Clients Andy & Paul asked that Spider (then, an adolescent Border Terrier) and I meet for an initial session, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A & P’s dog is Justin, a 75lbs. Shepherd mix rescued from what was then called Animal Care and Control of New York City (the city animal shelter system – under contract with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to provide animal control and sheltering services for NYC.
Justin was in the spotlight for being what’s commonly referred to as a “reactive dog.” Reactive dogs get hyper aroused and are general boneheads in the presence of a stimulus or stimuli (if the Great Puppy in the Sky is feeling comedic, then your dog may have multiple triggers).
Andy & Paul, now six months into their “love thang” with Justin were getting tired of intermittent shoulder trauma and jihadi-like drama whenever one of the legions of Chihuahuas, Frenchies, or Cotons crossed into Justin’s peripheral vision. My role that afternoon was to assess how serious Justin was about cannibalizing small dogs, and figure out how close he needed to be before the animals made it to the Cane Tartare à la carte menu. According to client reports, a 15 lbs Border Terrier bitch would be perfect with Worcestershire sauce (from Justin’s perspective), so my trained hors d’oeuvre and I went to work. As it turned out, Justin was able to keep his cool much longer than expected. He did so well, that we took both dogs on a walk together and by the time that Spider and I left our clients, Justin was calmly walking within 5 feet of Spider and was no longer attempting to shred her.
Justin and Spider went on to become fast friends and had regular wrestling matches, for several months, even after our work ended.
Julian and his partner, Avery were present at my session with Andy and Paul, months earlier. I was surprised to hear from them, but not displeased. Julian reported that A & P’s dog was still doing well and told me, “Avery and I are thinking of bringing home a dog. We remembered your session with Andy and Paul and we’d discussed that we wanted your help when we were ready to get a dog. We aren’t sure about whether to get a dog from a responsible breeder or to get a dog from a shelter or rescue. Are you able to help us, Dennis?” I let Julian know that, “I would be honored to usher them into pet parenthood and that the quickest, and easiest way to begin would be for them to shoot me an email letting me know what they had discussed – in terms of important considerations that I should keep in mind. What have they discussed? What do you agree on? What issues are you simply not willing to deal with? Does the size of the dog matter? Are their any thoughts about any particular activities that matter to either of them? Does going to the dog park matter? Long walks, year ’round? Do either of them have aspirations to work with a therapy dog? Is there a particular time frame that I should consider?Are they each able to describe what they would like to get out of having a dog? I know that they have some friends with dogs. I asked Julian, “When you and Avery email me, pease let me know if there are any of your friends’ experiences that have been illuminating for you. Hindsight is 20/20, they say. When you look back at Andy and Paul or anyone else’s pet parenting stories, is there anything that you want (or want to avoid)?
“Guys, this is your first homework assignment. I’m looking forward to learning more about helping you achieve this experience.” I ended the call, by telling them that, “The sooner they write, the sooner I will know how to proceed.”
To be continued…