From Rescue Dog to Guide Dog - Part 4

Buddy Flunks Doggy Day Care

You would think that a dog who was picked up off the streets would have a certain swag and street smarts - you know; a confident air that says I’ve seen it all and I’m top dog around here! But that’s not Buddy. We were told by Brian from “Way of the Dog” that we needed to take Buddy to the Dog Parks about 60 times and help him get socialized.

Buddy is a BIG 90 pound fearsome looking dog who, when people see him coming down the sidewalk, grab little fluffy and run. Buddy looks like that enormous bald guy in the prison yard bench pressing 1000 pound weights with a swastika tattooed on his forehead,. NOBODY messes with that guy! So naturally what I expect when Buddy steps foot into the Dog Park is the sea of K9s parting like he was a four footed Moses.

Wrong! A group of runt dogs greeted Buddy at the gate and Buddy turned tail and ran. It was embarrassing. So we took Buddy to the doggy day care center where they have a meticulous way of socializing dogs by introducing them into the pack. Buddy just about leaped out of his skin when those fifty sets of noses poked and prodded him of like he was a kielbasa at an encased meat convention. The sweet young manager of the facility politely turned to us and said; “I guess Buddy doesn’t like the environment”. In other words get your insecure piece of dog fur out of here. My dog flunked Doggy Day Care!

Me:        Buddy flunked Doggy Day Care

Brian:    So take him to the Dog Parks

Me:        You don’t understand, he’s like the nerd that all the bullies pick on and steal his lunch money

Brian:    Then you need to protect him

Me:        Ugh?

Brian:    Yeah, you need to be the pack leader that comes to his rescue so that he feels safe enough to interact with the other dogs

Me:        Me a pack leader? How do I do that?

Brian:    If you see another dog getting aggressive step in a give them a whack with the leash in your hand.

Me:        Won’t the owners mind?

Brian:    If they’re not paying attention to their dogs then they're idiots … so whack their dog. (Brian doesn’t mess around when it comes to dog training)

Brian explained that Dogs get aggressive when they are insecure so if we wanted to keep Buddy from getting into some bad habits (like ripping the throat out of the neighbor’s dog) then we need to make sure he knows he’s got back up. Kind of like Starsky and Hutch. (Note here – this is a reference to very old TV buddy cop drama) One of them won't go blasting into the drug dealers den unless he knows he's got the other one watching his back.

So once again, to help Buddy become the Guide Dog he was meant to be, we need to step up and learn something new; like how to become his bodyguard. Funny – I thought it was going to be the other way around. But somehow I think if we can pull this off he may just be that dog I want at my side when I encounter a scary person in a dark alley. Because we’ve got each other’s backs.

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Rescue Dog to Guide Dog: Part 1

The story of Buddy's amazing Journey

When I first met my wife, Cheri, I would not have known she had  a serious vision impairment if it weren't for the big yellow dog (AKA Clifton) proudly sitting at her side wearing his uniform (guiding harness). As Cheri explains it , Clifton was her confidence rolled up in a fur ball.  Although Cheri was extremely independent Clifton helped her navigate through life's obstacles. I too quickly fell in love with him but sadly just a few years later Clifton fell ill and was forced to retire. Losing Clifton was a big blow to Cheri as he was not only her friend, companion, and often entertainment but she had become reliant on him for most of her mobility.  After losing Clifton we came to the sad realization it would be at least a year (if then) before she would be paired with a new partner who would meet her rigorous demands of ten mile hikes and insanely fast walking.  To give you an idea of why the process is so long many guide dogs are bread in a test tube and genetically engineered to have all the characteristics of a perfect service dog. They are then groomed for two years to exact standards of obedience and deportment and taught how to perform flawlessly in most any situation. Once a dog is matched with its new partner that team spends a month at the training school working from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM to ensure that they become a perfect unit.  Net cost for a fully trained guide dog - $65,000.

So we decided to think “outside the box” - way outside the box. 

Meanwhile Cheri started working on a "Get Healthy - Adopt a Pet" project for our business, Total Wellness Resource Center.  The idea was to cross market with a local rescue, “Whiskers and Tails " in Palos Verdes, CA and give back to the community.  I can only describe this project as, "putting a kid in a candy store". in fact, I am not sure 24 hours passed before Cheri saw a photo of Buddy on the rescue's website and it was love at first sight. 

Then along came Buddy.

In Cheri's mind Buddy had exactly what it would take to be her next partner which included size, personality, temperament and energy level. But he was a street wondering, untrained rescue dog - not a highly trained service dog.  If you know Cheri then you know there was no point arguing - with in 24 hours I had a new 90 lb. roommate.  Don't get me wrong, Buddy is a beautiful dog (mix of Rottweiler and "we think"! Shepard)  but he had untamed boundless energy and had been living on the streets fending for himself for - nobody knows how long; with absolutely no training. 

So with all that said, we want to invite you on this journey with us.  The journey of Buddy's transformation. We have had him for about five weeks and the training has begun. We have seen signs of brilliance and times when we’ve honestly wondered what we got ourselves into. But we can see that he has a good heart and takes great joy in pleasing us. There are millennia of man/dog interaction bread into Buddy’s DNA so that he experiences his greatest fulfillment when he is working seamlessly as our helper. Our job is to help him become what he was created to become. (If that sounds familiar it’s also the vision of Total Wellness Resource Center but we focus on humans)

This time of training for both Buddy and us will be the content for our up and coming "Selfless Saturday" Blogs. Please follow along with us as we learn more about Buddy’s world and how he begins to learn how to be Cheri's new "confidence in a fur ball" Guide Dog.