40 lbs of Truth

Part 3 of a series.  Read part 1 here: https://honorthedog.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/249/

Few things can change your perception of your place in the world like a Terrier.  It’s like living with your own personal tornado masquerading as a dog.  You wake up every day greeted by this funnel cloud with fur, only there is no storm shelter that can protect you from the force of a Terrier’s storm.  Terriers have a mischievous twinkle in their eyes that no other dogs seem to possess.  It’s a twinkle that says “I’m about to go ape s**t on everything you thought was important in your life……….and I’m going to love every second of it”.  You know that look.  I’ve known people with that look, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find them fun, for about an hour.  Hey, even a hurricane can be exciting at first.  🙂

It happened on a sunny weekend in Detroit.  I had never been to the annual adoption event they held at the Detroit Zoo (which isn’t actually in Detroit btw), and it piqued my interest as an event.  We had 2 cats and our 2 dogs at home, so we had no intention of adopting another animal.   As with any adoption event, there were so many great animals there.  Though I don’t remember all of them, I do remember one very beautiful chocolate Lab.  I stopped to check him out, but after a few moments together, I continued on my way.  We continued to walk around, running into some friends from work, one of whom was adopting a cat.  They asked if we were looking to adopt an animal, to which we adamantly responded that we already had a full house so there was no way we would be going home with another animal today.  We wished our friend well in his search for a cat, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  He did find a cat btw, and he was very happy when he did. 🙂  The day was getting long with the number of animals growing smaller by the hour, and even though neither of us had said it yet, we were ready to leave.

Have you ever felt a pull to something that you can’t explain?  Have you ever been someplace where you don’t know why you’re there, but you stay there and just keep wandering?  Like you’re looking for something, but you don’t even know you’re looking for something……..until you turn the corner and find it.  We were doing our final rounds through the event when we walked into this booth, and there she was, white lightning in a crate.  It’s taken me years to understand what happened in that moment, because so much of what happened was unconscious.  As we were walking by, I literally felt a force, like a pull of gravity, that slowed me down and made me stop.  The thing is, I hadn’t even noticed her in her crate just yet.  It’s just that when I felt the pull, I stopped and then looked down only to find that there was this white dog lying in her crate right next to me.  She wasn’t even facing me.  All I saw was her rear end, while her front end stared out into a world that had no idea what was about to be unleashed into it.

Every part of my conscious mind told me this was a bad idea.  I played the scenarios over and over again.  I sat there for what seemed like eons contemplating the decision I was about to make.  But I guess that’s why it felt like eons, because deep down I had already made it.  Now I just needed to understand it.  It wouldn’t be until about 5 years later that I would finally come to understand that fateful day and the decision I made.  How I needed her more than she needed me, which is still true to this day.

You know how the Tasmanian Devil in the Bugs Bunny cartoons spins around in this little funnel as he goes around tearing things up?  That’s what it was like as soon as I opened her crate door for the first time to take her for a walk.  The calm dog relaxing in her crate was actually a coiled spring waiting to be unsprung.  She was a firestorm of energy and gumption.  Where she wanted to go, she went.  What she wanted to see, she saw.  But there was something there, a spark of something I couldn’t explain.  I felt something stirring in me that I couldn’t understand.  It was faint, but it was there.  A feeling I had forgotten for so long, that I couldn’t recognize it when the embers of it started heating up inside me.  It was my heart reawakening from its deep slumber.  Initially this feeling scared me, as did this dog, and yet……I liked it.

Our house of 2 dogs was now a house of 3, and the training began.  Initially the dogs got along well enough, though you could feel the exponential increase in tension once Roxy entered the picture.  It didn’t take long before the tension escalated into small scale fights, a precursor of what was to come.  And just a few weeks after we had brought Roxy home, Amanda left for a month long trip, leaving me alone to handle everything.  I never expressed it in the moment, but at the time I felt abandoned.  It was shortly after that when I started feeling the pressure and stress of managing 2 dogs and the tornado.  Looking back on the situation, knowing what I know now, the me of today would not have had the kind of breakdown I had during that time.  But I was incredibly unprepared and ill equipped to handle the situation during that period of my life.  To many people it wouldn’t make any sense why I would have felt so overwhelmed.  But to anyone who has been in a similar situation, they would understand why I felt the way I did.  Roxy had this way of pushing ALL my buttons.  Everything she did tested me and every ounce of patience I had, and at that period of time, I didn’t have a lot of it.  It was a pressure cooker in that house, and the pressure just kept on building.  I wish I could say I handled it better, but the truth is that I fell apart.  This little 40 pound dog pushed me to my limit.  Not only was she a fireball of energy, but she was also starting to show signs of dog aggression as well as a fear of people.   And believe it if you can, but all that dominance training that was supposed to be so effective?  Guess what?  Surprise of all surprises, it wasn’t working with her.

Roxy has fire in her heart, and that’s what attracted me to her.  That dull feeling I felt when I first met her was me finding my heart again.  Something that had died when my father died.  It’s like my heart had left my body, only to be reborn in this dog so it could find its way home.  But reconnecting with something that hasn’t been a part of you for over 20 years isn’t easy.  You have to want it, and you have to fight for it.  Roxy was fighting to get inside me, and I was fighting to keep her out.  And therein lies the core of our relationship.

I remember the feeling of the breakdown.  I felt lost and alone.  It took me many years to realize that this feeling was never about the dogs at all.  They just brought it to the surface.  That’s when I saw it, sitting on the top shelf of the bookshelf next to me.  Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan.  I had ordered a copy of the book after we got Roxy as it was back in print.  I had only read a few chapters of it before shelving it so I could continue on the dominance path.  After all, Cesar was telling me it’s the right path, and who was I to argue.  But things were different now, something had changed.  So I pulled the book off the shelf and began to read, and I didn’t stop until I had devoured the whole thing.  In that emotional space I was open, and ready to receive what Kevin was saying.  There was a resonance that happened below the surface level of the words on the page.  The words themselves didn’t mean a whole lot to me in that moment, but the intent of the words did.  That was the beginning of the end of dominance’s stronghold on me.  The skies looked clear, but the road I would now be taking was an uncharted one.  I was going to have to walk into the forest of the unknown, but I wasn’t alone………………..

Continue to part 4: https://honorthedog.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/head-west-young-man/


4 thoughts on “40 lbs of Truth

  1. Had a similar gravitational pull when I found and met with Dancer dog. I was driving to get a haircut and then suddenly turned into the humane society, and walked down the isles and went straight to one stall and turned, and saw a pup dog and called my boyfriend and said I met what I thought might be his dog. He had never had a dog as a kid and had thought about one. I called my boyfriend and said go up to the stall at the end with a couple of treats and meet who would become Dancer dog, and he did and sat with the dog.

    We went into a lottery two days later and it was just he and I!!! and he picked the ticket and I went and bought a crate and took him on a journey to New Mexico with my dog Kashi, and that was the beginning. Dancer was a very special being and took our lives in his hands for many years and mourned when Kashi died, and with as much feeling raised Lupine pup with patience and died last year. He was a white shepherd and malamute mix and liked to swoon when you pet him and often bonked his head in this comedian like way when he did. He looked like a polar bear from the waste up when he sat up the car. Honor to know him and to have the experience of being found. thank you for taking me into this time with you and that time with Dancer..

  2. its funny ‘every time i tried to get into the next section of your blog Sang about how you first discovered NDT i was brought back on the “About Kevin Behan” page which has that 1 1/2 minute clip of Kevin talking about NDT , it was that same clip i found somewhere on the net that blew my mind the first time i saw it years ago,

    Here was a man with a dog on a park bench in the snow with such wisdom in the few words that were spoken that i knew i had found what i was looking from, it was only a dog on a park bench but the insight in the information was like a beacon to my hungry mind,
    great reading keep it up bud, john

    • I remember when I first started feeling the pull to NDT, Kevin didn’t really have a presence on the web. He had a website, but it wasn’t interactive and full of the great info that is available now. But everything that he did talk about on the website had such an effect on me and how I felt about things.

      There’s this cool site called The Wayback Machine, that lets you search for old websites that are no longer active. If you want to see the old NDT site, check it out.


      There’s a quote from one of the news articles written about him at that time, that always stuck with me:

      The best advertisement for his method is his own dog Isak. When he takes the German Shepard from his kennel, Isak’s face lights up, signaling his delight at being with his master.

      Isak orbits Behan as if magnetized, his eyes locked on his face, waiting like a coiled spring for the sign that will send him rocketing across a meadow in pursuit of a ball or stick.

      “Isak can hold on to the fact that life is great,” Behan said. “He can find pleasure in every situation. He has so much desire.”

      He has so much desire. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but something about that statement had a lasting effect on me.

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