A Thinking Dog (part 1)

I believe you all have been introduced to my housemate, Dino.  Well, he may be considered the family sweetheart (aka, the easy dog, the people pleaser, etc) but I take credit for being the brains behind this 3-dog operation.   While Dino is the epitome of a “dogosophical” dog, I help inspire the teachings to get one there.  I am a true, thinking dog.

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Dino, the Guardian & Sugar – chillaxin’ at the dog park

A little backstory:  You may have read in a previous blog about how Dino, the yellow Labrador came into the life of a loving family who felt the need to make up for “failing” a rescue dog.  Well, I have to respect that he paved the way for me.  Dino became the happy, healthy, well-trained and very social dog everyone wants.  After some great successes over the dog days of summer, thinking that dog ownership is a walk in the park, and knowing that the work days would be picking up for his family, the guardians decided that Dino should have someone else around to spend his days with.  The family also realized that their hearts were really behind “saving” a dog from the uncertain fate that falls many-a-shelter animal and did not want to go the route of another breeder or (heaven-forbid) a puppy store.   The hunt was on to find a dog that they could rescue, a dog that would keep Dino company, a dog that would never be boring…a thinking dog.

After much thought about what they really wanted in a second dog, tons of research on different dog breed traits, and searching multiple dog rescue websites, going to adoption fares, etc. they were found a small “foster-only” rescue organization where they happened upon me.  My “mom” was a border collie, found as a pregnant stray on the side of the road in Illinois farm country in October of 2006.  She was taken in and brought to a foster home in Chicago’s western suburbs and litter of 9 puppies arrived soon after.  Most resembled mom – black & white border collies with little brown tips here and there…then there was me.  I was a smallish, golden-retriever looking pup with a face (and a brain) like my mom.   The rescue organization kept all puppies until we were weaned and healthy and had our first round of shots (about 8 weeks) so they gave us names to reflect the time they hoped we would transition into our fur-ever homes.  My brothers were given holiday names like Humbug, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer, Jacob & Marley and Prince.  The females were Clara, Belle and me – Sugar Plum.  We all ended up being Christmas puppies to families all over Illinois.

Dino & I get along quite well.   He taught me not to bite too hard, showed me where to go when I need to relieve myself, let me know where the best sleeping spots and treats are kept and generally what it takes to keep the two-leggers on their toes around here. To this day, he is very tolerant and doesn’t challenge me much.  He doesn’t really challenge anyone.  That is my job.  I am a thinking dog…

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Sugar Plum – in her “thinking dog” mode

Faith in Dog

DSC_0031Please allow me to introduce myself.  My official title is” Tecumseh’s Diamond Dean Oakley” but for most purposes I am known as Dino.  I seem to have taken on the role of peacekeeper in our home, but this hasn’t always been the case.  My guardian seems to think that I am responsible for the “dogosophical” attitude that we try to live by, but she is realizing that it all begins with faith.

When I came along, my family had just come off of a very “ruff” rescue dog experience…the kind no one wants to have and the kind that can honestly turn folks off to ever having a dog again.  They needed a “safe” dog.  One that wouldn’t bark, growl or bite…one they could trust.  So they decided to begin with a puppy.

I came from a breeder.  My guardian is not a “breeder” type of person, she really prefers to rescue, but I mentioned that she was yearning for a “safe” dog so that’s where she felt she should start.  What she found was that no matter where you get your pooch, one really has to do some legwork – research, research, research!  She spent months trying to find someone that wasn’t in it for the cash…someone that just wanted to produce good, healthy dogs that he could be proud of.  She found it in a small farm family that had been breeding Labradors for over 25 years.  She was interviewed at length over the phone, had to fill out an extensive application and make the drive to visit and actually see how we lived and then be interviewed in person. After all that, she was allowed to take me home.  (A good breeder will not sell to just anyone – they want to be sure their pups will be in kind, loving homes who will care for them under any circumstances).

It was ruff going at first.  The last dog may have had her issues, but my guardian LOVED and missed that dog and felt like a failure.  I, on the other hand was total puppy chaos!   I was a biting, running, jumping 4-legged fury (no, that isn’t suppose to be “furry”) that had no idea where I was supposed to potty or which rugs were ok to chew. (Turns out, none of them!)  They called me “Demon Dino” because I would terrify the human puppies around and tear things apart. (I loved the sound of a good “ripping” and when the kids would start barking back, yipping and running away…well that was even more exciting!)  Some days, my guardian would just sit down and cry and tell me I would never replace her “Diamond” (I later found out that Diamond was the “problem dog”).

After teaching me a few house rules, we signed up for a training class.  Things were going well – I slept through much of the classes (she always took me for a long walk before we went), but would try my best to stay awake and follow the treat.  Someone mentioned a “therapy dog” and she seemed to like the idea.  We went through class after class after class.  Every week we did something new.  Eventually, I realized that she didn’t cry because of me anymore – our interactions were all pets, hugs, treats, smiles and that happy voice that makes me wiggle all over.  I recognize now that I’ve built something with her – we have a special bond since we’ve been through those classes.  Oh, don’t get me wrong…I adore the other humans in the household and we’ve been joined by 2 more dogs since then, but my special guardian is like no other.  We visit all kinds of people.  Instead of crying out of frustration, I help people find memories, I help them learn, I help them build physical strength and gain trust.  I am a therapy dog and get to go to work with my guardian often.

I may not have replaced her “Diamond” at first, but I now know that I was really her “diamond in the ruff” and I shine with pride these days for having been therapy for her.  I have taught her that demon dogs can be exorcised if you look for solutions (and provide plenty of exercise).  I, Dino, have restored her faith in dog!