Over the past few years there seems to have been an overabundance of books and short stories written about dogs, some not so good and perhaps only hoping to strike some "Marley & Me" Hollywood gold, as well as some truly engaging stories written about rescues or dogs that have survived abusive situations.
While these heart-tugging tales are primarily meant as testaments to the human-animal bond in its purest form, several have left me with the less than plausible inference that to rehabilitate a problem rescue dog, all you need is love.
Sure, there are many rescues that blend into their new homes without making a ripple, seemingly wanting nothing more than to share their love for the same in return, but there's also an extremely large percentage of rescue dogs locked in love-hate relationships with their owners due to their aggression problems.
It's proof that love alone is not enough and which pretty much characterized the dysfunctional bond Trisha and her dog Manny shared when we first met.
As is the case with many rescue stories, it's unclear how much of the little dog's history is based on fact or fiction, but from what I learned from Trisha, the 2-year old mostly dachshund had been in an Oregon shelter for three months after his owner turned him in for biting someone.
Trisha and her husband, Don, who are both dachshund lovers, became aware of the little dog's plight after seeing him advertised on the Panda Paws rescue site and made arrangements to have him transported to the Oregon-California border where Don picked him up and drove him to his new life and home in Shafter.
In no time Manny proved to be a loving member of the family, becoming especially bonded to Trisha and getting along well with their other dogs (all rescues). In fact his only annoying habits were jumping and biting at people's clothing and shoes when he became excited,
But as the months went by and Manny became more comfortable in his environment, he also became more territorial, and the tone of his displays took on a more troublesome and aggressive nature requiring him to be restrained or locked up when anyone came onto their property. The little dog they had gone out of their way to rescue and showered with all the love in the world had become a four-legged liability.
My first impression of Manny was that of his remarkable resemblance to a Tasmanian devil-dog as he launched himself at me, snarling, five feet into the air (at which time I was able to count every tooth in his head). We then discussed the origin of his aggression at great length and the commitment it would require to bring it under control. Trisha had made it very clear she was in for the long haul and not going to give up on this dog.
As I began making regular trips to Shafter to work with them, it soon became clear how bright Manny was. He thrived on his lessons, even though Trisha sometimes struggled with their execution and found it hard to be firm with him. As they progressed from private home lessons to group classes she learned how to read him better and block any reactive behavior.
Eventually, in an effort to increase Manny's exposure to strangers yet keep the work fun and interesting for Trisha, we started training him in AKC Rally Obedience, and like a switch had been thrown, we saw a remarkable change. Manny had focus, he had a job that challenged him and a leader to give him direction. Manny had become a great working dog and was learning how to have fun.
A year and a half after he made the trip from Oregon to Shafter and one year into his training, Trisha decided to enroll Manny in AKC's Pet Partners Program, which allows mixed-breed dogs to compete in licensed performance events. On March 29 and 30, Manny and Trisha competed in Novice A Rally at the Kern County Kennel Club shows, earning two qualifying legs on their Rally Novice title and a second-place ribbon along the way.
But this story's not about their success in the competition, some pieces of silk or any title; it's about the bumpy road to rehabilitation traveled by a woman and her rescue. A road paved with hard work, patience and the refusal to make excuses for her dog's bad behavior. And yes, a whole lot of love.
-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at csi4k9s@ yahoo.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.