To My Dog's Previous Owner

“their heart grew cold

they let their wings down”

Sappho





To the previous owners of my dogs, Ellis and Arwen:


What were you thinking? What went through your mind when you discarded them like trash? Ellis was full grown at about a year old when he was found wandering the streets. No collar, no tag, no human. I know he's not a great looking dog (by some standards; his vet claims he looks like an alien space baby, and she's not wrong), but I'm not a great looking human, and I suspect neither are most people. Did you discard him because he was too hyper? Because he was desperate for activity, or did you just "outgrow" him, and he was easily discarded by you, since all you really had to do was open your front door?




You made sure you had no ties to him through microchipping or having tags on him, so he was easy to throw away. But knowing what I know about this ugly, wonderful, burly beast of a dog, I'll bet he didn't throw you away so easily. I'll bet he wondered what happened. Where were his people? He knew you weren't perfect, and not as cute as you were when you were little, but you were his people, and he loved you. I'll bet he'd still forgive you if you ever cared to find out what happened to your former dog.


But he's mine now. He's sporting a beautiful leather collar with my name and phone number. He has his dog license (I opted for the "life" tags, which never have to be renewed, because I plan on keeping him in my home for the rest of his life, and in my heart for the rest of mine). Do you even know what you missed out on? Because the dog you threw away knows more tricks than I can count. He learned all the guidelines of our house the first week we had him, and above all, he's learned that he belongs here, and a crowbar can't pry him away from me. He's mine. And I'm his.


Now, I'd like to think perhaps it was situational. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why a dog may need to be rehomed. For those people who find themselves needing to rehome their beloved pets, through no fault of their own, my heart breaks for you. I'm not here to mock a wounded soul; sometimes goodbye is the only safe or humane choice. I will never judge your decision; you did the best you could with what you had. I'm so sorry. You deserved better.


I'd like to believe that's what happened with Ellis, but I'll never know.


But Arwen was different. I know that. You knew that.



I trained with Arwen when she was a small puppy, about 3 months old. You commented to me many, many times about how good she was being for me, but never for you. You mentioned that she was so calm around me, but never like that for you. You complained about her not being housebroken, about how ...energetic she was. You complained about her very existence.


That's okay. I know that there's a lot of frustration that happens with dogs, especially if you don't understand how to communicate with them properly. Perhaps you were so focused on non-stop positives, you forgot that a calm, gentle negative is an option, too.


There are also those to believe that a dog needs DICIPLINE and they need to know who is aLpHa in this house. I mostly pity those people. Maybe they were never taught better as kids (I certainly wasn't). But I came from an abusive household, yet I learned to do better, and be better. So can you, I those authoritarian types I train, who end up changing their minds and their techniques towards communication rather than dominance...I love you guys. That's a hard change, but you did it.


But you, as Arwen's previous owners, were neither harsh, nor were you permissive with nonstop positives. You simply forgot she existed. Even when you called me to set up our session, and I told you I loved Border Collies, you immediately said (not really jokingly) that I could take her. You didn't mean it as a joke, though, did you?


I enter a session with an open mind, and of course I fell in love with Arwen, like so many dogs I train. None are "pleasers", and I don't want to them to be. Almost all of them are willing to hear me out, to try to communicate with me, and for that I respect them. I love dogs for that very reason.

Because dogs aren't sycophants, trying to please you, but rather they are constantly trying to do better and be better, as individuals, so as to be healthy as a family.

But you couldn't see that with Arwen, even though I showed you. In the two hours I spent with you training, I had her sitting, staying, and coming on command. I had her walking with me on a leash. I had showed her that busting through an open front door was not a good thing to do, and she trusted me. I showed you how to get rid of her massive amounts of energy (with very little effort needed from you!) I taught you how to exhaust her mentally (again, no effort needed from you!).




But you chose not to really even try. You wanted a rough diamond to shine without ever polishing it. You wanted insta-dog (even though Arwen was so close to being that insta-dog!). A dog who didn't bark because they were programmed not to bark, rather than you answering her questions about barking. You wanted a dog who came already housebroken and exercised, and were surprised when she still messed in the house and was hyper all the time.


You failed her by not even trying. And you truly didn't deserve her. Not that I do, but I'm trying. And so is she.


I called you (twice) after our session to find out how it was going. All I got was a response from you asking if I still wanted her, because "you don't have time for her". Not even three weeks after our session, you'd given up on her. The puppy I'd worked with at the end of October, you were done with by the first of November. I'll never understand that.


I told you I couldn't make an impulse decision about a puppy like that, plus I was going out of the country until Jan. 3, and couldn't even entertain the idea of another dog until after I got back, and I would get back with you then. I was secretly hoping that you'd be forced to reconsider, realize what a great dog she was, and change your mind.


At 11:00 a.m. on Jan., 3, you called me asking if I still wanted her.


Now at 5 months old, Arwen still wasn't housebroken. No microchip. You couldn't remember if the puppy you got from a "breeder" in Amish country had ever been wormed or not (spoiler: she definitely had NOT). She had developed the lovely habit of submissive urination. Her nails were overgrown because you kept her locked in the kitchen for most of her life. Her walks had consisted of the few times you'd taken her around your cul-de-sac since you had her. You couldn't even remember if you'd given her a second round of the wormer the vet recommended.


You failed her.


So I'm pleased to say that she's my dog now, and I'm her human. It's now two weeks since I've had her. The first couple days were rough, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting considering you had locked Rapunzel away in a tower, never allowing her the tools she needed to cope with life outside a baby-gated kitchen.


The first day I had her, she had at least 4 instances of submissive urination. She ran like a maniac (thanks, Ellis, for wearing her out for me). She didn't know any commands, as none had been reinforced with her. She was afraid to go outside, but afraid to stay inside. But I loved her, and I knew she'd be worth it.


So now we're on two weeks together. Submissive urination stopped entirely after 4 days (even during 2vet visits, which would usually be a big trigger!). She comes immediately when I call her. She drops things when I tell her, which now isn't things she's not supposed to have so much as drop the damn ball so I can throw it, you doofus. She is mostly housebroken, with some minor setbacks due to the worming issues she has. But she indicates with bells when she needs to go out.


Honestly, I could go on and on about how wonderful Arwen is, and how much she's learned in a short amount of time, but you'll never know, and you'll never appreciate her.



Besides, she's my dog now.





Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


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