On Sunday August 11, I said goodbye to my new friend, Stormy.
I was a little sad to see him go, but I think he’s going to be very happy in his new home. Stormy was with me just a little over a month. You may have seen a video of him on our youtube channel. He’s a spunky little Border Collie mix that arrived here through the good graces of two ladies who have dedicated enormous amounts of time and money to helping dogs like Stormy.
Stormy showed up here in a crate and he was not too happy about being put in a kennel. He had a terrible fear of men, gates, doors and anything else that hinted of physical restraint. Stormy had been found wandering in a field in Eastern Washington with two other dogs that were obvious litter mates. They were only about 8 weeks old when they were picked up as strays.
Stormy was placed with a foster family, but things didn’t work out. He was allowed to run free on 20 acres, so he went from being a homeless, feral puppy to being a feral puppy with a place to go for food. Within the first hour after arriving at the kennel Stormy had already tried to bite me twice. He was extremely fearful and he DID NOT like me reaching for his collar!
The first time I let Stormy into the exercise yard he did a couple quick laps and managed to pee on every fencepost (twice!) and any other vertical surface he could find. Marking territory is one thing, but this guy even peed in his own water bucket. After his first two laps, Stormy spent the next half hour trying to convince me that he was never going into the kennel again. I eventually lured him in with some food.
After that first episode, I got in the habit of clipping a light, 15 ft. cord on him every time he went out. I think this helped him grow accustomed to the sensation of being on a lead and it also enabled me to catch him with a minimum of drama when it was time to go back in the kennel.
Eventually his behavior improved to the point where I could let him out without the long-line. When this happened he would grab the line with his teeth and drag the loose end out into the exercise yard with him. On two occasions he managed to get ahold of the long-line and pull part of it into the kennel with him. (It was always clipped onto his kennel gate when not in use.) He never chewed or destroyed the long-line. He just piled in a corner and laid on it. It almost seemed like it had become a kind of security blanket for him.
After being here about a week, Stormy went to the vet to get neutered. We hoped that being neutered would help with the marking behavior. Stormy was so busy peeing on everything that it was difficult to get him to focus on anything else. The surgery proved to be a good decision. The behavior improved almost immediately. Stormy was still in the “cone of shame” after his surgery, but we were beginning to make some real progress with his training.
I knew from the beginning that Stormy would have to be trained with positive reinforcement. He had so much fear of physical restraint that I’m sure a chain collar or other aversive stimuli would have sent him into a major meltdown. In the beginning of our training I used thin slices of turkey hotdogs as a primary reinforcer. Later I switched to kibble as Stormy began to enjoy “the game” more than just the treats. The kibble was easier to use because it’s handier and cleaner than slimy hotdog slices. The timing of the reward can be very important so it’s nice to use something that can be handled easily and quickly.
By the time Stormy’s new guardian came to check him out, he was well on his way to becoming a nice little gentleman. I confess to feeling a tiny bit of jealousy when this woman came to my kennel and immediately received all the trust and affection that I had to work so hard to get. That’s my Stormy! Always the lady’s man!
Once Stormy began to trust people, it was like the layers of armor were finally peeling off his little dog-heart. Here was a dog that was once as suspicious of people as any wild animal. He was turning into a mushy, little lover-boy right before my very eyes!
Watching him flirt and cuddle with his new human, it really seems like Stormy has found his Forever-Home at last.
I want to extend a huge Thank You to all the people who were involved in finding Stormy a new home. I want to convey my best wishes to his new guardian. I would also like to say thanks to whoever decided that I was the right guy to work with this awesome little pup. I truly appreciate having had the opportunity to know and work with Stormy.
Goodbye Stormy! Good Luck to you!