I often counsel those who seek out the service of matchmaking how to find the right “make and model” of dog regardless of goals. Companion animal, best bud, therapy adjunct, service dog, sports colleague or something not yet imagined in their thinking. My own dogs have come into my life over my lifetime from various sources — in some cases carefully thought out and selected, in others a more serendipitous chain of events led to their arrival in my life. I have had dogs with the intent to keep them but realized over time — sometimes quickly, other times struggling with the decision for years — that mine was not the best home for them. Not because I’m not a great dog person and not because the dog wasn’t a great dog, but because my lifestyle wasn’t the right one for the individual. And so I sought out the perfect home for them because that was the right thing to do.
I live in a household of chaos and change — while my daughters are getting older and more independent and less literally underfoot — there nevertheless seems to be a never ending cacophony of animal noises and activity befitting someone who is a dog training professional. Especially as I grow a board and train business, I often have an extra dog or two about in various phases of learning.
It was two years ago today — another cold, dreary, snowy and blustery February winter day in Cleveland, OH — that a diminutive shaggy black shih tzu came into my life. I had tried, repeatedly, to say “no” to the vet who asked me to foster him and find him a new home — after all, at the time all 3 daughters were living at home, in addition to my dogs Bean and Trip I was raising Bubbles as a service dog for an autistic boy and she was only a few months old — and the winter was especially snowy and icy. I didn’t need a dog whose owner’s thought was to euthanize him for aggression after he allegedly bit her 3 year old grandson. But repeated requests wore me down and he was delivered to my door on what was a cold and snowy Saturday at about the same time in the morning as I write this post.
Invoking my own 3 day rule — that is, not expecting anything profound or having any real expectations of the dog’s behavior for the first 72 hours under my care while helping him understand the “rules” of the household as a 4th dog — I steeled myself to help him adjust and give myself time to evaluate what would be his best future home. I told my kids to ignore him although if he sought out their attention they could pet him. I observed his interactions with my dogs, the puppy and the cats and marveled at how he invoked not one grumble or grump. He seemed fine with the cold and just blended in without effort.
He had come with a brand of food I deemed unacceptable and I switched him to the food I use, Flint River Ranch. I had him watch me throw his food in the trash. Then I offered him dinner that first night, then breakfast and dinner again on his first and second full days. He refused to eat but I just said to him, calmly, “well, I don’t think you’ll commit suicide by starvation and these here are the rules at Chez A Better Pet.”
On the morning of the third full day, I offered him breakfast again. He looked at the bowl of food, he looked at me, he looked at the bowl of food again. He looked at me once more, I swear there was a little glimmer in his eye, and then he dug into and ate his breakfast. And ever since, this stocky, stalwart dog has been my faithful companion and pet professional adjunct. I have him evaluate in his own little way each dog that enters — whether a DIP visitor or a board and train or even a day boarding client — Tommy is my first go to for evaluative purposes.
And so I raise a glass and toast this wonderful anniversary event of Tommy in my life. I haven’t told him yet, but soon Dozer, a rescue who is being safely fostered until I can take him on, will arrive. Dozer will need to be evaluated, get some training and then find a great home. It will be Tommy’s diagnostics that will be included in the final tally to help guide that choice. Dozer, you’re gonna be one lucky rescue!