My Time With Maddie
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Before beginning my internship at the Center for Shelter Dogs at The Animal Rescue League of Boston, I had no concept of the benefits that one-on-one training can provide for a dog. My only experience with “training” previously was teaching my two family dogs (an Australian shepherd mix and German short-haired pointer mix) to Sit, Stay, and Come when called when they were puppies. I didn’t know what training could entail and for that matter, where to even begin. Since starting in January, the floodgates of my knowledge have been opened by everyone at the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
I’d never worked with pit bull-like dogs before coming to the ARL and I can honestly admit that I was one of those misinformed people who believed what was said in the media about the breed. It quickly became clear to me that the misconceptions being put out into the world are leading to just one thing - a missed opportunity to get the love and affection of some great canines. The dogs that fall under the umbrella category of “pit bull dogs” that I have met at the ARL thus far, have been some of the sweetest and gentlest dogs I’ve ever encountered; however, if you had told me that was true of Maddie the first day I met her, I would have been quite disbelieving. The 1-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier Mix was pretty unruly at first and did not seem like she wanted to be trained. When Dr. D’Arpino first got her out of the kennel to introduce her to me, I was taken aback by how much energy she had and how determined she was to be in control of her own leash. Many times during our walk she grabbed it with her mouth and thrashed her head back and forth. Although it was probably just a game to the young pup, I was intimidated by her power to say the least. After my initial encounter, I did not start working with Maddie for a few weeks. When I finally did, I was amazed with how quickly she learned and how smart she was! I worked with her using tennis balls to get her to learn to Say Please - where she has to give some things up in order to get what she wants.
After only two sessions, the precocious dog had learned exactly what “Drop it” meant and what she would get in return for her obedience. My dogs at home have never been one to play fetch, so seeing the pure joy Maddie got out of this game was extremely heartwarming. She would have been happy to play all day if only I was able to harness her energy to keep going myself! It seemed like the jumpy/mouthy dog I was so fearful of on that first day had disappeared and transformed into a playful puppy. It was soon after the first training session that I realized all Maddie needed was a way to get out her energy. Her exuberance during our training sessions and her fervent ways of displaying affection (i.e. kisses, etc.) have become two of the things that I love most about Maddie. The genuine sweetness of her personality shows more and more every day that I work with her. Nowadays when I take her on walks, I have no worries about her grabbing the leash. Even if she slips up and takes hold of it, she drops almost immediately after I ask her to. There is no doubt in my mind that Maddie is going to make a great addition to a lucky someone’s life one day-all they have to do is meet her!
- Kelsey Holbeck, Northeastern University Coop student at The Center for Shelter Dogs