All the droning and whining about rehabilitating my Significant Otter’s 2yo untrained hound blend, the untold hours invested, nerves frayed by the near-constant thready little whine outside the range of The Otter’s hearing (but not mine, of course), the repetitious, unceasing, time-consuming, much resented (you picked up on that, yes?) demands of rehabilitating a la Cesar Millan, all that was rewarded in 5 minutes last night.
Backtracking several weeks, Zu the Plott Walker hybrid (hey, could be the next family dog breed, though this one isn't a breeder) snapped at me when I unexpectedly reached for her belly, and I reflexively popped her atop the head. (My Rule #2 - Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.) Not hard enough to damage anything but firm enough to mean business, and she dropped her head between her shoulders just a bit, and peered up at me with a low slow tail wag. In Cesar’s terms submissive, not in a cringing way but OK-you’re-the-big-dog way. I crossed my fingers.
In my opinion, coming when called is #1 in any dog training. As a Dog Grumbler and not a Dog Lover, that means on the initial command and not after coaxing, wheedling, begging, treating, etc. The Walk Of Shame involves retrieving said canine and dragging to the tether, or crate, or laundry room for reflection on the dog’s selectively deaf habits, and the dog’s front toes typically barely reach the ground as we retrace the steps back together. In most dogs the improvement in hearing is quick and dramatic. But not all.
Zu slipped out the laundry room door last night in a downpour, accompanied by Zeva the Boxer, and perhaps 10 minutes lapsed before the quiet was recognized for what it was: a dog-free laundry room.
Turning off dinner, both The Otter and I dashed around grabbing leashes, flashlights, boots and hooded jackets. He fired up his truck hoping The Girls’ love of a truck ride and fear of being left behind might draw them back to the house, joined with my shrill whistle. And it did. At least, Zeva showed back up, all waggy and sheepish.
Zu’s two early escapes last summer established that her nose overrode her hearing or caring. One return involved a vacationing couple who phoned the number on the collar, a trip to the vet and stitches. “She’ll be back,” the vet assured us. “She’s a hound. What do you expect?” The last escape found her exhausted in a neighbor’s yard, overheated and willing to consider getting into the nice air-conditioned truck. Since then, she’s been “free” only when we snatched her dropped lead before she noticed.
Frustrated and losing hope, The Otter declared last night, “I don’t care any more! She can take off and be somebody else’s problem!” Hearing those words, I silently issued my “Please God” prayer. And within moments, Zu tiptoed cautiously back into the light under the carport, head dropped slightly below her shoulders, tail dropped and wagging slowly side to side.
The Otter turned and thanked me for investing all the Time Energy and Effort into working with Zu, proving that even Dog Grumblers can prove what Cesar advocates every day - that virtually any dog can be rehabilitated. I said my “Thank you God” prayer.
Suspending our ingrained beliefs in all we thought we knew about dogs and training allowed this story a happy ending. Or more accurately, a happy second chapter. Certainly there’s more progress to be enjoyed.
This principle is not new. Harvey Brooks was a man who worked his way from living under a bridge, homeless and hopeless, to building a last-chance way station for people once considered beyond redemption. In a quote from Herbert Spencer is Alcoholics Anonymous’ open-mindedness tenet: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
As this year draws to its conclusion, may you recognize all the successes chalked up this year, and be rewarded for keeping your mind open to new possibilities.