Ranger is 7 years old today. He is one of my Collies. I adopted him from Anti Cruelty in Chicago in 2001 when he was about 5 months old. He has been the most amazing dog, and recent events has made me appreciate him even more. I wrote a post last week about how tough it has been for a couple of my clients recently since they lost dogs to cancer at very young ages. It has made me realize how lucky my wife and I are to have been able to enjoy Ranger in our lives for such a long time.
I have been fortunate to have met and worked with more than 2000 dogs in my dog training career so far. I am constantly amazed at the variety of personalities that dogs have. I am so lucky to have spent so much quality time with dogs, sometimes working with the same dogs for a period of years.
But seeing dogs for an hour at a time is one thing, to live with a dog is another. I love all my dogs dearly, and do not pick favorites. They each have their own qualities that make them unique and wonderful. But, since I have had Ranger since he was a puppy, we have the longest history together. I had Ranger and Trooper before I was married, and Trooper, our other Collie, was adopted when he was two. Linus, our Sheltie, came into the family with my wife Cassy. He just turned four.
Ranger is a rare mix of confidence, intelligence, goofiness, playfulness and athleticism. When he was a puppy he was not happy until he received about 3 hours of exercise per day. I provided it for him. He used to sit on corners and whine until he saw another dog to play with him. He is one of the goofiest and most playful dogs I have ever been around. He can catch a frisbee like a Border Collie and cuddle like a lap dog. He learns things so quickly that I think he teaches me more than I teach him.
It wasn't always bliss, however. He had a major barking issue when he was a puppy. He barked in the crate, he barked out of the window, if he wasn't managed properly. I taught him to be alone, I taught him "quiet" and I managed him properly to avoid an escalation of behaviors. He used to be terrified of thunder and lightning after lightning struck a tree about 50 yards from where we were walking when he was a puppy. Through lots of desensitization work he has improved, but I still expect to be woken up occasionally during the night when storm season hits Chicago again.
How does he wake me up? He puts a paw on my face until I wake up and sit with him in the bathroom while he is in the tub. I turn the bathroom fan on and he eventually falls asleep. He has a really sensitive stomach and it took over a year of waking up at 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning, 4 in the morning sometimes with bouts of sickness until I figured out what he can eat without difficulty.
I think of all the time I invested in him; all the trips to the park, countless hours of grooming and toothbrushing and nighttime issues . . . and it is all worth it. How did I get through it? I invested the time and thankfully knew what I was doing to work through his issues. I sometimes feel that if he was in a different home, if I had gotten to the shelter 15 minutes later and wasn't the first one to meet him as soon as the doors opened, that he might have ended up with someone who couldn't handle him.
He might have been labeled "difficult". He needed a lot, and still does. He definitely has a mind of his own, which I love, and he is hilarious. Someone else might have labeled him "willful". His barking problem might have been "corrected" with an abusive shock collar or choke collar and crushed his incredibly sensitive spirit.
I look into his wonderful, wise, brown eyes and am just so glad that he has curled up on the couch or on his bed in my house and woken up every day for the last 7 years. He gets funnier, more cuddly and more of a pleasure to be with all the time.
If you are having trouble with your dog. Whether it is a new puppy or older dog, don't give up hope. My goal in life is for everyone to truly understand how to form an incredible relationship with their dog. To understand the needs, abilities, and unbelievable potential that each dog has.
If you ever have questions, that is why I have created this site, for you, and for your dog. For all the "Rangers" out there that might be misunderstood, might be a little fearful, or need more exercise then what they are getting. It is our collective responsibility to try and understand what dogs need and provide it. Dogs are incredibly complex, wonderful animals and can provide so much joy and pleasure if people spend the time to get to know them and nurture their individual personalities.
If there is anything I can do to help you find the joy in sharing your life with your dog, please look at my support options or look at the free posts.It does take time, but it is so worth it.