Well hello there, my loves. I’m flattered to know I’ve developed such a reputation around here– not only for being a hearthrob, but also for being such a well-mannered dog and a big-hearted foster brother. I believe I heard mama mentioning that somebody even referred to me as “Mr. Perfect.” Well aww, shucks. I hate to risk you thinking less of me, but mama says I have to come clean. So here we go: even dogs who look like perfect angels have dark, dirty secrets. And I’m not just talking about my great love for the culinary pleasures of cat poo.
You see, I seem perfectly well-behaved, but I have my weaknesses. In fact, mama and dad have done A WHOLE LOT of training with me to make me into the near-perfect gentleman that I am today. When mama adopted me about 7 years ago in Austin, I was a wild man. I had no manners, couldn’t concentrate even for a squilli-second, and I was a real conspiracy-theorist when it came to other dogs. I thought they were all out to get me and my people, and I had to protect myself and my family! It was the least I could do to thank my mama and dad for springing me out of the slammer that cold November day and bringing me home to live with them in the land of soft dog beds and chew toys. That’s what a good dog does . . . right?? So as soon as I saw another dog, I would go totally bonkers. Mama would kind of freak out, act embarassed, sometimes yell at me, and drag me away. I didn’t understand why she didn’t appreciate my gallantry, and she didn’t understand why I was being so gallant. It was the perfect recipe for what I call “just being a dog” and what I think you humans call “a behavioral issue.” Big, loaded words were thrown around like “aggressive” and “hate.” She and dad just didn’t understand.
So we tried taking a basic class at the big box pet store and I learned a great “sit,” but it didn’t help so much to make me calm and friendly when other dogs came around. Mama was so overwhelmed that for a long time she thought that I would never be able to be around other dogs — ever, at all. Can you imagine? My life would be so sad without my best bud Tex the lab, good ol’ Pancho Villa the pointerish, and even young Keebler the poodle.
After a while, we discovered the greatest dog trainer that ever was, and he taught me and my people (but mostly my people) about how us dogs think, and how to explain to us what is ok in the human world and what is not ok. He taught my mama that I am not aggressive, hateful, or mean, I just feel a little helpless when a dog rushes me on my leash, and I react in the only way I know how, trying to tell him or her to go away. Lee Mannix taught us how to “set me up for success” and how to meet other dogs in a positive way. If not for Lee, I might never have been able to foster the six dogs I have fostered so far, and perhaps most tragically of all, I might never have had my love affair with Gonzo Bunny-Ears:
We have come a long way since then, but even now, I begrudgingly admit that I am still not perfect. When we bring new dogs into our house, we go S-L-O-W in letting them meet me, since that works best for me. I don’t get to sniff with other dogs on walks, and if we are ever out and about and see a dog running around off leash, we immediately turn around and start heading in the opposite direction, and mama reaches for the hot dogs. It may seem kind of persnickety, but it works for us.
Lee Mannix taught us a lot of valuable lessons, but looking back on it all, I think I have taught my mama some valuable lessons too. From me, she learned never to think the worst of a dog, but instead to try to understand its perspective and find a positive way to communicate with it. She learned that the dogs who some people consider to be a “problem” can actually be a real treasure. And she learned that judging a dog based on its current behavior — rather than thinking about its potential and how we might work together as a team — can be a real mistake.
Without all of those valuable lessons, mama might have given up on me. And wouldn’t that have been such a loss?