A family in northwest Arkansas needed help. Their pup was frantic when left alone. They called canine behavior specialist Deborah Grodecka. Would the drugs calm the dog down?
We are at the scorching time of the most disagreeable heat of the summer. Sparkles on the roads. Record the temperatures. Humidity pods. Dog days are not considered a busy season for puppies. Imagine a dog languishing in the yard, with barely the energy to pant.
The period (July 3 to Thursday) is named after the dog star, Sirius, the largest in the constellation Canis Major (Latin for “big dog”) and which rises before dawn these days . The Greeks named it; the Romans reproached him with human and canine madness, rough seas and general amazement.
What are “dog days” for a dog, though? What makes a dog’s day good or bad?
Grodecka, owner of Every Dog Can at Rogers, might say it depends on owners learning to think like a dog in general and understanding their breed’s needs and purpose. With proper training, “all dogs can live good and enriched lives.”
“I work with dogs that regular dog trainers don’t have the necessary experience with,” said the highly trained and credentialed Grodecka. “Cases of aggression, cases of anxiety…dogs biting people…dogs that are perceived as having problems by their humans.”
The pup was frantic from near-constant human interaction without “quiet, quiet time far from being bombarded with all the well-meaning but unhelpful attention from the family,” Grodecka said. “It prepares the dog to expect people to be there for them, meeting their needs, at all times.”
“PEOPLE GOT HELP”
After working with the family on crate training and positive reinforcement – key tools in his approach – Grodecka has high hopes for the pup “because people have helped him”.
Another case involved a Labrador retriever who spent 13 years chained to an outdoor doghouse, she said. “The only thing this dog knew about his perspective of the world was within the radius of that 10-foot chain,” with little contact or stimulus beyond food and water.
Law enforcement convinced the owners to surrender their dogs. “Through a lot of retraining and reprogramming, it had a very happy ending,” she said. “He ended up going to a family with a lovely, quiet 13-year-old boy. They were both good friends.”
These mark the extremes of owner error, one with “too much attention but no structure” and the other a dog that has been “completely isolated”.
Grodecka advises potential owners to look to reputable dog breeders, consider adult dogs rather than puppies, and “consider what qualities they want in a pet” and their own lifestyle. Want an active running partner? A short-legged dog will not do. Don’t choose a dog based on its looks, she said, or the “dog of the day” of popular breeds in the media.
“Start with a solid search on the Internet.”
IN SEARCH OF LOVE
Katie Rhodes of Little Rock finds homes for abandoned or neglected dogs through Last Chance Arkansas, a volunteer-run nonprofit. “We take in dogs that don’t have anyone else,” she said. “We’re still looking for foster families. That’s how I started.”
Her father found a puppy running around in a cemetery, possibly abandoned. “I tried to find the owner,” she said. “I was not lucky.” She contacted Last Chance, who found her a foster home and had her adopted. While following her story, she asked, “What can I do?
She and her boyfriend have been approved to house dogs. Their first was Shirley, found in a culvert with litter mates in the Van Buren County town of Shirley.
“She was super shy,” Rhodes said. “She was a little lab mix, and we have a 90-pound lab.” Their big dog “became his mother and taught him how to be a dog”.
Rhodes keeps in touch with Shirley’s adopters, who now call her River. “You become so attached as they grow up and learn to trust people,” she said. “We say they leave paw prints on your heart.”
As she spoke, a wayward foster family named Bucky lay beneath her feet. The couple take him to socialize “everywhere we go, to restaurants, to kickball”.
She also encourages rambunctious pup Leo, who will receive more training from the Paws in Prison program, by living with an inmate from the Tucker Unit near Pine Bluff for eight weeks. Dogs “who otherwise have no professional training are coming out with all these amazing skills,” she said. “It makes them much more adoptable and much less likely to be fired.”
WELL TRAINED PEOPLE
Today, Rhodes is a last-ditch social worker, taking in abandoned dogs, finding foster families or emergency bottles, making vet appointments, posting adoption profiles and interviewing potential adopters. Last Chance receives many calls about abandoned dogs in rural areas with no animal shelters. Like Grodecka, Rhodes laments the lack of human education.
“Sometimes people have puppies or bunnies over Easter, without understanding and planning for the care they need. Once they are no longer puppies, they have adult dog issues due to a lack of training,” she said.
Last Chance lists its adoptable dogs in Connecticut, where pet care laws mean fewer dogs are available. Various transportation organizations transport Arkansas dogs to their new homes.
First, the owners are selected. “We need veterinary referrals for all previous dogs” – vaccinations, neutering and neutering, heartworm prevention, circumstances of a dog’s death. “All red flags”, they refuse a candidate. They turn down about half of their applications.
Shelter dogs can be great pets or a risk. Rescued dogs make good adoptees, Rhodes said, because of their foster training. “This dog is crate trained, potty trained, leash trained, he is good in a car, it would be okay to take him to a restaurant that allows dogs, he is tested around cats and children. I test all my dogs around my nephews,” she said. . “I can tell all about their personalities, their traits, their favorite toys.”
The most amazing turnaround she remembers was that of Coco, a 10-year-old dog who went to Sherwood Humane Animal Shelter last year. With hip problems, tumors, arthritis and other frailties, he was one day away from being euthanized. Last Chance offered him medical care and a foster home, but she doubted he would be adopted.
“I get this request from a doctor in Massachusetts. Something about his face spoke to him and his daughter. She knew all about these tumors in people and knew exactly what kind of care he needed,” said she declared. “His little girls dress him in boas and hats, and he just takes it because he likes the attention.”
Last Chance is looking for host family applicants, she said. “I never run out of energy for dog rescue. It means more to me than anything I’ve ever done.”
IT’S SHOW TIME
For some dogs, a great dog day includes competing, or even winning Best in Show.
The Arkansas Kennel Club’s annual dog show returns this week after a pandemic hiatus. The show is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds. Free entry.
More than 100 breeds are entered, with 900 dogs competing on Friday and some 1,000 each the past two days, said club secretary Amy Davis.
Allan Reznik of Eureka Springs will not be judging the Little Rock show, but he has extensive experience as a breeder, handler and judge, including recent shows in Phoenix, Seattle and Springfield, Mo.
He started early. “I came across a copy of Dog World magazine when I was a preteen and just inhaled it,” he said.
He asked his father to drop him off at a dog show for a day, and there he met some breeders he had heard of. Her first mentor, an Afghan hound herder, “invited me to meet the dogs, handed me a brush and said, ‘Young man, make yourself useful.'” She had more dogs than she couldn’t show any and “she pushed me to the ring.”
With the blessing of her parents, she moved to pick him up and take him to dog shows. “Years later, I picked it up and drove it.”
He joined a local dog club, became a journalist and editor for several dog magazines, and ran color commentaries for dog shows. he also bred dogs and entered them in shows. Eventually, “I couldn’t run around the ring like I did when I was 20 and 30”, so he applied to be a judge.
“My path in life has been very much dictated by my love of dogs.”
Dogs are judged on the standard qualities and traits of their breed and its purpose, he said. For example, retrievers should have water-resistant coats rather than soft and absorbent ones.
For the final competition of the “best in show”, it is not dog against dog. “You are evaluating whether the German Shepherd is a better representative of his breed than the Afghan Hound is of his breed or the Poodle is of his breed. His gait, his build, his temperament.”
A breeder of Afghan Hounds and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Reznik can spot a good show dog as a child. It’s more than just the perfect coloring or characteristics for the breed. He’s a pup “that’s very outgoing, a bit of a playboy, the first one out of the pen, saying, ‘Hey, world, look at me,'” he said.
He is looking for “a happy, confident dog who loves applause and makes the most of his virtues. You don’t have to look for flaws. …
“The other dogs don’t have the sparkle. They’re well put together but would rather be on your couch,” he said, as his 13-year-old Afghan Mila sat beside him as he spoke. “We are very close. She has always been a house dog.”
With a well-trained dog, any day can be a good dog day. As Grodecka says, particularly of his German Shepherd Lando, “They just live in the moment… ‘What can we do now?’
“It doesn’t matter how bad your day was if you’re spending time with a dog.”
Laura Lynn Brown is the author of “Everything That Makes You a Mom.”