I had just turned 6 and it was Christmas morning. My letter to Santa had been specific. Please bring me a small puppy with long black hair and make it girl. As I waited for the approved hour of 5am before rushing down the stairs, I could hear a whimper. Sticky seconds thudded by like lead balloons on a cloudy day.
Finally, the big wooden door slid open to reveal a small green laundry basket with a red pillow. Perched on top was My Puppy! The memories are crystal clear 5 decades later. Chrissy was a wonderful dog, but to be honest, she was more my mom’s dog than mine as often happens. Still, I proudly took my pup to obedience class and did my best. I felt I had dreamed Chrissy into existence. She was just so … happy.
When I grew up, Chrissy stayed with Mom (she lived to be 23!) and I adopted Roxy, a fearful little spaniel. She was all mine, and we bonded. She needed me and I did the best I could to help her, but she struggled with her fears for the rest of her life. She was just so … frightened.
How I wish I had a time machine.
Then came Winston, the Love Sponge. He was that dog. The one we all dream of sharing our lives with. As a pup he peed in the house once and never did it again. He never pulled on the lead and he always came right back when I called. I knew he was special yet wondered if he could do more than we had learned in obedience class so I started to read. We went far. He was just so … easy.
When Winston was 7, we decided to bring another pup into our home. Enter Tasha. I was thrilled. I had so much knowledge to share and Winston could help teach her. We would have great adventures.
Except we didn’t. Tasha was just so … hard.
The story I had told myself before bringing my beautiful puppy home didn’t look like the one playing out. Tasha brought chaos and struggle. She couldn’t get the hang of potty training. She kept us up all night and she never seemed to relax. I still remember the day Winston gave up on her. He simply refused to play with her. It was shortly after she had learned to bark, and wow! She had a big bark! I was worried, but I vowed to never give up. I would change Tasha’s Story.
We went to puppy class where the trainer told me that “if I decide to keep her, she’ll never be normal”. I still get angry when I write that. If? IF I DECIDED TO KEEP HER?! Dogs are not a shirt easily returned if they don’t quite fit.
I stopped going to class and returned to the books. Yet everything had helped Winston failed for Tasha. They ate the same food. Learned the same behaviors. Lived in the same house with the same routine, but Tasha continued to crash through life.
For 8 years, I battled her many struggles. There were good days, but her chaos was ever present. I turned to the internet, that murky puddle of good, bad and so-so information. I took online courses, some of which helped a bit, but nothing could calm Tasha. I swear she never once relaxed in all those years. She was swimming in stress and I was losing hope. How could she be so different? My sweet Roxy had struggles, but Tasha's were off the scale.
Then suddenly it was just me and Tasha. Winston had passed. (the saddest day of my life). We plodded on until when in 2015 I stumbled upon an Absolute Dogs video. Here were these 2 wacky Brits talking about games for dogs. I thought, what the heck, can’t hurt to try. So I sat on the floor and played Vortex with my then middle-aged crazed dog.
It’s hard to describe what happened, but while playing that first time a spark passed between us. We locked eyes and she tipped her head as if she were listening, but I wasn’t speaking. She let go a huge sigh and smiled the big goofy grin I had rarely seen.
I had found something that reached her troubled mind. Immediately, I began a new quest to rescue Tasha from her inner demons. I jumped with both feet into this new world of Concept Dog Training. I asked tons of questions, devoured every lesson as Tasha began to change. Her mind calmed. I could see how the games were helping. It seemed too simple, too easy, but the proof was right in front of me.
Tasha began to relax. Then bloom. And our world expanded.
All these years later, I continue to study with Tom Mitchell and Lauren Langman of Absolute Dogs UK. They're world famous as the creators of this method. They are my trainers and I, their eager student. I devour every opportunity to learn more. In early 2018, I earned Certification as a Concept Dog Trainer using the Absolute Dogs Method, but I wasn't done. I maintain my credentials through constant learning by attending at least 3 seminars per month, and study with the most advanced practitioners of of this amazing approach to dog training.
Concept Dog Training rescued me as much as it rescued Tasha.
My Tasha has a new story now. She’s just so … fun!
What story will your dog tell?
Rebecca Porter has been fascinated by dogs for decades, but it took a frantic mixed breed to send her on a journey into innovative and real life solutions in dog training.