Monday, December 7, 2009
In honor of Beckett's 1st annual adoption day which is just a few days away; I'll re-post my favorite Beckett Story.
It’s hard to believe that Beckett, as he’s now known, is the same dog as the one I first got. The first few days he wouldn't drink or eat. And at one time, walking down the street was an obstacle. He just wouldn’t go. At some point he decided he wasn’t leaving the house. Well, so much for my imagined jogging partner. Oh, and at the time, he didn’t like food or treats that weren’t given to him in his crate. And when he was in his crate he whined. Every night. All night. He whined until we figured out he was afraid of the dark and got him a nightlight, that only took about a week or seven days without sleep.
The walking thing — that took longer. The crossing guard didn’t even blink when Beckett froze up in the middle of the street, she just waited holding up traffic. She acted like it happened all the time, maybe because at that point it did.
The first breakthrough came when Beckett picked up a stuffed animal, the only thing he had ever shown any interest in. So there I was walking down the street attempting to coerce a 70-plus pound dog to simply move by holding out a large incredibly embarrassing teddy bear. It did wonders for my street cred.
Once we were able to get to the end of the street we came to our first setback, these things called “dogs.” The scariest of these creatures was 20 pounds or less and moved quickly. He refused to go down any street that had led to an encounter of the four-legged kind. All my streets lead to parks. In the city, all parks have dogs. It was all dogs; even the neighbor’s whippet scared him. He would literally try to run away (at full speed) from a 5lb dog. If there was no place to run, he might snark or snap and even a small snap from a large dog is no laughing matter.
There is just no way to nicely say, "I don't care if your dog is friendly, my dog might kill yours." He probably wouldn't kill the other dog, but when you need someone to keep their dog away from yours, saying that works, that and a muzzle, we used that too. There are probably better methods, but...
The only exception was other greyhounds. The moment he is with another greyhound everything changes. Of course I’m trying to explain all of this during an open house (a gathering of greyhounds, usually in pet store), and since there is another greyhound, he looks and acts perfectly adjusted. He even does fine near other “regular dogs.” He becomes “Super Dog.” It is a complete 360, and I look like I’m crazy. That’s okay though, because at this point I am sort of used to looking “eccentric.” I’ve been carrying around the teddy bear for a few weeks.
Fortunately, Beckett came to appreciate the wonders of peanut butter, so at least I had two weapons — the teddy bear and the jar of peanut butter — both of which I was carrying around on my walks. Once we were able to walk down the street, I would literally shovel food, cheese, bacon, peanut butter into Beckett's mouth any time we saw another dog. Things started to get better, slowly we could get closer. Of course what really made a difference was time, patience and help. I received a lot of help. Everything from book suggestions to basic lessons on clicker training, in addition to emotional support and advice from really caring dog owners and volunteers.
Soon we could handle larger dogs, then medium ones, and today we do “good” around smaller dogs. He might never be perfect. But, just this morning we went for a walk with a dog 5lb or less, of course that dog wasn't in his face, and I was feeding Beckett kibble the entire time, but I take my wins where I can get them.
Today you might not even know it was the same big guy that came from the track. Though this is probably exacerbated by the story I used to tell people around my old neighborhood, about a dog that looked just like mine that used to live there. That dog didn’t want to walk anywhere and was owned by this crazy lady carrying a teddy bear.
The teddy-carrying lady would just sit down, right on the sidewalk and ignore the didn’t-want-to walk dog until he finally started walking again at which time she would praise him while holding out aforementioned Mr. Ted and a jar of peanut butter.
The thing is I’m not sure who really learned more: me or him. Probably a bit of both. I just wanted to give a shout out to all the people (Jo, Liz, Rally, and others)who helped get Beckett to where he is now — my best friend and running partner.
Beckett is Super Dog 85 to 90 percent of the time, pain in my butt 15 to 10 percent of the time, which is just about where he should be. I'm so happy to have him in my life, not only have I grown and continue to grow experiencing new facets of caring, forgiveness, and patience, but also of trust and love (did I mention patience, because that might need repeating) with my dog, Beckett. Happy Adoption Day.