Saturday, November 10, 2012

The difference an (almost) year makes

I stopped by ARLP's adoption day today because I just had to finally meet the puppies.  I saw them at a distance when they first came in to our program, but hadn't seen them since.  What a wiggly bunch of joy they are (and currently up for adoption, should you be interested)!

 I brought Q along in the car as I always like to do when the weather is no longer blazing hot.  After getting my puppy fix, I went out to bring her in to Petco--pet stores are a great place to work on obedience work as there are lots of distractions!  I especially like the ferret distraction, but that could be because I like torturing the Rottweiler.

The observation I made to day is what a difference a year makes.  Believe me, Q still has her issues, but she is not the same dog we got from Chicago Animal Care and Control last January.  She was soliciting attention from complete strangers--one guy walked through the door and she went up to him and leaned on him without any prompting.  What?  Who's dog is that?

Suzy Q at Petco today.  Photo by Paige Reyes.
Let me tell you why this surprises me so much.  To understand, we have to go back to when Steve and I first got Suzy Q.  She was pulled from CACC, which is a high kill urban shelter, by a Minnesota rescue (HHK9) for us to foster.  At the time, we had no plans on keeping her, just to foster.  A little over a week after we got her, we took her in to be spayed.  When I picked her up, the vet tech said that she had been aggressive toward them and that we really needed to get her socialized.  My heart sank--all I could think of was that this was going to be another dog I was going to lose because of behavior issues.  My heart could not take that again--so I sprung into action.  The first thing I did was made an appointment to work with a trainer one-on-one.  I wanted someone else to evaluate her and help me to work through whatever issues she was having.  The first day we met with the trainer, she made it clear that Q was not human aggressive (hey, I was paranoid!) and that we could work on some of the issues she was having.  One of them was resource guarding (of her raccoon, of all things).  Plus we worked on general obedience and how to slowly introduce her to dogs (she is dog selective).  We also visited the vet for fun.  Q and I would go and hang out in the lobby and Q would get fed lots of treats and then we would leave.  She loves going to the vet now--she might not always love everything that is done to her, but we've had no major issues with her and the vet since her spay.  In hindsight, we had set Q up to fail in the spay situation.  She was less than two weeks removed from a crazy shelter environment, and was clearly still coming out of her shell from that situation.  We then took her and dumped her with a bunch of strange people and dogs on a truck.  Yeah...I would have freaked out too.

Suzy Q's CACC mugshot
While working with her trainer (Blair at the Canine Coach), we agreed that she would need to go to a home without kids.  Kids are just too fast and unpredictable, and while Q was by no means aggressive, she did startle easily.  Also with her resource guarding of toys, putting her in a situation with kids would not be smart.  It's hard enough to control the actions of adults, much less kids.  We also agreed that her adopter would have to continue training with Q.  And so, she went up for adoption.  She had a couple of interested people, but once they learned more about her, it just ended up not being a good fit.  Finally I realized one day that no one was going to be good enough for Q in my mind, which meant she was already home.

We had much more to work on, and since then have gone through basic obedience with ARLP's Rott n Pit Ed, nosework class with A Great Dog Now, dog-dog aggression class with Canine Coach, and CGC prep with ARLP.  Through that last class, she received her Canine Good Citizen certification this summer.  I have never been so proud.  We also go on weekly walks with Twin Cities Pack Walk to work on our socialization.  Our training will never be done, but you can see how today was such a milestone for me.  She has been more and more outgoing with people lately, and that just makes my heart sing.  I still avoid interacting with kids, mainly to be on the safe side.  She wants to eat the cats (CACC said she was cat friendly) and we're still working on the "other dog" issues (they said she was good with other dogs too).  But we're a long ways away from that scared dog back in January.  And for that, I am so grateful.

Q and I shortly after we got her in January.  Photo by Paige Reyes.


  1. What a beautiful and loving story Cheese! Makes my heart sing and brings a tear of joy to my eyes!

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  3. You and Steve have done so well for her, and it's so great to see and hear how far she's come, Nicole! Her bf is hoping to see her again soon.