About Me

My photo
Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Dangerous" Breeds

(Sayre, our host for this week's Fun Monday, over at Sayre Smiles is looking for photos of what inspires us, what helps us have the best day possible. This is a no brainer for me. It's Willie, my 13 year old "dangerous" dog.)

This photo that came across the internets a couple of months ago just makes me laugh. I saved it because I too have one of these feared "dangerous" breed dogs. Mine is a 13 year old foundling that probably has some pit bull, among many other breeds, in his ancestry.

Willie and I joined up on an impulse around Halloween 1996. At the time I definitely did not need another dog. I already had Zack the border collie, Frank the chow mix and Dan the golden. All the dogs were older and none of us were trained. Frank was allowed to be the boss and fully embrace his chowness. Zack was a smart, under-exercised, willful working dog without a job. Dan was a handsome lump of sugar. A friend from work brought in photos of two black and white puppies that she'd found by the Ben Franklin dumpster near her home. She told my friend Sally and me we ought to stop by her place and see how cute they were. . .

So, I promptly did what I would NEVER do now. I threw a milk crate in the car and drove over to "look" at the little foundlings. I brought the little boy home with me and Sally took the little girl. I still can't believe that I would be so casual about adding this little wild card to my pack. I certainly was not the leader of the pack. It was chaotic before Willie came and got worse as time went on. The other dogs tolerated him. They shared the sofa and played with him. When we all needed a break, I put him in this rabbit cage that sat in the living room. I should have studied this photo more closely. You can see from that evil eye he was just biding his time until he could rule the world.

By the time Willie was a year old, he was already methodically asserting his boss dog status. He started with Frank, then Zack and finally Dan. They all bowed to his will, as did I. He choreographed all our movements. Any displays of independence from the other dogs caused horrible fights. I had no idea how to control them. I just tried to read the subtle signs and anticipate and deflect trouble. We lived this way until 2002 when Willie, through old age and ill health on the part of the other dogs, became an only dog. No, he didn't destroy the other dogs, but he certainly made their old age a challenge.
However, it was very wrong of me to impulsively bring Willie in our home when everything was so peaceful among the other dogs.

Willie thrived on all the special attention he got as an only dog. About the time this happened, Louisville was in the middle of a great debate about owning and controlling "dangerous" breeds like pit bulls and rottweilers. I wanted to take Willie out in public and have him behave in a way that contradicts the bad reputation these dogs currently have. So we got to work. I read books on dog behavior and training. Dr. Patricia McConnell's The Other End of the Leash; Caroline Knapp's Pack of Two, the Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs; and Dr. Nicholas Dodman's The Dog Who Loved Too Much, Tales, Treatments and the Psychology of Dogs. Jon Katz's books on living with border collies and labs were also high on my list. I also adopted Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer's principles for living with dogs. Cesar believes that this formula will result in a happy, well-balanced dog: Exercise, Discipline, and Affection. He also is a proponent of using calm, assertive energy in dealing with dogs.

By applying what I've learned about living with dogs in working with Willie, I have gained a companion who gives me a great deal of purpose, pleasure and inspiration on a daily basis. I love being stopped by people when we're walking. They study this "dangerous" dog, see how well he behaves and invariably ask: "What kind of dog is that? Looks like a pit bull?". I always just smile and answer, "You know, I'm not sure. He was a foundling. He's certainly my good old boy though."

Now be sure to pop over to Sayre's place and get the list of other Fun Monday participants so you can see what inspires them every day. I suspect that Willie will not be the only four-legged inspiration.

24 comments:

Gattina said...

What a nice post ! I love dogs too of course but if you want to travel it is easier to have cats, they are more independant.

Bobbie Leigh said...

You're doggy is so cute! When I glanced at that first picture my immediate thought was, "That was your dog?" LOL! Glad it wasn't, poor guy. I had seen that before and thought it was hilarious.

m (the misanthrope) said...

Beautiful story, Faye. I believe that with animals, you get what you give. There are always exceptions of course, but in general...that's my theory. Bravo to you for being a responsible pet owner, and to both you and Willie for being "animal ambassadors"!

Also, thank you for visiting me! Yep, I've missed commenting too! (I hope I commented on your last post - I really liked it.)

And thank you for that link - I look forward to checking it out!

Lil Mouse said...

cute pictures. how fun. I miss my dogs.

Janis said...

Wow you did have a pack of dogs. I wonder what they really thought of Willie. Clearly he was the pack leader. I love to watch The dog whisperer, he just fascinates me the way he handles dogs. I have applied a few of his tips with my daughters English lab and it works like a charm. So glad that Willie is a great companion and friend to you. There is nothing like unconditional love.

Faye said...

gattina--dogs do take a bit more planning if you like to travel. Cats are less needy or too proud to show they miss you!

bobbie leigh --don't you just love these animal videos? My current favorite is Kinsford, a baby pig on youtube.

misanthrope--agreed. A lazy pet owner is "rewarded" with an out of control dog a lot of times. I'm sure cats need the same interaction and stimulation to be a good pet--different form, perhaps. Can't see Willie chasing a feather!

lil mouse--dogs and baby didn't mesh?

janis--it was amazing to watch. As a pup Willie started working on Frank the chow and knocked him off the pedestal and then went after border collie Zack and then the golden Dan until he was the ruler. When I started using Cesar's methods on Willie, being very calm but direct, he became a different dog. Our daily walk is a good time to practice this. Plus, tired dogs are good dogs!

Hootin' Anni said...

Oh I think the media has so much guilt with making this breed so feared. As with Doberman's....I had one of those, and it was the most gentle of gentles....I think the personality has to do with the owner. Yours is beautiful.

Thanks for dropping by today.

Sayre said...

How lovely. I'm sorry Willie was such a challenge to the other dogs in their old age - he seems to have been destined to be an only dog as he has flourished since it's been just the two of you.

All of our dogs have been rescues in one way or another and all needed rather intense training and attitude adjustments. But they have all been lovely dogs once they got the idea.

The Church Lady said...

That first picture just cracks me up! ROFL! According to our ex- vet, my first yellow lab was mixed with pit bull. The vet would always muzzle him when we took him in for a visit. I hated it. He (Buddy) wouldn't have hurt a fly! Your dog is adorable. Thanks for sharing your heartwarming story.

Molly said...

The picture of little boy coloring on the pit bull is precious. I do confess to being afraid of pit bulls and other unknown dogs, and we have had some children bitten by such dogs in our town. However, a little bit of exercise, discipline, and affection is probably good for most dogs and humans.

Faye said...

hootin' anni--yes, unfortunately Dobies get a bad rap as well. I believe that the media just can't delve into the entire circumstances surrounding an attack by the stronger breeds. They mostly have to get to the story of the attack. We all know that how the dog is raised, trained, and cared for pretty much determines how the dog acts, but there's not much time allocated to that part of the equation.

sayre--I'm already thinking about next dog since Willie is 13. I'd love to have another strong breed, but will probably go with a softer "teenager" who loves to walk.

church lady--what a picture of patience to put up with being worked on by the little artist. Especially love the eye makeup.

molly--fears understood with all the negative publicity. I do remember a friend telling me about their pit bull being reported to animal control for being lose. When the officer got to the house, the old pitty came around the side of the house sucking on his favorite pacifier!

MommyW said...

I can't imagine my dog EVER allowing that to happen to him! But it's hilarious!! I can't let my daughter see it, or she'll get ideas.

Have a great day!

MommyWizdom

Ari_1965 said...

Good post.

Sandcastle Momma said...

That's a great story and the picture of the boy coloring on him cracks me up. Boys will be boys!

ChrisB said...

What a lovely post. You clearly did a great job training Willie. I have to say I've always been a bit wary of *dangerous breeds* I'm a border collie person and I might be tempted again if someone produced a cuddly pup.

Mariposa said...

Reminds me of the dogs we have. They're bothers but they can't seem to get along with each other. My mom had to tie them several feet away and out of sight from each other. One time, one of the dog got lose and attacked his brother. My mom had to spray water to split them up. Enjoyed the first one picture though. Mine was up a bit late... I have a manic Monday this week... Happy Fun Monday! ;-)

Swampwitch said...

I am such a dog (Boxer) lover. They are the true definition of Unconditional Love.
That first pic is a classic.
Swampy
http://anecdotes.typepad.com

Pamela said...

I love the Dog Whisperer.
He never ceases to amaze me.

I became the leader of my pack when I had a rottweiler. He was the dog love of our life -- and the gentle giant of our neighborhood.

Faye said...

mommyW--I notice that the "canvas" for the little artist in the first photo is a mama dog. Do you think that accounts for the patience?

ari--thanks. You know about turning "bad" dogs around, right?

sandcastle momma--I'm assuming the markers were washable ink. . .

chrisB--agree about border collies. On our walks we've watched two adorable BC pups grow into unruly teenagers. Makes me sad that they're confined on a surburban lot by underground fencing. How boring, they deserve better.

mariposa--I hope your mother's dogs don't have to stay tied all the time. That probably contributes to the aggression and frustration they show toward each other.

swampwitch--who could resist a boxer face--and their curiosity?

Faye said...

pamela--yes, Cesar makes a lot of sense. I love his obvious love, although of the tough variety, for powerful breeds like your rotty and my pit. On another totally annoying topic. Thank you so much for faithfully commenting on my blog when it would seem that I don't return the favor. I read your posts, but every time I try to comment I get that blasted red stop sign. Can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. Today, for example, I wanted to say that I loved Buttercup's sand smiley face but couldn't get the thing to go through. Aughhtt-ttt!

m (the misanthrope) said...

Hello my friend! I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your comment on Sayre's post today. My job has its repetitive elements too, and sometimes I feel that if I have to prepare one more report or review item, I'll go right up the wall. I am also interested in the books/writers you mentioned, thanks!

Happy Friday to you!

Lane said...

You may not do the same thing now but it was a fortuitous day when you went to 'look' at young Master Willie. It seems like you and He have learnt an awful lot along the way.

How did Sally fare with Willie's little sister?

Faye said...

m (misanthrope)--repetitiveness is the thing that kills in the workplace, I recall. How do you fulfill ongoing job responsibilities while injecting a bit of sanity saving variety? That is the question, right?

lane --luckily we all do some foolish things when young that turn out very well. Willie is in that category. His sister Hallie was also a fighter, making life miserable at times for Sophie the basset. Hallie also is now an only dog spending her days enjoying the retired life with Sally's husband.

karisma said...

LOL at that first shot! Your pup does not look like a pitt bull as a puppy though, he is a mixed breed?

I also agree that dogs respond to how they are treated. The problem with Pitt bulls and even Staffy's (like my pup) is that their jaws lock when they go in for the kill. I can vouch for this as a pitt bull jumped a 6 foot fence and went for one of my dogs when she was a pup, we had a hell of a time getting it off her. It was very scary! The same dog went for several other people and was eventually taken away. But then having seen that I have seen so called gentle breeds attack too.

Our Staffy's are both big sooks and all the other ones I know are too. However, my pup is a little feisty when it comes to jealousy so I will have to watch her. Aren't dogs just like kids? LOL!