Something clicked with Patches & I in the very beginning... something that hasn't changed in the intervening years since we've been together. That moment at the Hopkinton State Park changed quickly from making fast progress, to Patch showing me what was up when a less dog-savvy friend of mine pulled up late in his vehicle. Jimmy walked casually to where I was standing (while I was winning over "Kujo") to hand me a collar. I calmly said, "Don't stare at him; just hand me the collar." Human nature frequently takes over. And it did in this situation - and Jimmy was pretty lucky he didn't get within bite range. I grabbed the collar and dismissed Jimmy boy.
I am the fortunate owner & founder of HEX Dog Training & Behavior Modification, blah blah blah - let's spare you my credentials - but suffice is to say, I live my life in bully breed dogs, and that is the capacity in which Patch's foster parents reached out.
Let me reiterate: Patches' foster parents were incredible, especially Kelly. She is an amazing budding trainer who had Patches very familiar with the clicker, as well as countless other skills positively reinforced, & Patch had some "mad skills" because of her. (Clicker training is AMAZING I'll cover that happily in a future article). Patches did not come to me a wild animal with no skills - he had skills. He just had some major obstacles to overcome, and my situation was better equipped to deal with those, and my techniques able to take him farther. After we proved that with a "meet 'n greet" with our three dog household crew, the rest may be history... (Who's writing this article? I adopted him.)
I am proud to say that Patches went on to gain his... ta-dah!.. Canine Good Citizen certification, and has assisted countless foster dogs in their own rehabilitation. Imagine that?
Alas... His many successes were not without difficulty and there are many factors that contribute to a dog's developing personality, in particular, what I love to call the "M" Factor ("M" for Maturity). (Did I mention Patches was around eight months old when I unexpectedly[?] adopted him?) The "M" Factor is clearly evident in our case study here, Mr. Patch-Tastic. While true dog aggression is extremely rare, there are dogs that display it - I'd say less than 1%. It [true dog aggression] is largely genetic, and while someone (qualified) can certainly do a lot to modify behavior, it [the trait of dog aggression] is something that will always be present to more or less degree and have to be managed. No prob'm. (That's a New England accent in type.)
Patches is my third dog. By third dog, I mean the third dog that I adopted as, myself, an adult (as opposed to participating in the adoption of my family dogs growing up). (Caruso, a Chow mix, was my first, who passed away to cancer after two short years and spent most of his time with my roommate Emily* - with whom I adopted him. Spark Plug, APBT, was my second dog, and he is turning seven this August .)
Patches bounded into my life completely unexpectedly after my angel of a [different] roommate set up that first meeting (partially chronicled above) after which Patch came home with us "to try an overnight." Ya'all know how that ends up. Regardless of all these facts seemingly to the contrary, Patches is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.
Patch-Tastic has taught me so much about love, patience, sensitivity, handling, management, training, and perhaps most important of all - the difference between training & rehabilitation. I say this all the time, but Training and Rehabilitation are not the same thing. They go hand in hand, for sure, but are they the same thing? I say neigh. Patches taught me that. Training is easier. Rehab means months, years, of work and consistency, and training is merely a component of rehabilitation.
Patches is a GOOF ball - and anyone who knows him will attest to that. (Right Kelly, Mikaela, Randle, Mum, Ryan, Jame...?). He is one of the most affectionate dogs I have ever come across, and extremely intelligent. He does obedience & tricks with the gusto of a fifteen year old girl at a carnival. He is so intuitive - it's almost creepy sometimes - and he does this crazy thing when you're upset where he comes up to you all slow and gentle and grabs your hand ever-so-sweetly with his paw. All he wants to do is hold hands, nothing more. He'll sit like that for two episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. (Can't help but insert the very linguistic "lol" right here.)
***Side Note*** Ya see, Patches doesn't often come to work with me at HEX, nor does he participate in every dog-friendly event that occasionally the rest of my crew does. It stresses him out and he isn't into it, nor is it safe beyond a shadow of a dog, for the rest of the K9 participants. Let's clear it up by saying this: I walk him in my public neighborhood wearing a muzzle because, while we could walk by you and your dog - and you'd have NO idea anything was "wrong" with him, if he was nozzle-less ("nozzle" is the favored term for "muzzle" around here) and Fluffy ran up on him off leash and jumped him, Fluffy wouldn't make out so well. My neighborhood is a normal neighborhood and while they're all sweet and generally under control, there is the occasional loose dog. Can't do anything about THAT so I choose to nozzle my non-dog-loving dog while walking the neighborhood because I am aware of what his reaction can be to the unexpected (and well-intentioned) miscellaneous "friendly" dog. I've gotten over the "oh my gosh, what will the neighbors think!" bullsh*t with regard to the nozzle. It doesn't matter. I am protecting my dog. I'm being responsible. They [the neighbors] appreciate that. Whether they know it or not.
So Jill's in my kitchen.
I walk Patch out of his crate by his collar, and lead him through a quick obedience routine as Jill's color drains from her face... and then returns three shades redder. I keep Patch busy and - I admit - showed off a bit. (Did I mention how effing smart Patches is?) You'll never guess what happened next...
It was right there in that moment that he made it impossible for Jill to be afraid of him. She started laughing, reached down and scratched his belly (just like he wanted!) and we all laughed. It was simply amazing to see Patch's intuitiveness really show.
Ya see, this is the dog that Patches was always meant to be. He has that beautiful intuitive nature, desirable of therapy dogs. In Jill's moment, they both had a chance to shine. He felt her anxiety, and reacted to it in a way that even I couldn't have predicted.
Given, let's be clear - I am a professional dog trainer & instructor (have been for almost eight years at 30 years old), and I regulated this entire situation. I would NEVER put anyone in harm's way, and this wasn't a "Let's see how it goes" situation. I was aware of every moment and I orchestrated the interaction... like a conductor. The rest was up to Jill & Patches. And it was totally beautiful.