Part of the animal rescue work I do is dog training. I have a reputation for taking in dogs who have "issues," with the goal of rehabilitating them. When a rescue group has a problem dog, they often call me. One group in particular that does amazing work is Posh Pets, founded by Linda Vetrano, and it's one of the groups I work with on a regular basis.
One dog in particular Roscoe, a German Shepherd, had some behavioral problems in his foster homes and so Posh Pets sent him to me here at Cherry Valley for training. Roscoe was the kind of dog who could stir the pot or push buttons. Fortunately, he and I worked through his issues and Roscoe is now a working dog with the New York State Police. Roscoe jumped right in with his new handler, a State Trooper who was recuperating from an injury. In fact, the day he came to pick up Roscoe, I couldn't even get Roscoe to look at me for a minute to take a photo because; he had his sights set on that fancy K-9 Trooper SUV. He took off, running towards the vehicle never looking back! Way to go, Roscoe!
After Roscoe left, Linda called and said that she had this great dog named Jack who had escaped from the transport vehicle on Long Island that was taking him to his new foster home. He had been on the run on Long Island for a few days. A team of volunteers were searching for Jack - camped out, cooking on a barbeque grill to lure Jack to safety. The smell of barbeque brought Jack back to the search party, and Jack was re-directed to me for some training and further evaluation. According to Linda, aside from separation anxiety, Jack was a great dog.
As Jack was on his way to me I read a post from his foster person reiterating that Jack is a great dog but that she is glad I'm taking him to help him overcome his separation anxiety. As I read her message, I began to become a bit anxious myself. I do not like working with separation anxiety issues because damage to my home is usually involved . I sort of felt like Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy episode when the mother of twin boys drops them off with Lucy saying they are such great boys, and the next thing you know, they are tying her up at the stake in her own living room!
The van carrying Jack arrives and Jack seemed very nervous, but on a good note he did not break loose in the van and he is on a leash. We moved him into our yard and he starts immediately to search for an escape route. I keep him on the leash and bring him inside the house. Immediately he jumped up on the furniture and eyed the windows as a means of escape all I could say was , "here we go!"
I had prepared a large kennel for him. He seemed to settle in with his food and water. So I turned in for the night. The house was still and quiet. Then all of a sudden around 3:00 a.m., I heard an eerie, Bloodhound-ish howl, "BarOOOOOOOOOOOOO, aOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.", and My dogs looked around like, "What the heck is that?"
Of course, it was Jack, so now I knew that he is part Bloodhound, (the missing link). I already knew he was part Rottweiler, but the Bloodhound accounts for the large size, droopy eyes, and some wrinkles.
Jack was not at all happy about the being confined to a kennel, so the next day I introduced him to my dogs, and he fell in love. I allowed him to stay loose in the house and he began to relax. He is very strong, and he loves to play. He found a very large ball to play with; he "talked" or whimpered to it, jumped on it, and rolled with it. It was as if the ball was a four- legged friend.
Later, Jack and my dogs were out in the yard playing, and while I was inside preparing food. I noticed Jack ventured up to the driveway where he realized he was no longer in the yard. I immediately ran out to see if any of the other dogs had escaped from the fenced yard. Luckily they had not followed Jack when he escaped. Now I feared Jack might keep going and not come back, but to my delight, he ran full speed ahead to the gate and knocked me on my butt. He couldn't wait to get back inside the yard!
As the days passed, Jack indeed turned out to be the great dog everyone had said he was, and he let go of the behavioral issues he had arrived with. So I began to think about my friend Geri. She had lost a great dog named Hawk, many years ago. Hawk had been a loyal companion and loved to be with her when she was out in her barn with her horses. Hawk lived a long life, but after his passing, not a day went by that she did not miss him. I thought maybe Geri would like to have Jack. After Hawk's passing, Geri's other dog Annie, a rottie had recently passed from bone cancer and she was down to one remaining dog - Gabby, a problem dog, resource guarder, not good with kids, who she had adopted from me many years ago. Hey, what are friends for if not to take troubled dogs off your hands?
Since Jack wasn't really my dog to rehome (he was Linda's dog), I thought that would ultimately save the friendship if Jack didn't work out. I brought the idea up to Geri, and she was interested in Jack. I was honest with her about Jack's initial issues, but explained that his behavior had improved greatly. We set a date for me to bring him down to her home. We agreed to let him meet Gabby the top dog in Geri's house.
I packed Jack's food and toys off we went. We arrived at Geri's, and she met us outside. Jack was very happy to see her, and she liked him right away.
As I walked Jack around Geri's farm, he spotted the horses and became overly excited. He stuck his head through the split rail fence and tried to bite the mini pony Texas T. I think Jack was more scared than anything else as he thought Texas T was the biggest dog he had ever seen I told Geri that I don't didn't know if this was going to work. I didn't want Jack to hurt her horses. But Geri was willing to give the introduction more time, and felt confident Jack couldn't get to her horses as he would be in the yard which is fenced in.
We head towards the house; the next hurdle is the introduction to Gabby. They meet in the yard and so far so good. Gabby is interested but gives Jack a bit of the cold shoulder routine. Jack likes her and is willing to give her time to get to know him. We have fixed a cup of coffee and let Jack settle in. I gave Geri a crash course about food aggression, and explained how she would need to keep Jack separated from Gabby at meal times. Geri was much more relaxed than I was about the whole adoption process and said, "he'll be fine what can he really do."
Then we headed out for dinner, and as we are leaving, I said many prayers for Jack to behave and not destroy Geri's beautiful home. Jack had company, so I was hopeful he would be ok.
Once we got to desert and coffee, I began starting to get a bit anxious about Jack back at the house, so I say we should hurry up and get back. So we finished our coffee and headed back to Geri's. I couldn't help but honestly say it felt like the longest drive -, I was envisioning a broken window frame and, Jack running loose, or gone completely, how could I not! I had seen Jack him in action, and I prayed that wasn't the case.
As we pulled into Geri's driveway, I scanned the entire front of the house. All the windows were still intact! There were no signs of damage. Geri got out of her truck and says said, "see, I told you he would be fine." what could he do?" (Here we go again with that comment!)
As we approached the side door, Jack is nowhere to be seen. I was again surprised because at my house, he was always at the door when he heard someone coming. Geri is ahead of me, and as she made her way to her dining room, I heard her shriek, "HE'S ON MY TABLE! HE IS ON THE DINNING ROOM TABLE! GET OFF! GET OFF! LIZ, HE'S ON MY TABLE.!"!!!!!!!!!!!!
I couldn't help but laugh when I saw that big, clumsy dog on the table that looks out to a window trying to figure out how to get down and Geri's words "What can he do "? certainly come back to haunt her. Nothing I had told her about Jack and his issues had prepared her for what she was witnessing: to see a giant dog on her solid oak dining room table with all of its belongings on the floor.
I helped Jack get off the table. And luckily for him, Geri recovered from the incident quickly and still wanted to give him a chance. The first few weeks were a little rough, but Geri was determined to make this work. Jack was a great dog and he followed her around. She even had her friend Amber check on him during the day so it would be easy for him to get used to his new routine.
Jack eventually discovered how to escape from Geri's fenced in yard also , but when he did get loose, he only ran around to the front door barking to come in and or to signal that he wanted Geri and Gabby to come out and play.
So the next project was to secure the fence with railroad ties. As Jack became more and more secure with Geri, he became more of a companion to her. I would call and hear about how Jack went out with her to feed the horses. He would run right up to them and follow them into their stalls. The horses were fine with him, and he really enjoyed being out with them. Once in a while, a quick swift motion of a kick from one of them would let him know he was too close or being annoying. But he was learning, and the horses were willing to let him be around.
Jack was good off leash, and didn't run away while Geri was tending to the horses. He kept a close eye on her and she loved having a dog with her, especially when walking to and from the barn. I sometimes still cannot believe that this dog from Brooklyn enjoys life on the farm and took to it like as if it was his purpose in life.
What do you know Jack was a great dog!
A happy ending for all: Jack is a great dog, and a happy dog. And Geri and I are still great friends!