Lulu has had a tough six months since I found her in the road – healing bones, bruises, growing back hair – learning to go up stairs, through doors, walk on tile. The young little dog has had a lot thrown at her in six months. Meeting her new trainer today was no exception.
I was pretty excited about getting an appointment with Lisa. She was well known and had trained one of the most accomplished working dogs in the US.
Arriving at a small park, I saw a large white truck with a cab. There were clearly kennels in the back, and Lu stood in the back seat with her nose pressed to the window, staring at the other truck.
Lisa walked around her truck as I stepped out with Lu.
“Hi, I’m Lisa,” she said, holding out her hand.
She was a thin, blonde headed woman with a fanny pack on her stomach, and a small treat bag hooked to her side. She smiled confidently and stepped back as I opened the door to attach Lu’s leash and let her out.
Lu jumped from the back and Lisa immediately took her leash.
“She is a small pit bull,” she said in a matter of fact tone. She was really talking to herself, and stood studying Lu, who had already detected treat scents coming from Lisa, and was alertly sitting and staring up at her.
Lisa took treats from her pouch and started moving them back and forth in her hands while she talked to me. Lulu followed her hands back and forth, her eyes never moving from the treats she knew were there.
We talked about challenges and expectations for Lu. The whole time she moved with Lu, gave her basic commands, and made it look JUST SO EASY.
We worked on some basic commands, and then Lisa said she wanted to introduce her to some of the dogs in her pack. I was a little nervous, since Lu had been hit and miss with other dogs.
“Feist” laid down on the ground. He was Lisa’s 12 year old Belgian Malinois. I was later told by a trainer friend that he was a well known champion. Lisa brought Lu over to him, and his large ears flicked rapidly back and forth as Lulu danced around him excitedly. He wanted to rise, but did what Lisa told him, staying on the ground in a crouched position.
“Those are his flirty ears,” said Lisa. “He likes her.”
Lu continued to bounce around and over him, until she finally crouched down facing him, and they began to play. I felt my anxiety drop.
She next brought out a tiny little terrier, and as Lu and I walked back and forth on the sidewalk, Lisa walked the little terrier repeatedly across our path. Lu was interested but not aggressive, just watching. We finally let them meet. Lu wanted to play, but the other little dog just ignored her, completely obsessed with Lisa’s treats.
The last dog was another terrier mix about Lu’s size. She was also obsessed with Lisa’s treats, and became annoyed by Lu’s attempts to engage her. I watched as she turned and lunged at Lu, who initially backed up in surprise – but only for an instant.
Lu lunged back at Gooey, and quickly pinned her before we separated them. Gooey then circled Lisa and lunged at Lu again. Lu pinned her again, while Lisa also yelled and shoved Gooey away.
Gooey and Lu’s final interaction consisted of Gooey rolling over onto her back so Lu could give her a good sniff. Gooey seemed to have finally realized Lu had the weight advantage, and she would loose the bitchiness contest with the young Staffordshire. After this submission by Gooey, all was well.
Lulu watched as Lisa had Gooey jump up onto the 3 foot water fountain for a drink. Gooey looked as if she was floating on air, and easily bounced to the top for a few slurps.
Once it was her turn, Lulu heaved her small muscular body up twice, but just could not reach the top of the fountain. I watched as she backed up for a running start, heaved herself up, and locked her front legs over the top. Her back legs scrambled for leverage on the smooth stone, until I gave her rump a little boost, and she stood proudly on the fountain waiting for her drink.
I was proud of Lulu. She had responded quite well to new commands, and basically gotten along well with Lisa’s pack. Lisa described her as a smart “dumb dog.” She did not know how to communicate well with other dogs, but would learn as she was socialized more.
On the way home, Lulu passed out, exhausted. So much had happened to her in the past few months. It was amazing to watch her progress. She had her quirks and fears, but at her core was a tough determination that I witnessed more and more as she gained confidence.