In 2007, a dog trainer found herself falling in love with her first rescue dog. Okay, granted, he was just an image on a computer screen, but his soft brown eyes, and his sweet puppy face melted her heart in ways that other dogs never had. That dog trainer was me, Sally Hummel, and the dog would become Rugby James.
Rugby was 8-9 mos of age when I adopted him, and even though I was his 5th home, I just knew I could train through the “bugs” of bad behavior that accompanied him to our house. Was I ever wrong. Seriously. Wrong.
Rugby has been unlike any dog I’ve ever lived with. He learns some things so quickly it makes my head spin. He has moments of sheer brilliance. But just as quickly, he can completely melt down over something simple like a doorbell, or garbage disposer. Neighborhood walks are completely out, as he wigs out if a garage door comes up, or someone walks out their front door. He frantically scans from left to right looking for the boogey man or boogey dog who will surely eat him. Simple trips in the car can leave him in a panic if he’s not crated to feel safe. There’s no taking him to the park because he can become aggressive and re-direct with a pretty good nip or bite at anything close if he can see any dog anywhere. He has a hairpin trigger, and it doesn’t take much to set him off.
Over the years, I’ve heard things like, “Boy, he’s so lucky to have you.” “I don’t know how you do it. I sure couldn’t live like that.” “What great advertising he is for your dog training business.” “I always laugh when I see you, because I just think it’s so funny that a dog trainer has such a wack-0 for a dog.” The last comment was from a previous vet tech at a vet’s office. True story.
I’ve rarely felt any level of support from other dog trainers. Most are critical, judgmental, and won’t give me the time of day. At best, they ignore me, and shake their heads, convinced that I don’t know what I’m doing with Rugby. Some have hinted that if I were any kind of dog trainer, my dog would be well behaved and not a nut case in public. Because he can’t handle change, the assumption is that I have somehow ruined my own dog. So many judgments. So much hurt. So few encouraging words. So little love. No hope dispensed from others who should be the very ones to understand and care. Life with my little speckled dog has been a long and lonely road for us both.
This page exists to honor those really difficult dogs and their owners. Not every dog’s behavior can be modified through training. Some dogs need life saving medication that has ugly stuff as a side effect. Not all dogs grow up like Lady from “Lady in the Tramp.” There are plenty of “Tramps” out there who have been through the school of hard knocks, and that life experience has created their reality and sometimes a lack of trust in humans who really want to help them. Some dogs have the unfortunate circumstance of being on the bad end of the gene pool, and just can’t put things together.
What happens to those difficult dogs? Many are recycled from shelter to home to shelter to home, and back to shelter, until they are often put to sleep. Each time a dog gets recycled, it’s that much more difficult for him in his next home. Dogs try so hard to figure out the human world. If only humans tried to figure out their dogs. If only. Sometimes, the lucky dogs, find homes with owners who won’t give up on them, and won’t give them back. Like me, they stay committed to their pooch, and they try to make life better for them. They try to give them a good quality of life, despite the limitations their dogs have.
The goal of this page is to provide education, support, community, encouragement and most importantly….hope. I’ll be offering training tips, product reviews, interviews with dog professionals, DIY ideas, and just some plain old fun stuff. I’ll be sharing my own day to day life with a truly neurotic dog. In short, this page exists because I believe you really CAN live well with a difficult dog. Rugby James is living proof of that!