Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Meet the Hounds, Part 2

No, I didn't abandon my blog. It's just been a hectic week. We are prepping to camp this weekend too! But before I talk about that I want to introduce you to Sparky.

After we had Kharma for about a year, we started talking about adding a puppy. We would have been happy with another retired racer, but I felt if I was going to teach puppy classes, I should at least have first-hand experience with one. So I started to research breeds. Here's the thing.... Mark is allergic to dogs, so we couldn't just go to a shelter an pick out a pup. We wanted to research breeds, pinpoint ones that we liked, meet them in person and then we would find a rescue group that works with the chosen breed (trust me, every breed in existence has a rescue group dedicated to them, just check out Petfinder) and then we would foster. That way we could find out if Mark could handle living with the breed before making a lifetime commitment.

While we were researching, my vet traveled to Spain to help with the plight of the Spanish Greyhound (known as the Galgo). I knew little about these dogs, in fact, I just assumed they were greyhounds that lived in Spain. So when I caught word that she was bringing back a pregnant galgo, I contacted Michiga ReGAP (they were handling the adoption of these dogs) and asked if I could adopt a puppy. They were actually pretty relieved, as sighthound puppies are known to be hell on paws!

So we secured our pup before Gordi, the pregnant mama, was even loaded on the plane.

On Halloween night in 2001, I got word that Gordi had given birth to 6 pups on the flight from Spain to Detroit. Two more were born at Serenity Animal Hospital in Sterling Heights.

As soon as we were able, we visited with the pups and picked out our fawn and white boy. I wish I could tell you there was a great story behind picking him, but it boiled down to the fact that I wanted a male, and I liked his coloring.

Lisa, my boss and friend, came with me when we picked the puppy up, and she was immediately concerned because Gordi was so standoffish and stressed . She told me I needed to make sure to cover all of y bases with socialization. But Sparky was the perfect puppy. He went to work with me and was in daycare every day. I took him to three puppy classes so he could be socialized in different locations. And he was smart as a whip. He learned so quickly! I thought he was going to be the champion of all dogs someday.

But then around 7-months of age things started to change. He started showing a lot of fear. He started barking whenever people would come into the house and was terrified of most men. We had taken a class with one of our male instructors at Trainers Academy and Sparky was fine with him as a pup... but when this same instructor saw him at 7-months Sparky was terrified.

In addition he became extremely irritated when dogs would approach to quickly. He will growl and air snap. When we are in a public setting, I would keep him away from other dogs. Of course there are many owners out there that will still allow there dogs to run up on him (despite me moving away and trying to block him... jeesh, get a clue!). When they ask me if he is a "mean" dog, I inform them that he doesn't like to be rushed up on by strangers, just like me.

So my dreams of a normal dog went down the drain. And it was a good thing he was so darn cute! I had to work to build his confidence. I decided to take him to learn some Canine Musical Freestyle. This is the sport where you dance with your dog (I am not kidding... and it is a blast!). We have a fantastic group here in Michigan called the Freestyle Fanatics that hold many freestyle workshops and it really helped Sparky. He was able to work one-on-one with me, he didn't have to approach anyone he didn't want to, and since they all knew his issues and were dog savvy, when he did approach them they would feed him.

From there we have just managed him a lot. I will never allow kids to just run up on him (I am the mean lady that lectures kids about ASKING before petting a dog). And I am constantly rewarding him when he makes the right choices. And you know what....he has come a long way in the last few years.

But, camping presents other issues. I am always aware about where he is and who is around us. But with the management and training he has become so much more comfortable than he was before. So, he promises to deliver some amusing camping stories.

So, join me this week as I share how we prep for camping, the tools we use, and the biggest drama of all: will we actually be packed before Friday?

Thanks for reading!

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