Monday, November 17, 2008

Tanner's Story

This is a wonderful story written by Terry Weaver, a guest columnist for Columbus Messenger newspapers. This true story details beautifully the importance of obedience training as well as the perseverance that saved a rescued dog's life... a second time.

My friend Jenny is the director of a dog rescue group. She learned of the need for Dalmatian rescue when the movie "101 Dalmatians" came out and so many people felt they wanted one of those cute spotted dogs only to learn later that they require a ton of attention and exercise.

They are a great breed, but they just are not the right dog for everyone.

Because of my friendship with Jenny, I felt that getting a dog from a rescue was the way to go. My husband went on a mission to find the right dog for us, one that desperately needed a forever home. He found Tanner, a two-year old Sheltie. Our house was his fourth home in two years. Tanner didn't tell us his sad story in words, but after he got comfortable in our house his behavior soon showed us that he came with quite a bit of baggage.

Tanner started out barking and acting crazy at other dogs in the neighborhood when I would walk him (if you could call it walking). His behavior got worse as time went on. He got out of control in the house when any person or dog would walk by. I had to stop taking Tanner for walks because he barked constantly, lunged at others, and tried to chase cars. It was a mess. I had to lock him in the bathroom if company was coming over.

The final straw was when my brother came to visit and Tanner jumped up and nipped his hand. Luckily there was no real damage, but I knew I could not trust Tanner around people, animals, or cars.

I tried working with him for three years, but all my attention and love wasn't helping and his behavior worsened. I thought there was just one thing I could do -- I had to put Tanner to sleep before he got hurt or he hurt someone. My youngest let me know his feelings right away. He thought I was taking the easy way out and that we needed to try and work harder for Tanner. I agreed to try harder to help Tanner, but I was out of ideas. Into the picture came my friends Anne and Jim.

I told them about my failure with Tanner. I didn't know it then, but Jim takes their dog to Columbus All Breed Training Club. He suggested I give them a call to see if there was a class that would be right for us. I found a person who has a strong understanding of how Shelties are and decided to sign us up for the beginners obedience class and give it a try.

That first class was nerve wracking -- Tanner is barking and lunging and circling and was just beside himself. I was nervous and embarrassed, but I had to at least stick it out for the eight week session.

I am so glad I stuck it out. It has been an amazing journey. I learned so much in that short time. I discovered it was me who was making Tanner worse. As I l earned the correct things to do, Tanner relaxed and began to enjoy going to the classes.

I was still wary, but it was Jim who changed my stance on letting Tanner close to anyone. He came in one night and just walked right up to us with his beautiful Belgian Sheepdog, Race. Tanner sniffed Race and Race sniffed Tanner. Oh my stars... that's the first dog that Tanner has been friendly with!

It's been a year since that beginner's class and oh how Tanner has changed for the better! I've continued with obedience classes going up to more advanced levels with Tanner rising to the challenge each time. We can enjoy a leisurely walk, he can take a ride in the car, and we can have company over. Tanner even knows when it is a dog school day, he just can't wait to get to class and hang out with his friends.

Tanner was 24 hours away from being put to sleep a year ago. Now I'm thinking about registering him for the AKC Obedience Trials next spring... Yep, obedience training saved Tanner's life.

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