Last week, I said my Newf and I would become a therapy team for Be the Change, a movement to promote animal welfare. While I’m eagerly awaiting the delivery of my Delta Society training manual, it occurred to me that our training started a year ago, almost to the day. At the time,what we were doing simply wasn’t obvious. I thought it might be fun to look back to see how far we’ve come.
Last March, as we drove our rescue Newf toward home, Tim stopped the car allowing for?the passage of two riders on horseback. The Newf, locking his eyes on the magnificent animals, rumbled a low, guttural growl from the back seat. Tim and I flashed glances at each other. There is nothing more unnerving than having an unknown giant growling directly behind your face. The horses passed and we continued the half mile toward home. Once out of view, all was right with the world again. Then, as we all settled in for an afternoon rest later that weekend, Clint Eastwood charged across our obscenely huge plasma screen – on horseback . Shamus jolted upright and rumbled once more. He watched vigilantly throughout the rest of the film. Not long after, this behavior carried over at PetsMart when encountering 2 larger dogs. We obviously had some socialization issues to overcome.
WORKING TOWARD CHANGE
Having taken Shamus to Nassau Veterinary Clinic (to clear a double ear infection, treat his Lyme and Entropion, x-ray his dysplastic hips and his stomach to be sure that the chewed child’s toy re-appearing in sloppy piles of kibble was fully gone), we learned about a class they offered called Tails on Trails. It’s focus is to acclimate our dog to other dogs, people and a variety of situations and environments. We thought this would be helpful tool to convey to Shamus that we are his source of safety at all times.
Watching footage of that first day at class, it’s amazing to see how much Shamus looked to us for direction and confidence. We had so much yet to learn about working as a team with increased verbal and visual communication and less leash correction. Most amazing was Shamus’ increased tolerance for large animals. He may not have liked the cows, but he didn’t growl at a single one and joined the pack of big dogs like?a trooper. Perhaps that nueter helped.
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE
Although we had no idea we’d make this new commitment together, here we are. One small step leads to another. As a therapy Newf, Shamus will need to accept other animals as he does people. He came so far that day, let alone over the last year. I’m confident we are beyond this issue now. Believe me, we’ll continue practicing in order to be very, very sure.
Now, if only we could get our water dog to like the water. His papa ruined a favorite pair of hiking boots during Shamus’ first swimming lesson – in Newfoundland Creek, of all places.