I’m updating this post for my February Relationships (of the dog-human kind) theme. I originally wrote it back at the end of 2018 when I started more seriously working with adult adopted dogs. Jake, in the picture above, is my adopted dog, love of my life, the reason I get out of bed in the morning and the reason I am so passionate about positive reinforcement dog training. His/our story is the reason I became a certified dog trainer.
Jake and Ruth, the beginning
In September of 2010, I moved into an apartment that allowed pets. I was so excited to finally get a dog. I’d wanted one all my life and was getting my chance at the age of 44. I’d known for years that I would adopt my dog and even where I would adopt from – the Northeast Animal Shelter. For years I’d watched their local television program where they profiled adoptable dogs.
I spent weeks looking at the adoptable dogs on their website thinking with every picture, “I could love that dog!” Except for one picture. There was one dog I had a feeling I couldn’t love. He looked grumpy and the description said he couldn’t have stuffed toys because he ate them. Who wants a dog that can’t have adorable stuffed toys. Not me!
This was the adoption picture of the dog I didn’t think I could love:
Since all but that one dog were contenders, I decided it was impossible to choose via the website. Plus, what if I chose a dog and by the time I got there someone else had adopted it. Luckily, NEAS has something called “same day adoption” which means that if you bring all the correct paperwork and your references check out you can take your new pet home the day you meet. So, on the morning of October 20, 2010, I took the sparkly blue collar and leash I bought at PetSmart and drove from Cambridge, MA, to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem to meet my destiny.
Ann, the volunteer at the front desk suggested I walk around and see which dog caught my eye. I saw a lovely caramel brown adult female that looked super sweet. When I told the volunteer I might like that dog, she said that dog wasn’t a good choice for a first time dog owner because she was quite willful.
Ann said “Why don’t I pick out a dog to show you.”
I said “Great” while starting to feel overwhelmed.
The meet and greet
I waited in a tiny room designed to give you and a prospective adoptee privacy for a meet and greet session. The volunteer walked in with a sweet tempered brown and white two year old female named, Mallory. I took her for a walk around the parking lot and she was calm and well behaved on her leash. Mallory was sweet and gentle and I thought to myself. I could love this dog and, anyway, I certainly don’t want to reject her.
I explained this to the volunteer who said, “Well, you don’t want to just take the first dog you meet. Let me show you one more dog and then you choose between the two.” That seemed reasonable so I said, “Great!” still feeling slightly overwhelmed.
A few minutes later, in bounds a blur of black fur named Jake who completely ignores me and tears up the stuffed toy Mallory and I had been playing with. Jake was a seven-ish month old lab mix from Virginia who had never lived with people before. I took Jake for a walk around the parking lot and he was insane on his leash pulling me every which way and getting tangled. I finally dragged him back to the fenced shelter yard sweaty and exhausted.
Which dog did I choose?
Funnily enough, Jake’s wrecking ball appearance had made my decision a no-brainer. Despite everything, I knew he was THE ONE. It had been love at first sight – for me at least. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was my doggy soulmate.
I took Jake home that very day and he was every bit the disaster he had been at the shelter. He knocked me down and bit me. He destroyed everything I treasured. We were all a little bit afraid of him. I made every mistake in the book trying to get him to behave. I even considered returning him but was so afraid he’d be put to sleep. Also, I loved this dog even though I also a little bit hated him at times. To this day a friend insists I should change Jake’s name to Taz – short for Tasmanian Devil! I admit they do look a little similar with the teeth and the white chest markings!
What happened to the dog I didn’t want?
I kept Jake and I’m so glad we stuck it out! At one point I decided to download Jake’s adoption picture from the website to save in his “baby book” so to speak. I thought I hadn’t seen his picture all the times I was checking out dogs. Well, imagine my surprise when THIS was his picture:
That’s right! I didn’t realized it until that moment that the dog whose picture I thought was grumpy and whose description I thought sounded like I wouldn’t want him was actually MY Jake! And, yes, he can be grumpy and yes, he destroys all toys, beds and slippers. And, also yes, he is “the greatest dog in the history of dogs” as I always tell him.
Now, nearly ten years later, Jake is still a bit of a maniac. He has a plethora of behavioral and emotional issues. Through all our positive training work together he has mellowed tremendously and he is a truly happy guy. He is also still my doggy soulmate and the love of my life. We’ve made progress and had setbacks together. We are both older and I hope wiser and I, and I believe he, wouldn’t change it for the world.
This is us today:
With what I know today about training dogs, I could have taught Jake to walk nicely on his leash during that out of control get to know you walk instead of just trying to not to lose the dog or sprain an ankle which is what I focused on at the time. If your dog pulls, download my free ebook on how to easily fix that problem.
To learn more about Jake and my training journey and starting the dog training business in Cambridge, Massachusetts, check out our about page.