightened I was of Chase, something told me I had to help him. I’m not sure if it was the fear of losing a dog all over again that tugged at my heart, but that was part of it. I think I just knew that if given time and with the right direction we would make it.  Chase has taught me so much. I have become a more patient person, I’m more relaxed and learn to be proactive rather than reactive when Chase acts out. Terri has been a godsend for Chase and me. She is so compassionate about animals as well as the people that care for them. If I hadn’t made that call to her, I really don’t know where Chase or even I would be today.  Would his next adopter have done the same for him, or would he have just been put down? Would I have adopted another dog, or just given up?
Terri has inspired me to become a trainer and to help people the way she helped us. Chase has come a long way in the last five years, and even though he still has his moments, I can say that I am equipped to handle them. Occasionally I still get a little frightened so I stop take a deep breath and move forward. Chase has turned into a loving companion and we are forever grateful to Terri, her family, and her pack for helping us get where we are today!  And as a bonus, we have forged a long lasting friendship!
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Debbie, Sam, and Chase.

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.

Roger Caras

Dangerous Chase, Part 5

GOING TO COURT

by Terri Florentino

courthouseCourthouse Square is always a great place to train and socialize dogs. It’s a bonus that there’s a lot of green area to spread out for basic obedience exercises and a fairly level sidewalk to practice heel positions. There’s never a lack of people, adults and children alike, sitting on park benches, strolling along pushing babies in coaches, skateboarding, jogging, and even walking their own dogs. The water fountains spout and splash water onto anyone that dares stand near enough, and there are various statues of heads of state strategically placed throughout the square. There is the usual hustle and bustle of traffic and the sounds of beeping horns, emergency vehicle sirens screaming as they speed past, screeching breaks, and the occasional rusted-out muffler growling as an old car passes by. There’s also the occasional beep-beep sound from the traffic light that signals when it’s safe to cross the street.

As always, I arrive a few minutes early. The class and I meet underneath the statue of George Washington. It was a beautiful day, warm enough that the thought of spending most of the class by the fountain crossed my mind. As the students arrived, we all engaged in small talk as we waited for the remainder of the students. As we were chatting about our week, I observed a young man on a skateboard pass by. At the same time I heard a shriek to my right and noticed Debbie bent over with her hand on her calf as she was reaching out to give Chase’s leash to her husband Sam.

“Are you OK?” I called out as I hurried towards her.

img_5168“He bit me! As the skateboarder passed us, Chase got so excited he turned and bit me on the leg!”

“How badly did he hurt you?” Deb pulled up her pant leg to assess the bite wound. “It’s a pretty good bite, but barely bleeding, I’ll be OK,” she said, obviously frustrated.

“You’ll need to be more aware of your surroundings and what might stimulate an overreaction from Chase. Next time the skateboarder comes by put Chase in a down/stay position and don’t let him up until the skateboarder’s out of sight. No doubt he’ll come around again, so be prepared. In the meantime let me take Chase for a few minutes while you calm down.” I took the leash from Sam so he and Debbie could take a few minutes to settle down.

img_5144Once all of the class arrived I announced that we were going to start with our walking exercise. “Let’s stay in a straight line, keep a reasonable distance behind the dog/handler team in front of you and rehearse a heel position while we walk. Are your dogs sitting politely on our left side? Remember to use your lead leg. Let’s go. Heel.” In a single file line we walked around the square, everyone promoting a good heel position even amongst all of the distractions. I purposely had Chase and Debbie walk at the end of the line to allow enough distance between Chase and the next dog. After a short while walking Chase, lunged at the Schnauzer in front of him.

“Leave it,” Debbie insisted with a firm voice, at the same time walking off with Chase in the opposite direction in order to relieve the pressure. Once Chase settled she fell back into line.

“Nice work, Deb,” I encouraged her to keep up the good work.

Once we arrived at a large green area, I had the class stop and take a break. “Great job with the heel positions! Get yourselves and your dogs some water and relax for a few minutes.” I sat down with my own bottle of water and admired all of the students enjoying their dogs.

img_5142“What we’ll do next, right here in the green area, is practice the sit/stay and down/stay exercises. I’ll just have everyone spread out into a long line facing me. Put your dogs in a sit and stay on your left side, instruct your dogs to “stay,” and pivot in front of them. When we release them from the stay, remember to use the release word, ‘OK’.” We continued with these exercises for a few times, having the dogs sit or down while learning to stay. Debbie and Chase did very well; she was starting to recognize his comfort zone.

“The final exercise for the day will be at the water fountain, it’s always a lot of fun for the dogs that like water.” In a single file line with adequate spacing between each student we made our way around the block to the fountain. The water fountain is ground level, easy for the dogs to have access to walk on. One by one in a heel position the dog/handler teams made their way back and forth by the fountain. Most of the dogs didn’t mind the spray from the water, those that did stayed further away. As Debbie and Chase waited their turn in line Chase snarled, growled, and lunged at a keeshond that was standing in front of him. The keeshond immediately turned around and snarled back defensively. Debbie immediately removed Chase from the line while the owner of the keeshond settled him down just in time to go ‘play’ in the water.

img_5155Deb walked far away from the group; I could tell she was upset. I finished up with the rest of the class. We discussed where we were going to meet the following week. “Congratulations, you’re all doing a fantastic job with this class; I’m looking forward to seeing all of you next week.” Once the students started to walk away I made my way to Debbie and Chase. By now Debbie was in tears.

“This was a terrible day,” she sobbed.

“You did a very good job today. Each time Chase overreacted, you handled him perfectly. There were even a few times that he didn’t react at all. You’re not going to magically make his reactiveness go away overnight. He’s learning from you that his responses are inappropriate, and you’re working very hard at promoting appropriate interaction. Go home, give Chase his favorite learning game and relax, you’re doing fine.”

“Some days I think we’re really coming along, and then days like today I feel like we’ve made no progress at all,” Debbie sighed.

“Keep at it, Deb. I assure you he’ll come around. Sometimes it gets harder before it gets easier.”

img_5156I bent down to Chase, who immediately rolled over onto his back. “You’re alright, Chase. Be a good boy for Debbie this week.” I gave have him pat on his belly, he wagged his tail, and we stood up and walked together back to our vehicles. “Keep your chin up, Deb. I’ll see you next week.”

As I watched them go, my biggest fear was that Chase might bite Debbie or Sam –or someone else–so severely that they’d give up on him. And then what would become of Chase?

I Like Chase Very Much

By Terri Florentino

Debbie and Chase

Debbie and Chase

The next time we met, Debbie and Chase came to the training center. I scheduled our meeting before the start of classes so I could evaluate Chase with my own dogs.

“Are you sure you want Chase with your dogs?” Debbie asked.

“I trust my dogs,” I said. “They’ll follow my lead. They trust me too and know I’ll keep them safe.” I took the leash from Debbie. “I’m going to keep the leash on Chase, and, since you’re so nervous, I want you to stay inside and watch from the window.” Chase would sense her anxiety and that alone could promote an inappropriate response.

I do the meet-and-greets in a large fenced area. I had let my dogs out to the area first to run around. I had six of them at the time: Tulley, Echo, Scout, Meg, Deja, and Wyn. With Chase on lead, I walked around with him, allowing him to move as freely as the six-foot lead would offer so he could relax. I said little. There was enough conversation in body language among the dogs. As soon as I was confident that Chase was not going to dart after and attack my dogs, I dropped the leash. I stayed by, just in case he lunged or behaved aggressively.

As I suspected, at first my dogs ignored Chase, and he did the same. After a short while Tulley, the social butterfly of the pack, approached Chase. (Ironically enough, when I rescued Tulley it was said that he would never be good with other dogs.) Tulley’s tail was up and wagging, his interaction welcoming. Chase lowered his head, flattened his ears, tucked his tail under, and diverted his gaze, signaling he was not a threat. Tulley read his body language and adjusted his approach accordingly. After the initial greeting went well, one by one my other dogs went up to Chase to say hello. The females were less impressed as he was a bit of a flirt. In fact, when the females corrected his obnoxious behavior he politely deferred to them. Overall, I felt the interaction with Chase and my pack went well.

Once the dogs settled down, I invited Debbie into the yard. As soon as she stepped outside, all of my dogs ran to greet her. Chase immediately ran between my dogs and Debbie and didn’t want any of them near her. As soon as Chase started to growl at my dogs Debbie retreated. I stepped in, took a hold of Chase’s leash and removed him bodily from the group.

Once Debbie, Chase, and I were safely indoors away from my pack, I explained the problem. “Chase was resource-guarding you, Deb. You retreated. You empowered him to continue. Chase needs to know that you’re in control of the situation, not the other way around.”

She nodded soberly. Chase was panting from the excitement. Every time he heard a noise from outside, he pulled for the door, eager to throw himself back into action.

“First you’ll need to earn his trust and respect,” I said. “This of course will come with training. Not to worry. If you’re up to the task, I’ll get the two of you on the same page.”

“I’m up for it. In fact I’m looking forward to it,” she said.

When I asked how the appointment went with the veterinarian, she said, “He put him on Prozac.” She’d already noticed that Chase seemed more relaxed when left alone in the house. “And he’s not nearly as reactive when he sees my neighbors or a squirrel.”

“Great! Now we have a window to redirect his overreactions.”

Chase and his classmates.

Chase and his classmates.

The other students and their dogs were arriving. We had a few minutes before class would start. To prevent Chase from lunging at the incoming students, I had Debbie practice focus and body-blocking exercises. Fortunately, with a really yummy treat, Chase’s food drive was nearly equal to his defense drive. “Nearly,” however, wasn’t good enough. A couple of times he lunged and snarled at other dogs. It was scary not only for Debbie but the other people and their dogs as well.

“Chase isn’t being fair,” I said. “Let’s try a Gentle Leader head halter so you have more control of his head and mouth.” We fitted him for the Gentle Leader, and class began. The halter worked wonders–Chase’s behavior was more manageable for the rest of the class.

Chase wears his Gentle Leader.

Chase wears his Gentle Leader.

When class was over and the others had left, Deb and I had one more follow-up. “I’m relieved that the combination of the Prozac and the Gentle Leader gives you more control, but Chase still needs to listen to you and stop acting on his own.” I urged her to continue with the obedience techniques we’d been working on. “Be consistent. Follow through. As the two of you master each technique, I’ll add more to your repertoire,” I said. “Experienced handlers can never have enough tricks in their bags.”

Chase was panting softly by Debbie’s side. I knelt before him, and he wriggled and wagged for me. I stroked his shoulders. “I like Chase very much,” I said, and stood back up.

Relief and gratitude swept over Deb’s face.

“He’s a very smart dog,” I said, smiling at Chase. When he caught me looking, his tail swished. “He just needs guidance. Be kind. Earn his trust and respect. Make learning fun, and eventually you’ll have a devoted companion.”

Debbie hugged me, and when she let go, I saw that tears rolled down her cheeks. “I will! I promise. I know there’s a good dog in there.”

“Don’t forget—call me immediately if you have any problems or questions.” We hugged again, and I watched as they made their way to Deb’s truck. She spoke to him, her speech calm and happy. I wondered what the week would hold for them. “Don’t forget—same time next week!” I called.

“Can’t wait!” Deb said.

Thank you, Santa

It’s perfect.

P1050780

Dangerous Chase, Part 2

“Who Saved Whom?”

by Terri Florentino

photo 5

Chase was home for the holidays.

We moved into the living room, which was decorated for the holidays with lots of cheerful color. I asked Debbie to describe how she was handling Chase’s separation anxiety. I wanted to understand what might be behind the clawed-up walls and doors. Why was he going berserk, panicking as if his life were at stake when she left him alone?

“I started by sending Chase to ‘his room’ for short periods of time while I was home.” As she spoke, Debbie gazed at Chase, who was lying on the other side of the living room, head on paws, listening. “Then I’d leave the house just briefly. I never made a big deal about coming and going. I made sure that he had a lot of yummy learning game toys placed around the room.”

Those were fantastic strategies, but for some reason, Chase couldn’t get calm enough to let them work. “Chase is obviously a very smart dog,” I said. Chase’s gaze shifted to me, and he raised one eyebrow. I smiled at him. He looked away. “In time, he’ll be able to exercise self-control. Maybe he needs a consistent and stable routine.” I suspect that his anxiety was brought on by the prior instability in his life. I suggested that Debbie talk to her veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication—just while Chase was adjusting to his new lifestyle. In conjunction with the medication positive, motivational training would be very important. Teamwork, exercise, and clear direction would help him feel more secure. “Tell me about the incident that prompted Chase to bite you and your husband. “

Chase and Sam

Chase and Sam

Debbie’s shoulders slumped, and she turned to me sadly. “Which one?”

“Wow. Okay, tell me about the times that he has bitten both of you.”

Chase sighed and closed his eyes as if he were tired of hearing these stories.

“All the time. He bites all the time. It’s nearly impossible to get out the door without him biting the backs of our legs. Just to get out of the house we have to send him to his room.”

“Ah, okay.” I was beginning to see that poor Chase carried a lot of fear in his heart. He lived in panic mode. I was even more certain he could use the help of the veterinarian and a lot of structure and positive reinforcement. “I’ll tell you what, I want you to keep Chase on a leash while in the house. This way you’ll have more control over him when he acts out.”

Chase lunged and barked like mad at any intruder, even squirrels.

Chase lunged and barked like mad at any intruder, even squirrels.

“Great idea, I never thought of that.” Debbie said that Chase would bark and act out whenever sees the neighbors or any other wild vermin, especially squirrels. “As if the barking and lunging wasn’t bad enough, whenever we try to put a stop to his madness, he just redirect his frustration onto us. He grabs our clothes, shakes his head, and growls. I’ve lost count of how many shirts, jackets, and pants he’s torn.” She added,  “No matter how I yell and scream, he doesn’t listen!”

Just hearing the frustration and anxiety in her voice, Chase sat up, his brow puckered in worry.

“I can appreciate your frustration,” I said calmly. “However, no more yelling, okay? I believe the yelling and screaming is making him more nervous.”

Debbie and Chase each sat watching each other across the room with worried eyes. Debbie had already gotten so frightened and fed up that she’d left him at the shelter. But love had brought her here and brought Chase home. I had to find a way to help them.

“I’ve got something for you that really might help,” I said. “One command. With a firm tone of voice, I want you to instruct Chase to ‘Leave it!” We put Chase on a leash, and I taught Debbie and Chase the ‘Leave it’ command and watched them practice. I didn’t want Chase to think that he’d have the option to ‘Take’ the item that she had instructed him to ‘Leave’, not ever. Down the road, on occasion, with other training techniques, there might come an opportunity for Chase to ‘Take it.’ For now, no, and it should never follow the ‘Leave it’ command. “‘Leave it’ means ‘Leave it,’” I said. “Chase needs to understand that you mean what you say. He needs these limits.” His life depended on it.

“The worst is how Chase resource-guards me,” Debbie said. We stood in the middle of the living room. Chase had walked to the end of his leash, ears pricked toward the window, ready to go into red alert should a squirrel appear. “If Sam tries to sit next to me on the couch Chase jumps between us and grabs and bites Sam’s arm. If I try to push him away, he snarls and growls at me. This has got to stop!”

Chase must never even get the opportunity to behave that way. Next, I taught Debbie and Chase the command ‘Off.” Chase would be on a leash indoors, and when Debbie sat on the couch, she would make Chase lie on the floor by her feet in a ‘Down’ and ‘Stay’ command. “Feel free to give him one of his learning game toys filled with goodies to keep him occupied while he’s lying on the floor by your feet,” I said. “This should be pleasant and peaceful. It’s not punishment, it’s redirection and prevention.”

“Also, a tired dog is a good dog.” We discussed the importance of exercise. “Basic obedience is also extremely important. I’ll show you how to make learning fun.”

“I can’t wait,” Debbie said, raising the pitch of her voice and leaning forward. “What do you think, Chase? Can we enjoy each other?”

Chase’s tail swished.

“The holidays are coming.” Debbie stood straight with a look of fright. “What should I do with Chase when we have company?”

Gianna and Chase

Gianna and Chase

“How is he with new people?” I asked.

“He picks and chooses whom he wants to be friendly with, but he loves my niece Gianna.”

“Your guests can help Chase learn appropriate social skills.” I explained she should keep him on a leash and make use of treats and toys to promote suitable interaction. “When you want to relax, put Chase away in his room and reward him with a delectable learning game toy. Don’t set him up to fail, be pro-active rather than re-active.”

“Chase is nothing like my other dog, Toby,” Debbie sighed.

“We’re all guilty of training our last dog.” I said.

“I’ll never get over how Toby died.” Debbie led me back to the couch. She put Chase in a down-stay by her feet.

“What happened to Toby?”

“We had just come home from vacation, and I was getting ready to leave the house when the phone rang. It was the owner of the kennel. Toby had died that morning. He was found in the kennel. No one knew what happened. I remember hanging up the phone, burying my face in my hands, falling to my knees, and weeping uncontrollably. Even though Toby loved going to the kennel I will never forgive myself for not being there for him.” She stroked Chase’s head. He closed his eyes. “I’ll tell you by the time I adopted Chase from the shelter, I needed him as much as he needed me.”

“I’m so sorry for your pain Deb. It wasn’t your fault.” I told her her comment about needing Chase made me think of a commonly used slogan for rescued dogs, ‘Who Saved Whom.’”

“I like it,” she said.

We smiled at each other.

“Isn’t it charming?” I said. “But especially for a dog like Chase—he needs you more than you need him. He needs you to help him with his fears and his shortcomings.”

There was hope for Chase this holiday.

Maybe there was hope for Chase this holiday.

“I understand. I’ll work very hard to become the person that Chase needs me to be.”

“I know you will. We’ll reconvene after the holiday. In the meantime I’m here for you and Chase. Call me anytime.” We embraced, wished one another a Happy Holiday. Before I turned to go, I bent down to Chase. When his eyes met mine, he sat up and gave me his paw. I grinned and gave him a pat. “Be the good pup I know you can be. Santa’s watching.”

 

Wee, Part 4

My One and Only Online Crush

by Wendy Drake

Wendy had a lot of work to do.

The thousand letters.

And what an adventure Wee and I have had in our year together here in Colorado. I never would have believed it. Writing a book about unfolding 1,000 letters I bought at an estate sale in 1997 led to the joy of waking up every day to a black ball of fur demanding massages and kisses before he will get out his queen-sized bed. Guests sleep on the couch. Yes. Border collies are the smartest dogs on the planet.

In the Fall of 2012, I was deep into research for my book, Running to Thousand Letters. In 1997, on an impulse I’d bought 1,000 letters at Louise Palmer’s estate sale. Louise’s love of piano (it was her vocation) had triggered one of the many side-paths I indulged as I began unfolding these letters. The one I was following when I committed to adopt Wee was learning about my paternal Grandfather, Charles, a self-described amateur pianist who lived in Cooperstown, New York, less than a two-hour drive from Terri.

I’d also just begun training again for long distance running in the foothills of the

Wendy on the trails.

Wendy on the trails.

Rocky Mountains here in Boulder, Colorado, my home. For me there is nothing more fulfilling than a day on the trails. I didn’t start out being an endurance runner. I just wanted to be in the mountains, climbing to the top, looking off in the distance toward another end that is really just another beginning, and exploring new paths.

Even the trails couldn’t fulfill me entirely though. Something was missing. It had been almost two years since my seventeen-year-old fur-child, Sadie, died. She is a soul who will never leave me, the partner who lived longer than she should have, and one of a few beings who stops my heart because she left. I wondered if I could ever offer the love I had for her again.

Wendy and Sadie

Wendy and Sadie

It had been seven years since Freeway died in 1995. Freeway had been a border collie, so I had a good idea of how much exercise and how many tennis balls his breed would require. Among the most intelligent dogs, border collies learn quickly and it’s important to constantly keep their minds busy with new games to avoid spontaneously exploding couches.

I’d planned to adopt two thinking they could keep each other busy. Mostly though, I wanted dogs that would match my energy. They had to be able to run the thirty to forty miles a week on average (sometimes as many as fifty to sixty during peak weeks) I ran training for long distance endurance runs. They also had to have an “off” button and settle down when I sat down to write for four to six hours a day.

Sometimes plans are pointless.

I intended to adopt two- to three-year-old dogs and had seen what seemed like every single available border collie rescue in the prior six months.  So had all my Facebook friends. One, Brenda, connected me to Terri in Pennsylvania.

I wavered a bit about traveling to adopt a dog; there are plenty of high-energy dogs at home in Colorado. Freeway had been a rescue; Sadie a Humane Society girl. Occasionally the Humane Society advertised a border collie too, but in months of looking I hadn’t seen two in time to adopt them.

“Would you be interested in my Wee pup?” Terri had asked.

"A puppy couldn’t run long distance for about a year."

“A puppy couldn’t run long distance for about a year.”

I did a double-take. What? A puppy? I was looking for grown dog, preferably two, who could run with me . . . now. I had organized marathon distance training into my weekends and had committed to my first 100k (sixty-two miles) in May 2013. A puppy couldn’t run long distance for about a year and this one, I learned, might have special needs.

Had I remembered how time-consuming the first months of a puppy’s training can be, I would have declined. Sadie had arrived home about the same age as Wee, eleven weeks, in 1994. She ate several of my favorite shoes; not both shoes, just one of many pairs. She gnawed on baseboards whose repair was de-prioritized for years. Once, I’d left her in her crate while I was out because I’d read it was the right thing to do. Sadie would allegedly love it, and if I put something that smelled like me with her, her separation anxiety, which was intense, would be abated.

Sadie hated the crate. I picked an object that had eight hours a day of my smell to leave with her: my favorite feather pillow. Her crate was super-sized anticipating her growth into the seventy-five pounds she became. The feather pillow fit perfectly in the floor space. When I left, Sadie was curled up on it. When I returned home all I could see was her snout poking through the wire door, feathers billowing out like a wild ticker tape parade in my dining room. She never went in the crate again.

Future long-distance runner?

Future long-distance runner?

When I saw Wee’s pictures, none of Sadie’s puppy years upstaged his adorableness. He captured my heart, and I fell in love, my one and only online crush.

If I hadn’t pulled up a Google map of Terri’s location, I doubt I would have committed to her offer. When I realized she was within a two-hour drive of Cooperstown, New York, and other unlikely connections to the my research triggered from the letters fell into place, it seemed destiny that I would adopt him.

Terri and agreed I’d pick the Wee pup up during the first week of November just after my first long race since my injuries – the Moab Trail Marathon in Utah.

Click to buy!

Click to buy!

I had a few weeks to puppy-proof the house. Friends let me borrow crates for the car, bedroom, and my home office. I unboxed dog bowls, food containers, and dog gates. I bought puppy supplies for the inevitable accidents. I downloaded the latest puppy books and worried about not having time to read them cover to cover reminding myself how to be an awesome dog mom again with all the current methods ready to go. By November seventh, two days after finishing the marathon, I continued along the path of distraction trusting my intuition but having no idea what connection existed between Cooperstown, Wee and the letters . . .

Wendy Drake is a writer and an adventurous endurance athlete, a 20+ year veteran of the computing industry, and Chief Human to Scout, a border collie online when his human isn’t hogging the computer. (Facebook.com/explorerscout)

Originally from southern Ohio’s Appalachian foothills and now based in Boulder, Colorado, Drake holds an undergraduate degree in economics with honors in the liberal arts and an MBA from The Ohio State University. Running to Thousand Letters is the first in a series about what happens when she opens 1,000 letters bought at an estate sale in 1997.