Five years ago today, I drove to the Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury, Connecticut, met my sister, put Chico and his crate and toys and food in my car, and came home.
I had no idea what to do about having a dog, and I wasn’t going to keep him anyhow, because 1) as a renter I didn’t think I could keep him and 2) I didn’t like him enough to try to keep him. In DC, he was intrusive, loud, and impossible to walk on a leash. He barked like a maniac at everything passing the house, so he stayed in the back part of the house except to go in the back yard or snuggle with my niece. There didn’t seem much point in having him around. But it soon became clear that no one else especially wanted a dog like that either.
On January 26, I was at Julie Daniels place looking for help. Sophie was a problem when she came to N&L and they advised going to “this really nice lady in North Sandwich who helped us a lot,” so I went to see her. That nice lady, Julie Daniels, spent two and a half hours with us (a private lesson is normally an hour), taught me a lot of things, advised I try something called “agility” with Chico, gave me homework and hope. Then, as we were leaving, Chico shot out the door. I said “My vet and that Caesar Milan guy on the TV both say I should always go through the door first to maintain status over my dog. What do you think about that?” Julie’s answer was, “I think that’s a bunch of hooey. But he also shouldn’t do what he just did.”
She had me bring Chico inside, ask him to sit and wait beside me and open the door. Chico shot out again. Julie pushed my leash arm back to my side and quickly closed the glass door; leaving him standing outside in the cold on a short leash (no exploring on his own). “Don’t look at him.” I didn’t. In about a minute and a half, she told me he was thinking and I could bring him back in. I did. I asked for sit and wait, I opened the door, he rushed out, we shut the door on him again. This time it only took him about thirty seconds to think he might have made the wrong move. Back inside. “Sit. Wait.” I opened the door and instead of charging outside, Chico turned his head and looked at me to see what I was going to do. Less than five minutes. No coercion. No rough stuff. No bribing. The dog made his own, good, decision. I was instantly sold on this woman’s training methods. As you can tell, because we’re still going to her to learn more.
It’s been so interesting getting to know this funny guy, helping him manage is pathology better, learning through that to better manage my own. Chico has gained composure and social skills, I have developed a tolerance – almost a fondness – for exercise; in our own ways we have both made friends, we’ve done a lot of traveling that I might not have done without a buddy.
Here’s one of my first, and still treasured, pictures of Chico:
I was packing up the car for errands: bags for the dump, shopping basket, library books to return – many trips from house to car. At a certain moment, I didn’t see Chico. Terrified that I had already lost him, I looked everywhere until I found him in the driver’s seat of my car with an expression that said “I see you putting many important things in the car. Please do not forget the most important thing. Me.”
I love this dog so much, we are so very much supposed to be together. As of today, he has spent half his life with me, and it has meant the world to me. We’ll do our Gotcha Day thing – take a walk some place where we don’t usually go – because what better birthday present is there for a dog than a bunch of new smells? I invited Sophie and her people because Chico tolerates Sophie pretty well (when I am present, he is not very good at actually liking any other dog, even ones he adores when I am absent); and, without that good advice from her humans, I don’t know where Chico and I would have ended up, but I doubt it would have been in this happy place.