Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Graduation Day - West Concord, MA

Exhausted from the exciting event

In September of 2014, we adopted a Big Fluffy Dog -- my blog from then explains a bit about how he got here and the merits of rescuing dogs rather than buying them from breeders. No, I am not judging those who buy--I bought 3 of my 5 dogs from breeders during my lifetime. I wish all dogs could have a happy home, one way or another.

There have been ups and downs in our relationship (me and Coal) which you might equate to terrible toddler twos, pre-adolescence and adolescence. Today, however, was graduation from middle school and I am pretty proud of this 55-pound lab-husky-who-knows-what (but I've sent in his cheek swab to find out) mix. 

The downs of Coal: he swallowed almost whole a one-pound piece of cheese imported from Brazil by leaping up on the counter when we weren't looking. He ate a favorite scarf of mine given to me by a dear friend. He swallowed several soft toys whole--one flat squirrel had to be assisted out the other end--don't think about it--I try not to. Yesterday he finished off a Michael Vick edition football which is more than appropriate for that dog-fighting criminal.

Bye bye Michael Vick

In the early days Coal twice growled at one of my sons who wanted to hug him when he had a treat. At the dog sitters' house, he bit a dog who wanted his treat. He also bit Finley the wonder dog, my neighbor's dog, when he tried to get a rawhide bone. He is, as I found out the words from the trainer, treat-aggressive.

As our wonderful trainer has told me, it is hardly surprising that a rescue dog is somewhat aggressive when he perceives something that is his is at risk. He probably had to fight for food wherever he came from. Fortunately we have now figured this out and we "set him up for success" as my positive trainer says--no treats with other dogs. He has not growled again at my son, even when Lalo launches himself on top of his furry back. Coal is not food aggressive, by the way--any dog can steal food from his dish and he doesn't care. I don't take chances though and he eats in the laundry room alone. 

Happy snow adventures...

Coal was in six weeks of puppy class, one-on-one with the trainer who came to our house. He learned to sit, down, stay, leave it, heel, etc. He is marginal still on some of these commands. He does not like to "wait" or "stay" and "come" is also a depends-on-what's-in-it-for-him moment. He loves to eat other dogs' poop (sorry, were you having lunch?) so "leave it" is also marginal. I try not to watch as he snacks it up. Fortunately he is not a big licker of my face so we go home to a dental chew and call it a day.

Yep, he also eats firewood

For the last few weeks, he has been in Graduate Puppy. It is like the master's degree of doggiedom. With several other dogs, he learns to not be distracted, to heel even when being chased by a 3 month old golden retriever puppy and to "leave it" (he's pretty good at it when the leave-it object is cotton balls. I still wouldn't trust him on the poopsicles). Today was his last class and there were three new puppies--a golden, a goldendoodle, a terrier of some sort and his friend Libby, a 5 month old black lab who has been there the last couple of weeks.
Coal was the biggest and the oldest. He reminds me of a continuing-education student at a college--older, wiser, but still enjoys the kids around him. He sat, he downed, he heeled and I was proud of him. We did tennis ball agility, hula hoop traverses, and he was fabulous, though not without mistakes. And now he has his master's degree, and that makes me think he is set up for success.

While our start was rough, I will say that I can't imagine life without him now. Just like Caju was, and Haifa is for me. Except here is the dog who has gotten me through some lonely days here in Weston. We go into the woods each and every morning-- minus 10 degrees or snowstorm or whatever. Into the woods. He goes off-leash, races down deer paths, bounds up to any other dogs, and then he comes back to me. And at the end of the walk, he sits, I click him into his harness, and we walk back up the street. His favorite place is not the woods: it is home. Our home. 

Happy Graduation, Coal. 

One happy dog in the woods

Sunrise on the trails

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