July, 2010. A year after Lance passed away. I got a call at work from Clara, my wife. “Are you ready for another dog?” In fact, I had been enjoying my “vacation,” no longer having to live with Lance’s edginess or having to endure those lengthy hikes he browbeat me into. Without waiting for me to answer, Clara continued. “I’m here at ShopRite. There’s a guy with a dog in a cage. He’s giving the dog away and said if somebody doesn’t take the dog in a half hour he’ll be heading for the pound.”
I could tell Clara was ready for another dog so I said, “Take him.”
That night I came home to find a four-month-old poodle/beagle mix sleeping in his cage in our living room. Clara had already named him Buddy. His original owner had never given him a name other than Dog.
The following day Clara was at work and I was at home sitting on the stoop with Buddy. I began to pet him on the rump. He immediately whirled and used his teeth to get me to stop. Lance had turned out to be untrustworthy and now this dog too?! Either everything I had assumed about dogs prior to meeting Lance had been wrong or the world had changed and dogs were no longer man’s best friend.
Later that day, I told Clara about Buddy’s “attack” and she began laughing. “Oh, I forgot to tell you. I took him right to the vet from ShopRite and he had a series of shots in the rump.” Buddy had only been protecting his sensitive butt out there on the stoop.
Well, here we are nine years later, and Buddy has been a complete marshmallow of a dog all this time. In fact, one day he was chasing a butterfly and when he finally caught up to it, he looked at me as if to say “What do I do now?” I said nothing and he let the butterfly go. Now that’s what I call a gentle dog.
I only wish I could have gotten Lance when he was four months old instead of ten years. Philosophically, sooner is better than later(Buddy), but it’s better late than never(Lance).
Please note: You can use all kinds of different signals to ‘mark’ behaviour, but unless your dog is deaf, an audible signal such as a click, or the word YES is best, simply because he doesn’t have to be looking at you in order to receive the information you want him to have.
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).