In a recent post, I wrote about my experiences in Baghdad. After that deployment, I requested to attend the Military Working Dog Handler course at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. At the graduation ceremony, I was honored with the Top Dog award for obedience. I was then assigned to Fort Richardson, Alaska. When I arrived, I was paired up with Lux, a 2 year old German Shepherd. Lux and I were the only certified drug detection team on the base, so we stayed pretty busy. I worked with Lux until I was discharged from the Army, and I was sad that I had to leave him.
When I became a civilian again, I drove from Alaska to my hometown - Chardon, Ohio. At this point of my life, I was confused, sad, frustrated, and unsure of my future. To remedy my situation, I decided to get a puppy! I called Geauga Humane Society's Rescue Village until they told me that they had 10 puppies I could choose from. I drove to the animal shelter, and by the time I arrived, all but 2 of the puppies had found a home. The lady at the shelter told me that the puppies were found by a couple walking through a local park. The rescue shelter raised the puppies until they were old enough to have the necessary immunizations, at which point someone could adopt them. The shelter was able to feed the puppies only what food was donated. Rescue Village fed them baby bottle formula, and the puppies did not receive the nutrients and minerals that are essential for development. This caused the puppies to develop cataracts. So, I had 2 blind puppies to choose from. I put them both on a couch, one on each side of me. One of the pups wandered away from me, and the other walked towards me, bumped into me, and started licking my hand. I wanted to take them both, but I decided to take the one that was more curious about me. I named him Jude, and he's been my best friend ever since!
When I first brought Jude home he was pretty much blind - he ran into a barn, countless trees, picnic tables, chairs, people, and anything else that was in his way. The veterinarian recommended that I feed him Purina ONE® SMARTBLEND® Lamb & Rice Formula, to help with his vision. As Jude grew older, his vision got better. He still bumps into things, but not nearly as much as he did when he was a puppy. He is very much like the superhero Daredevil. Although his vision is impaired, Jude's remaining four senses function with high levels of sensitivity and accuracy; few know that he cannot see.
Jude and I moved to Alabama so that I could start my education at Jacksonville State University. During the summer of my sophomore year, I visited my friends in Albertville, Alabama. Joe and Sherry's dogs (Sasha - a German Shepherd & Bama - a Chocolate Lab) had a litter of puppies, and they told me that I could take one home if I wanted to. I did! While I was driving home, I glanced down at this beautiful, 1-week-old puppy and decided that her name would be April.
The nice, quiet life that Jude and I had been living, ended when April arrived. If Jude were to be a Jedi Knight, then April would have to be considered a Sith Lord. As a puppy, April destroyed my golf shoes, a textbook, the carpeting in my house, and most of my flowers, shrubs, and trees.
Even if I came home from school and my house, personal possessions, and plants were decimated, I was still happy that the dogs had each other to play with. It took some time, but I eventually got April under control. We were now one big happy family!
Dogs need love. So, give them as much of it as possible! Here are a few other tips on how to do be a good dog owner:
- Provide the best veterinarian care available. This includes: regular checkups, receiving all the necessary shots and medicines, nail trims, and flea and tick prevention.
- Teach your dogs to do what you want them to do. I've taught April and Jude how to sit, shake (shake with right paw), paw (shake with left paw), lay down, jump up, stay, get back, heel, and I taught them both how to retrieve golf balls, too.
- Praise your dogs every time they do what you tell them to do. There are 2 types of praise - physical praise (rubbing, petting, massaging, etc.) and verbal praise (clapping your hands, whistling, "good boy/good girl," etc.). To be more effective, use both types of praise at the same time.
- Correct your dog every time they don't do what you tell them to do. There are 2 types of corrections physical correction (pulling back on a leash hooked up to the collar or choke chain) and verbal correction ("NO"). To be more effective, use both types of corrections at the same time. Then, restate the original command. Praise the dog if it does what it's told to do. Correct the dog if it disobeys, and start this process over.
- Keep your dog clean. My dogs take a shower with me every Friday morning; they know it as "tub-tub time." I wash them with Pantene Pro-V shampoo and conditioner.
- Feed your dog. April and Jude are fed 2 meals per day; breakfast is served at 6:00 am, and dinner is served at 6:00 pm.
April and Jude love human food, too! When I cook for myself at home, I always prepare a little something extra to share with them. Some of their favorite foods are: steak, chicken, fish, pasta, peas, tomato sauce, and peanut butter crackers. We all enjoyed a nice steak lunch this afternoon!
In closing, here's a quote from the book I'm reading. James Herriot wrote, "It is always said that however many wonderful and happy years a dog lives, you know that one day, the day he dies, your dog will break your heart." He continues, "I have always advised people to get a replacement as soon as possible after their dog has died: a new and endearing pup helps enormously to fill the gaping void one always experiences after a much-loved dog has gone." I agree wholeheartedly with his philosophy. And I'll be taking his advice, when the time comes. Until then, I am quite content with my 2 big, black, beautiful dogs - April and Jude.