Note: This is a guest post by John, the man behind the scenes. He took Lucas on this group walk because we both agreed that he’d be much calmer than I would be. 🙂 And, I must admit, I cried when John told me this whole story and showed me the accompanying pictures. My dogs never, ever cease to amaze, impress, and inspire me!
A little background for those of you aren’t familiar with Lucas, our fearful dog. We’ve had him for four years now, and he’s never been great with new dogs. Double that for big dogs (he’s 80 lbs, himself). Triple that for when he’s on his leash. It’s all fear-based. It’s something we’ve, unfortunately, come to expect from him time to time. As such, we’ve learned to manage it. We avoid situations where we know he’s just not going to enjoy himself.
Right before we moved from DC toIndiana, Lucas made some remarkable strides. He was a social butterfly on our daily walks, and he loved going to doggy day care. Sadly, when we moved, we began to see fewer and fewer dogs, and Lucas reverted to his old ways of preventing dogs from getting close to him. We were fortunate enough to take Cooper to a wonderful trainer, Leslie, here in town who also has a weekend dog-walking club. They meet on the edge of the Indiana University campus and walk around downtown Bloomington. She recently invited Maggie and me along and told us we should bring Cooper. After discussing it, we decided this would be a perfect, controlled opportunity to get Lucas around other dogs where he wouldn’t feel threatened, and he would at least know one other person and dog. The trainer and her wonderful dog Mercury, as it turns out, were the stranger and neutral dog when Lucas took (and passed!) his Canine Good Citizen test. So we figured she would be understanding if we wanted to bring Lucas. She was all for it.
Lucas and I got there early with lots and lots of meat. We walked around without other dogs in sight and just enjoyed ourselves. We got to the meeting place and settled on the grass where I just kept feeding Lucas treats when he noticed anything: people walking by, strollers, dogs at a distance.
Slowly, dogs started trickling in one by one, until there were nine other dogs there. Lucas was fully aware of them, but he wasn’t crying, staring, or even ignoring me. When we saw Leslie, she walked up to us with Mercury and asked if he could say hello to Lucas. I told her maybe later, that he was doing great and I didn’t want to rush him. Ever the trainer, she told us where we were going and Lucas and I ended up in front. (I think she did that on purpose.)
Right away, I saw one dog that I knew Lucas would be perfectly fine with. She was a pit-mix puppy named Freelove, and Lucas has always gotten along with puppies.
Naturally, I didn’t get the guy’s name, but we chatted and walked together with everyone behind us. Almost immediately, I forgot about all of the other dogs around us and Lucas seemed to as well. We strolled along downtown, making our way to the Farmers’ Market with hundreds of people, including small children and senior citizens in motorized wheelchairs. I readied myself with more treats thinking this would be where Lucas would have an incident. As if on cue, Lucas walked right up to the woman in the wheelchair and licked her arm. This, mind you, is the dog that at one time was terrified of umbrellas, plastic shopping bags, the television, and more. I soon realized that I was the only one worrying.
When we reached an area with a bit more room, I asked Leslie if I could have Lucas sidle up next to Mercury while we walked. She said of course, and Lucas moved right on up to Mercury without breaking stride. ELATION. After that, Lucas and I got a lot braver. I moved Lucas right into the middle of the pack and not once did he seem scared, tense, or anything other than a big yellow dog enjoying himself.
By the end of the day, he walked next to Mercury, sniffed a little dog named Link, made friends with Freelove, walked next to a Shar-pei-Rottie mix, and pranced right by the world’s best Pomeranian.
We walked for almost two hours, and when we got home, Lucas could barely keep his eyes open.
Maggie, of course, was beyond words when she saw the pictures. Lucas proved just how amazing he is, and how amazing all dogs are. None of the dogs knew about Lucas’ troubled past, and within minutes, I don’t think Lucas had much memory of his fears either. This is exactly what Lucas needed, and what I needed, too. Needless to say, we cannot thank Leslie enough and will be back whenever we can.
Finally, as proof, here’s the video of Lucas and his new friend Mercury.