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Ozzie & Arwen – Their Stories

This was posted on facebook.  The support and love was comforting and much appreciated:

Arwen December 12, 2012 – March 23, 2019

I first saw Arwen’s little face on my facebook feed.  Westjet had flown her in from Saskatchewan for a local rescue group.  I applied and the rescue agreed that this would be the best home for her. She was 4 months old, had been found abandoned on a back road and had gone through 3 foster homes already.  She was a handful. The timing was perfect; I had just suffered a loss and needed a distraction.

When she was brought to my place, the volunteer for the rescue showed me how when you tickled a certain area on Arwen (she was called Winnie) then she would really kick those little legs.  I recognized that as an allergy response; but thought “no problem”.  I was so wrong!

Arwen was, to quote one of her veterinarians (she had a team) “allergic to everything”.  It took 18 months to figure out the 5 ingredients she could tolerate.  And just as much time to figure out what dietary supplements and meds she could tolerate.

I like to think Arwen was a difficult dog because of her allergies.  But in all honesty, she wasn’t a very kind dog.  Ozzie was a kind dog.  Arwen had an edge to her and seemed to find bullying those that were fearful or not confident a favourite pastime.  Because of this, she was always kept in check and most of the time her name had the intonation of ArrrrWEN!!  Ozzie kept Arwen from getting into too much trouble.  He always split her off from chasing another dog.

Because Arwen was such a control freak, she made for a dream dog to train.  I would show her something once, she would ask me “do you mean this?” and I would say yes.  Simple.  She made me look good.  We attended classes at the CRDF for Rally-O and Arwen was brilliant.

Arwen helped clients see what successful behavioural adjustment looks like. She made a great demo dog because she was always a great dog when fully engaged.

Many saw Arwen in my agility classes.  She loved that sport.

She loved to freestyle dance and knew so many moves we could do a routine that lasted an entire song…something we did alone in the living room together.  I wish I had set up a video cam for that.

She was the best hiking companion.  Would call away from anything and seemed to genuinely enjoy being in my company.  We often walked just the two of us because Ozzie was off and running and the others were trying to keep up with him.

We couldn’t go public because she would do whatever it took to steal some food or convince some unknowing person to give her a treat.  Then she would suffer for days by ripping out her own fur.  On our last walk together, I handed her a beef liver treat – this is something that would set her off immediately.  We had worked diligently at the “leave the beef alone” so when I handed her a treat, she backed away and looked at me all puzzled “is this a sneaky trick?”.  She got to eat so many things on her last day!

Arwen taught me so much:  more than I ever wanted to know about diet and allergies and the dog’s endocrine system. She taught me what my reactive dog clients go through and kept my empathy skills strong.

Arwen taught me that helping a dog through reactivity takes a team.  This is something I share with my clients all the time….the support and consistency from family members and caretakers of their reactive dog is vital to success.  Ozzie was our team leader and without him, things turned bad very quickly.

If Arwen were an only dog or if she were a dedicated client’s dog then forgiveness would have been easier to find.  But Arwen lived here, with me, and dozens of dogs coming and going on a regular basis.

Her behaviour deteriorated quickly after Ozzie’s death.  At first, I though it might be grief – and maybe it was.  But honestly, I think without Ozzie to be right there by her side and redirecting her away, she suddenly had this “bring it on” attitude.  Management wasn’t working.  Redirection wasn’t working. She became determined to do what she always wanted to do.  So, the first bite to a known person was forgiven because it was someone who knew her.  The second bite had me wondering if it was time to let her go.  It was the attack/grab/shake of a little dog that made me realize Arwen had become more than I am prepared to keep in this environment.  Finding a new home for her wasn’t an option.  At the risk of sounding like only I could be the perfect home for her, that’s not at all why I didn’t.  I did not look for a new home for her because re-homing a known aggressive dog is morally and ethically wrong.  Not to mention, she ran on average of $250 per month in dietary and medical needs.

I didn’t ask friends and colleagues to take her on.  I cried for a couple of days.  Told a few what I was going through and then made the call.

Arwen knew.  It was the first time ever she didn’t scream or try to escape at the sight of a needle.  She climbed onto my lap with her very full belly and snuggled.  The sedative took effect and when the vet slid in that final needle, she didn’t even flinch.  I held her in my lap and told her she was a good girl.  I told her I loved her.  I told her I was sorry but that I really did do the very best I could for her.  This final act was what was best and kindest for my little Arwen.

I want to thank the numerous people who have helped me with Arwen over the years…Susanne Clothier for your wonderful behavioural advice; the teams at Balanced Paws Vet, at Courtenay Vet, at Puntledge Vet. Local trainers who have put up with having her in your classes.  Both friends and clients that have patiently supported us. Dave for being there with me at the end.

Over at the Rainbow Bridge, Ozzie is running cancer free and playing with Arwen who is no longer suffering with her allergies.  Some day, I will bury my face in both their furry coats and be with them again.  Until then, run free my friends.

Ozzie’s Story

Happy 10th birthday, Ozzie

I don’t know his actual birth date, but all my pets get the stat holiday closest to their age. Ozzie’s stat birthday is Canada Day.The first year and a half of Ozzie’s life is a bit of a mystery to me. I was able to trace his tattoo, but no previous owners would speak to me. Maybe they thought I wanted to give him back lol.

Ozzie has an entire chapter of a book of “bad dog” things…
Such as stealing the roast out of the slow cooker while I was gone to pick up the company and then spewing diarrhea all over the living room carpet. I used to keep treats in the bathroom (best place to teach new tricks) but Ozzie opened the bathroom door, went in, turned around and his happy tail closed the door. So he ate all the treats (destroying that particular treat pouch) and then attempted to eat his way through the bathroom door. Twice. Both bathrooms. I’m not a quick study. He once lifted his leg and peed on a client (actually, there is an entire chapter regarding his urinating moments). Ozzie can bring down a deer; he can catch, skin, eat a bunny in a blink of an eye. Ozzie really doesn’t need a home to provide him meals, so I’m honoured he stays with me.

Ozzie has an entire book of “good dog” things….
Because of his hunting abilities it seemed appropriate to get his Canine Good Citizen certification. That was not an easy task! In his previous lives Ozzie had learned (been taught) how to pull on leash, how to ignore the sound of my voice when distractions were present, how to escape any enclosure. Two years to train him!! Ozzie taught me what frustration in dog training is all about, so when you tell me your frustrations with your dog I can nod knowingly and with empathy.
After Ozzie got his CGN certification I thought it would be a good idea to get his St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog certificate. It took two tries, but he got it. Ozzie has logged hundreds and hundreds of hours as a Therapy Dog. That’s not including the thousands of hours he has spent allowing me to sob into his shoulder and the hours he has spent pulling me out of the depths of despair. I am alive because of Ozzie. He stepped out in front of me in a parking lot when I mindlessly went to walk in front of a moving car. He broke out of the house and put himself between me and an attacking dog. I followed him back to my car when I was hopelessly lost in the trails (“are you hungry Ozzie, where’s the car, let’s go for a car ride”). Ozzie is a good dog.

Many of you know Ozzie from classes. He hangs out with the person with the best treats. He is our “real life distraction” in classes. He has met a few thousand dogs over the years. Many he has taught how to play. Others he has taught how to hold onto a resource without conflict. One viciously attacked and hospitalized him and to this day he is still very, very insecure around dogs that look like that one. Ozzie is semi-retired now; he no longer has much interest in Puppy Classes, and he is bored with the Well Mannered Dog class demos. His confidence was shattered with all reactive dogs for a couple of years after the attack, so he no longer helps me with aggressive dogs unless there is a 6 foot fence between him and the dog (there was a fence between him and the dog that attacked him, but the owner didn’t do as I asked and the attack happened through the fence; the fencing has since been changed to prevent that ever happening again).
I don’t know how much longer Ozzie and I have together. None of us know how long we get to have with our furry companions. He’s in good shape. He can still run the trails although he get tired more quickly now, but he hasn’t slowed down! The grey fur is moving in, an occasional lump and bump appears and the vet assures my panicked self that all is okay. His gait is strong with no signs of arthritis. His teeth are wearing down, but gums are in good shape and minimal plaque only on the very back teeth which will be cleaned soon. Our job is to care for our dogs with the dedication that they care for us with. I know that the day is closer now; that terrible heartbreaking day when I will sob into his shoulder one last time. But until then (hopefully years and years from now), I am grateful to my Ozzie and all that he is.

Ozzie reminds me every day that unconditional love exists. Thank you Ozzie, you are a good dog. Happy Birthday my friend. Yes, you will get ice cream later.

He collapsed on January 7th, 2019.  Here is my facebook posting:

It is with a very very heavy heart that I tell you that I had to say goodbye to my Ozzie last night. A sudden collapse due to a ruptured tumor on his liver…none of us had any idea that he had cancer.
Ozzie met thousands of dogs and people during his 8 years with me. Please share your Ozzie moments in the comments. He touched so many people, helped so many dogs, was a steady presence in class and the best at the slow motion demonstrations.
I’m reposting his tribute from his 10th birthday last summer. We didn’t have time for ice cream yesterday, give your dog a lick of ice cream from Ozzie.
Many thanks to Van Isle Vet for allowing us through your door right at closing time on a Sunday, he wouldn’t have survived the trip to Nanaimo and you helped ease his pain with compassion and understanding.
…with a broken heart, ~Jane


Real Life vs. Entertainment

Wikipedia defines Entertainment as: “any activity which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time. Entertainment is generally passive, such as watching opera or a movie”.

And I will add to the entertainment list: TV shows on How to Train a Dog.

Sometimes entertainment is taken as “the real thing” and is brought into our everyday lives. I would not be comfortable letting a person who has watched every single episode of “House” perform surgery on me!  Would you?  Of course not.  And the reason is simple:  The television show “House” is for entertainment purposes only.  Everyone knows that, which is why “House” doesn’t have to have the disclaimer “Do not attempt these techniques without consulting a professional”.  And a professional dog trainer would rarely use those TV dog training techniques because professionals know the difference between entertainment and the true art of dog training.

Every dog owner should know the difference between suppressing an unwanted behaviour vs. training a desired behaviour. It is painfully obvious that the entertainment industry does not know that difference.  If you are a dog owner who has a dog that is “fine, except for that one problem” then please, turn off the TV and seek real life professional help.

The simplicity of dog training can be summed up:

Dogs do what works for dogs.

Teach the dog what TO DO.

Training should “feel right” both in your head and in your heart.

Newsflash:  Dogs are not out to obtain world domination! They are interested in companionship, food, comfort (both physical and mental) and procreation.  Walking in front of you, sleeping on your bed and a fun game of tug are NOT dominating behaviours for the majority of dogs.

Some things are better left to TV and have no business in real world relationships.

When training, simply:  Do no harm.  Be kind.  Be patient.  Have fun.

Jane Neve – Professional Trainer
Canine Conduct Training Solutions
Teaching the Human End of the Leash
Regional Representative for the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers
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