Bailey is an intact, adolescent male Pit Bull mix, from an undisclosed rescue organization in the southern US. Bailey is making his mark on the Big Apple (on most vertical surfaces he can drag his owner to), and when I initially encountered them, his handler was adroitly avoiding tripping over a small dog – imperiled because Bailey just had to reach THIS particular hydrant to leave his calling card. I approached the pair, said, “Hello.” “My name is Dennis,” I continued. “I was concerned that you might fall! You look a little shaken up. Are you okay?” “I’m Ann, and this is Bailey. This is what life has been like since we brought Bailey home – I rarely feel as though I’m standing on solid ground.” Ann was leaning against a street light pole, seemingly exhausted – emotionally, if not physically.
I was between appointments, and I didn’t really have much time, but I sensed I had arrived at an incipient car wreck. Maybe I could prevent a fatality or two. Ann was the damsel in distress to my knight with shiny bald pate. If I could throw her a lifeline, quickly… “Ann,” I said, “You look demoralized. This isn’t what you had in mind when your family decided to adopt, I guess?” She seemed close to tears. “I have to get moving to my next appointment, so I’ll be brief. I often help pet parents have a more enjoyable time with their dogs. May I discuss this with you and your husband? Ann nodded. May I email you? I quickly asked for Ann’s last name and email address to my contacts. She offered her cell number, so asked, “When is the best time to call? If your husband is around, maybe we can set a time to sit down and have a conversation. Your husband’s name?” I saved the data and glanced down to the Pit Bull. He was transfixed; seated and staring at my rear pocket, where the lamb lung dog treats were stashed. I grinned at Bailey. I said my goodbyes to Ann and Bailey and promised to make contact, that same day. On the train, I shot off a quick email – I explained a bit about my work with customization of pet parents’ experiences and asked them to contact me, if they’re interested in brainstorming some options that might work for their family, Additionally, I included my contact information, invitations to the Canephile blog on WordPress, the Canephile group and Canephile Pet Parenting Experience, both on Facebook.
My knightly duties fulfilled, the day progressed, as normal. I was contacted that evening by Emmett, Ann’s other half. We were expecting nice weather, so I offered to meet them at their home or the park, near their home. They opted to host me at their place. When I arrive, Emmett met me at the door with Bailey. Unlike our last meeting, where Bailey had been silent, and stared longingly at my pocket – praying for lamb lung regurgitation -he was now a whirling dervish dog. He was apparently very excited by my visit! He calmed somewhat, over the next few minutes, but Ann was unhappy. She shared, “Dennis, I don’t know why he hasn’t crawled into your clothing, but you’re just about the only person he’s met that hasn’t received a head butt or that hasn’t been scratched up. Bailey is a very sweet and enthusiastic dog, but he hurts our friends and family members!”
“Okay,” I began. “I know that you haven’t been living with Bailey for very long. Have you considered obedience training with Bailey? I have the impression that he’s fairly easily motivated. Is that accurate?” Emmett responded, “Bailey is a very happy dog, that is easily motivated by people and food!” I smiled at the pet parents and said, “Something tells me that there’s a rather large ‘but’ at the end of that sentence. What am I missing?” Ann sighed and said, “Neither of us has an interest in obedience classes – we just are interested in groups, like that. I nodded, encouraging Ann to continue. Emmett sometimes works late and while I might be interested in working with a trainer, privately – isn’t it expensive. I will be out of the apartment, a lot in the next few months because of several projects that require my attention.” I raised my hand to cut in and said, “I mentioned that my work involves supporting customized pet parenting experiences. You have a relationship with a dog training professional, if you’d like to and I may have an approach to working with Bailey that is convenient for you.”
Emmett was curious and asked, “What are you thinking, Dennis?” “Well,” I said, “You can work with me and our work can be tailored to suit your needs. Let’s speak for a bit about schedules, Bailey’s needs for physical and mental exercise and what feels comfortable for you. Emmett nodded and shared that he’s a little frustrated by the long hours he keeps. Ann acknowledged concern around their schedules. I offered, “Either myself or someone on my team can provide for Bailey’s physical exercise and mental stimulation. My suggestion is that the mental stimulation should involve general obedience and specifically the behaviors that you don’t like. If it works for you, we’d set up a weekly dog walking/training schedule, and I’d work with you, to support you learning how to work with Bailey on a schedule that works for you. We can fine tune things, depending upon how the situation progresses. we can touch base, as you like, to revisit anything that needs to be discussed. I suggested that they think about it, and either or both of you can reach me. After finishing up with some loose ends (including getting Emmett’s cell number and email), I excused myself and didn’t hear from them, for several days. I ultimately texted them, both. Ann asked me to begin with dog training integrated into Bailey being walked, several times a week. We set an appointment for the end of the first week to connect and demo how and what to work on with Bailey. The session went well, Bailey was very responsive and both Emmett and Ann were happy with what they were seeing.
It was a good beginning.