First off, let me apologize for the delay in following up on Jameson’s rehabilitation. The inn was full and I needed to get all of the dogs transitioned home and adopted, they are always my number one priority. So, thank you for your patience!
We left off with Tucker formerly known as Vince, finding his perfect forever home, leaving room for Jameson at my place. I picked up Jameson in late October, to be honest, I thought he’d be with me for the long haul. I wasn’t sure if the formerly social pup would get along with dogs after seeing his reactivity on walks. He needed consistent energy draining and to learn that he’d have access to bathroom breaks on a consistent basis to resolve his urinating in the crate habit. Overall, he needed to be reminded that being pushy and demanding was inappropriate and be shown that humans could once again be consistent.
Jameson arrived right before Halloween 2016. We started immediately with big hikes to drain his pent up energy and I learned quickly that although he had the ability to be an athlete, his day to day energy requirements were not as high as I had originally thought. Knowing that Arizona has brutal summers, I made sure to teach him how to use a treadmill so that when his new family needed it, he’d have a way to drain energy when the weather would not permit. He took to it immediately, a sign that he was eager for direction and trusting of what I would be asking of him as the process continued. While Jameson was at the Standing Proud facility, I had already had an opportunity to teach him how to paddleboard and swim, another way his new family could make sure he was fulfilled from an exercise standpoint. I remember when I saw Cesar put my dog Titan on a paddleboard for the first time, he explained that it was an opportunity for the brain to connect with the body. Since dogs can only do one thing at a time, it puts them in a position to focus on their physical balance over entertaining an over active and reactive state of mind. This is a wonderful outlet for an anxious dog to experience a new state of mind. Additionally, it’s a fun activity to do with a dog and an excellent form of bonding and building trust. Jameson’s list of talents was growing everyday and he was thriving. The whining and reactivity began to subside as he was being
fulfilled which helped me feel comfortable introducing him to the pack.
Little Guy, friend to all, was the first dog I had him walk with. I took Jameson out on his own for a lap then added Little Guy to our next lap. After draining their energy, we came home, and I let them off leash. Things went off without a hitch. I had already spent one on one time with Jameson which allowed me to understand his body language cues. Even though there are patterns in body language, those patterns allow for a variety of outcomes. For example, just because a dogs hair is standing up, it doesn’t always mean a fight is about to commence. It’s a form of arousal, this arousal can lead to over excited play, a fight, controlling behavior OR with human guidance that arousal can be interrupted and brought back down to an appropriate level. For Jameson, it had been a long time since he had been social with other dogs and his excitement needed to be interrupted so that we could form the outcome that we wanted, which was calm and social interactions with other dogs.
Jameson arrived right before the holidays, a time of change to brings excitement and change can cause behavior changes in dogs. This didn’t frighten me, these would be opportunities to influence his behavior and teach him how to behave with canine and human visitors, and to gauge his sensitivities to these changes. If he had big setbacks, that would mean we’d need a certain type of adopter for him – one that would provide the level of guidance and structure he needed to thrive. We immediately had our first Halloween together and although we didn’t participate by being outside amongst the dressed up kids and excited energy or even by answering the knocks and doorbell rings to hand out candy – the dogs were still
exposed to the new sounds and excitement because we live in “that” neighborhood, the one that people shuttle to for the king size candy bars and big lawn displays – this is still a form of participation, just from a distance. I used this opportunity to teach all the dogs that the noise and sounds from outside didn’t change how we behave inside and that it represented a calm state of mind and that the dogs didn’t need to be alert or reactive to it. As nighttime drew near, Jameson wanted to bark and growl in reaction to the outside environment but with each bark and growl, I’d examine what he saw as a threat and then remind him that we behave calmly in the house. If I’m monitoring what a dog sees as a threat, then they don’t need to spend the entire evening reminding me of the monsters outside. Within thirty minutes all the pups were snoozing and the sounds of Halloween represented a big pack nap. Having information about my pack that sound sensitivities can cause reactions, I also chose to crate them so that in the event that one dog reacted and another dog attempted to control that reaction, I could intervene without it escalating into a confrontation. Over the years, I’ve had a number of people reach out for help after a dog fight or cases of extreme anxiety from a holiday with so much excitement and noise outside. Usually, what sets the dogs up for such an issue is too much freedom, a lack of guidance, and wanting to sooth a dog into feeling better. We have a responsibility to create a plan for success and in this case, I had a new dog in that pack that was prone to reactivity and dogs that exhibit controlling behavior – limiting their freedom to act out on their normal reactions created a safe environment. I would never knowingly set the pack up for a failure – if I know a dogs history – I must take that into account when navigating a new experience like this.
Next up, we had our first Thanksgiving, which brought human visitors as well as boarding pups. Jameson had been with me for 6-7 weeks at this point and no longer exhibiting his reactive tendencies. We had one boarding dog in particular that exhibited high levels of stress and Jameson was an excellent example to her of how to behave. He also had a chance to meet my parents’ dog, Gidget. Jameson no longer felt the need to react to dogs on walks or in person, this allowed me to provide him more freedom. Occasionally, our lovely boy would hear or see something that would catch his attention but a quick reminder that he didn’t need to get involved was all that was needed for him to return to the moment with me. He was becoming such a wonderful dog and I was falling for this handsome man. I continued to foster and work with Jameson and lucky for me he became one of the dogs I used to test the social skills of other dogs! He got a girlfriend named Hannah, on of my regular boarders and the first dog ever adopted form Standing Proud Pit Bull Rescue. I let them out together and he was over the moon for her, she communicated that he needed to slow it down and for the next three days he would approach ever so slowly and gently until she accepted his advances. He also helped an overexcited golden retriever, Kahlua, that came to me for rehabilitation for behaving aggressively with the dogs in her home, learn how to walk nicely in the pack and play calmly. Next up, he helped a mischievous pup name Minnie learn how to play at a nice low level and chill without constantly needing to look for something to ingest, as she came to me after a surgery for an obstruction in her bowels and colon! Jameson had turned into quite the asset here and I really wanted to keep him!
Around this time, Jameson received an application from a family. They had three kids and had owned dogs before so, sounds like a great option to explore! We went over and Jameson was slightly excited as he has a very positive association to children but that excitement had not been controlled in the past. We showed the family how we could help him learn to be calm around the children and explained he had been in rehabilitation and his adoption would come with several training sessions. We explained our transition process, it begins with providing little freedom and that Jameson would need to learn to relax in his crate before having free range because their busy household would be very stimulating for him. They let us know that they would not want to crate him and we let them know that they’d have to find another dog. I get it, it sounds harsh, just because they don’t agree with our tactics we won’t give them a dog??? We’d deprive a dog a home because we are so confident in what we do??? The answer is heck yes, we would. We’d already seen the outcome of Jameson’s life without rules and boundaries, it would be naïve to believe that the work we had done to restore him to balance would be maintained if his humans didn’t follow through what was working. If we know that they aren’t willing to follow through on the first step, we would knowingly and willingly be signing up for resistance. We weren’t interested in placing Jameson quickly, we were interested in placing Jameson appropriately and for the long haul, if there’s one thing we are willing to do, it is wait for the perfect family.
Our next holiday was Christmas. We had an adoption event in early December and when we arrived, Abby let me know that some potential adopters were coming to meet Jameson. I responded with, “Well, they better be amazing because I’m beginning to think this dog is staying with me forever.” I had my wonderful assistant, Maci, with me to help show off this boys dazzling skills. I mean, come on, a five year old can walk this dog in a busy public place at an adoption event and he followed. How could he not show well? Maci spent all morning with me draining his energy and teaching him how to behave. This is a reminder that dogs will follow energy and belief over physical strength, this is also my very favorite memory of Jameson. The couple came up and introduced themselves, Jen and Gary, they had just moved here and wanted to add an athletic dog to the family. Jen was a fitness coach with a wonderfully positive attitude and looking for a dog that could keep up with her active lifestyle. Gary was calm, cool, and collected – a perfect pair. We went on and on about Jameson’s walking skills, paddleboarding, and swimming abilities, they were thrilled! Then they dropped the bomb, they had a cat name Princepesa…
As far as we knew, Jameson hated cats as much as Indiana Jones hates snakes. We let them know our concerns and they were willing to see if we could teach Jameson to live peacefully with the kitty. We set up a meet and greet and I guess you’ll have to wait and see if Jameson found his forever home with Jen, Gary, and…. Princepesa…