I awoke at 2 am having a sudden dream about Harry. It must have all started when I pitched and had accepted an article about seniors and dogs coming up later this month in THE CLEVELAND JEWISH NEWS. The article is done but I have to add a sidebar — top 10 things to consider when you’re getting a dog sort of thoughts — when Harry interrupted my REM. Harry M. was one of my earliest clients. He lived 45 minutes away and when I met him 9 years ago he was 85. He had a large boned German Shepherd Dog pup (GSD) named Prince. In our first meeting, Harry showed me pictures of Prince I and King…previous GSD’s he’d had for the past 20 years that had given him a “hell of a good ride”. The problem with the new Prince, a fast growing but already 80 pound adolescent, was simply that Harry was overpowered by the canine. Harry lacked the physical ability to manage his unruly and frustrated dog and was unwilling or incapable of absorbing the non force based approach I was trying to cajole him into accepting. Most of my private dog training clients are helped enough in one 3 hour single session. With aggression cases there’s requirement of at least one follow up; I offer the option to meet for additional sesssions if more advanced work or it’s a very complicated situation, but Harry became a whole different game.
He asked to see me weekly to help “wrangle the beast” and was able and willing to pay my travel fee and time so I agreed. Soon our hour long sessions ended with Harry showing me the latest squeak toy he had bought Prince and offering to take me into town and buy me lunch and regale me with amazing stories about his youth in the early half of the 20th century. It crossed over into an ethical dilemma for me but I overcame it and knew that a big part of my being there was to help ease his loneliness. And his stories were fascinating.
I eventually ended things with Harry after hooking him up with a much more economical local pet walker but my relationship with him gave me hope that I will continue to share my life, well into my dotage, with practical dogs.