By DIANA WALDHUBER
I wasn’t intending to have two separate entries for this week's DogTown blog, but you’ll see why when you meet the third dog of the show, a black Lab mix by the name of Zambi.
Her story is one that needs its own entry, because it’s harrowing, sad, and a tale that anyone who has a puppy should heed. Of course, if you’re reading this, then I know you’re a responsible pet owner, but still, sometimes we just don’t take certain things seriously enough …
On to the lighter stuff. The two other dogs we met tonight were Casey and Bingo, and if you missed out on the episode, then you missed out on two fantastic dogs.
Casey, a Beagle mix, had been abandoned at a shelter because he had too much uncontrollable energy. Dogtown took him in, determined to get his energy under control.
Too much energy can make a dog “unadoptable” because that unbound energy can be stressful and tiring, especially when the dog in question has no discipline. So trainer Ann Allums took the challenge of doing what no one else had been able to do: train Casey.
Ann found the key to getting Casey to focus, namely in the form of delicious rewards for tasks done. Ann believes training should always be fun (and if treats are involved, I can bet training is gonna be fun!).
Because of Casey's high energy, in fact, Ann believed he'd be perfect for agility training -- if only they could get Casey to focus.
And thus began training.
Casey quickly moved from the basics to the more advanced stuff and remained focused for the most part (probably because he was blatantly doing it for the rewards, sort of like me if someone asked me to go for a run in exchange for chocolate cake -- who can resist chocolate cake?), or at least until the final two obstacles.
Casey stopped (again like me coming near the end of the run, well, okay, probably more like near the beginning…) and started leaping about happily all over his trainer (perhaps not like me, or at least nothing I’m going to admit here…). But soon they had him back on track.
Casey did so well, in fact, that Ann entered him in an amateur agility contest. These contests are great places to find adoptive families.
Off he went, into a new city, with lots of new people and dogs to distract him. Casey stepped out into the course wearing a spiffy red scarf saying “Adopt Me!” and strutted his stuff. Casey did become distracted at one point, but he got right back on track and finished the course. Talk about adorable.
The second dog was a six-year-old Shepherd mix named Bingo; he from a shelter that had been run by an elderly couple who could no longer keep it going.
Bingo avoided contact with other people and dogs, was fearful and depressed, and hid in the back of the box they used to transport him. Believed to have once belonged to a homeless man, Bingo's unpredictable life on the streets were probably also the cause of his untrusting nature and antisocial behavior
Trainer Pat Whitacre saw this as a big issue to overcome. No one would want to adopt a dog so antisocial and scared. Bingo needed to learn to not only come out of his shell, but understand life was actually fun. For this, Pat was perfect. His patience only served to make Bingo's transition smooth, as it would be slow and subtle, not quickly done in a few weeks.
Bingo was a sweet dog that deserved a life of love and companionship, not the life on pain and loneliness he was used to. But if they couldn’t get Bingo to socialize, then he faced a future similar to his past.
To get Bingo used to life in a home, which he probably had never experienced, Pat took Bingo to his home and introduced Bingo to his dogs and to the concept of treats. Unfortunately, Bingo was so nervous and scared that he refused his treats.
But Pat isn’t a quitter. He got the dog to slowly emerge out of his shell.
After three months of work, Bingo is still skittish and scared, but he trusts Pat, and he’ll accept treats. There is still a long way to go, though. Bingo is the kind of dog that needs a film made about him, you know, one of those “underdog coming out on top” films, if you’ll pardon the pun.
So, that’s it for today’s entry. Look out for Zambi's story tomorrow, coming to an Internet near you!