Julian and Avery each sent email. I prefer it that way because when one person speaks for “the couple” – details are sometimes lost in transcription. The details of what each person cares about can provide insight
into their “living room,” if you will.
Both Julian and Avery listed Pit Bulls (or mixes) as possibilities. Both set minimum weights around 50 lbs and were potentially interested in neutered or spayed dogs as heavy as 80 lbs. I clued them both in, “The American fascination with ‘bigger is better’ has encouraged people to produce large, economy sized dogs, where it was less likely in previous generations. These dogs have been influenced by haphazard, irresponsible breeding practices. There are definitely large homeless dogs.” The color of their pet wasn’t important, yet they each preferred to avoid predominately white dogs (I think their wardrobes were the typical dark ensembles of many NYC residents). My followup with the guys was amusing, in that they had discussed a facet that I only rarely hear about, and when I hear it, it’s in the form of a complaint. Avery shared his thoughts about snoring and intestinal gas, “I know it sounds weird, but it’s comforting to me because dogs that are noisy during sleep – you know where they are, and you know that they’re okay! It’s reassuring for me.” Julian shook his head from side to side, and seemed to be a little embarrassed because he said that “he understood where Avery was coming from, although he wouldn’t have thought to list it as a preference.” I laughed, and described, “Parents frequently discuss the various checking in on children, and deriving comfort from the various ways they can determine that their children are still breathing. I don’t think snoring is an ideal event (at least in people), but I grok what you’re saying. It’s all about’signs of life,” right? Avery nodded, and Julian was appreciative, “Thank you, Dennis – for not laughing at us.” Grinning at them, I said, “Gentlemen, the comedy comes into play when I attempt to explain my interest in snoring, snorting and farting Pits. It all sounds very Dr. Seuss, don’t you think so?”
In their “shopping lists” of preferences, they had listed a housetraining habit that is important to me, and that had attracted more than one prospective client among the
uber-busy urbanites. I liked to train dogs to eliminate immediately upon reaching the street or other nearby landmark. Their friend, and my recent client, Paul had mentioned this predilection and they desired it, as well.
In our network of folks involved in animal welfare, there were a number of people involved in the translocation of southern rescue dogs. One of my southern colleagues was attempting to interest me in a few dogs. I am always most interested in dogs where that have reliably known backgrounds, or even better – dogs that have been fostered by knowledgeable dog people. There were two dogs on my associate’s list that may fit the bill for Julian and Avery. One was a two year old spayed bitch that had bounced back from a placement because of marital drama. She was pretty, flashy and very much the four-legged floozy, or so I was told. She liked other dogs, and had been living in one of the busier southern cities, so I’d hoped to not stress her out too much by bringing her to the Big Apple. I texted a picture to my clients, and they approved of her appearance. In fact, they felt so strongly about her from the picture, I decided to send for her. Worst case scenario, I’d find another placement for her. Based upon her appearance and her southern origins, I decided to call her Whiskey.
Whiskey arrived without incident. She had been quarantined, vaccinated, spayed and tested negative for heartworm. My foster care people weren’t available, in the short term, so I had Whiskey all to myself.
Whiskey prep began, in earnest. Her loose lead walking needed work – she wasn’t horrible, but I thought we had plenty of room for improvement. She was motivated by animated play with toys, and food. I typically look ridiculous while working with dogs, like Whiskey. There’s all sorts of animated public displays of lunacy, including extraterrestrial sound effects. People laugh at me! It’s cool, though. The dogs love it! She made rapid progress over our first week, together. She was walking well on a flat buckle collar (for me – the clients would be getting her head halter), Whiskey was happily throwing herself in the crate, and some of the flash work we worked on was rapidly polishing up. Overall, I was pretty impressed. Whiskey was just about ready for her “coming out.”
I received an urgent text message from Avery, one evening, just after I’d returned from a Whiskey walk. I was pleased with her performance and she was about to get some additional practice, as I was going to be sitting on the floor, while she practiced ignoring me and my dinner. It was all part of the plan…
Avery’s message was direct, “Dennis, I just saw you on the street with Whiskey. I was on the bus, when it passed you. She’s gorgeous. She seems very well behaved. When can Jules and I meet her? Are you around, tomorrow?”
This is not the first time that a prospective adopter had “caught me with their dog.” Since the dogs spend a lot of time with me, outdoors, I was surprised it didn’t happen more often. I have been guilty of spending more time with a dog’s preparation than is really necessary. I had probably done so with Whiskey, in this instance, but I enjoy showcasing behaviorally normal dogs. I believe people deserve normal dogs. That Whiskey was an attractive dog was gravy. Her physical beauty would be sufficient for many people, but I really wanted to set Julian and Avery up to have a smooth transition…
The next morning, I contacted the guys and set up a time for a visit with Whiskey. When Whiskey and I entered Julian and Avery’s apartment, I asked them, “Is it okay for me to set up her crate?” Julian said, “Sure.” I popped it up on the right side of their sofa. It was close to their TV and dining area, so I thought it might be a good spot. Julian and Avery were sitting on the sofa – there was space for me, so I filled the open space next to Julian and said, “Can I ask you a question?” I was fully aware that the guys were bursting at the seams to get some Whiskey lovin’. They said, in unison, “What’s up?” I dove in, “Are you still feeling that you still need a few weeks before you can really consider bringing a dog home? I ask because I could sense a certain hunger in Avery’s text message, last night.” Julian replied, “Avery called me before I returned, last night to tell me that he spotted you on the street with Whiskey and that she seemed to be doing really well with you.” I smiled at Julian, and he correctly assumed that I wanted to say something. ‘Guys, this is the deal. I’m having fun with Whiskey, but the truth of the matter is that in most cases, I’m likely to work on things with Whiskey that won’t really be useful for you. I suspect that she’s at a place in her training, where you would both be happy with her. Are you thinking that you’re ready to adopt sooner than you’d originally thought. Julian and Avery were starting to tear up! I’d happily release Whiskey to them, if they were ready. “Julian, Avery, I have a feeling that what you need more than me, running my mouth, is an opportunity to have a Whiskey moment.”
I called Whiskey onto the sofa, and I stood up. Whiskey started showing the demented, meaty Pit Bull smile and Julian and Avery descended upon Whiskey, who was set to receive their charge. I’m not sure how any of them survived that greeting. The copious flow of saliva and Whiskey shedding – it was intense. Whiskey, I figured was in danger from dehydration.
Not surprisingly, the guys weren’t at all interested in a demonstration of what Whiskey had learned, but once everyone calmed, I suggested going for a walk around the block, together. I started off with the leash, but soon transferred control to Avery, who then shared with Julian. I told them, “I will meet with you, next week about the transition to walking Whiskey on a flat buckle collar and mai training a work ethic, so she continues to be easy to live with. I’ll email you the rest of what I’ve worked on, over the weekend. Do you want some time to just enjoy your dog, without me?”
The sheepish response was an affirmative nod, so I suggested, ” I didn’t bring Whiskey’s food, so you can either walk me back to my place or I can tell you what to buy and you can say goodbye to me, now.”
Avery, in particular, seemed ready to get rid of me, so he said that he’d go to the store, a little later. I texted him the flavor of Acana that Whiskey likes and prepared to leave them to their bonding. I suspect that Whiskey will have them wrapped around a dewclaw before the day is over.
I think they’ll all be very happy.