Harley, aka Barney, nka Brady must hold some sort of record for weaving his short life in and out of a number of homes and names in his first 16 months of life. At 40+ pounds, he’s big, with big teeth and a big habit of play nipping and throwing his adolescent terrier alpha attitude around.
Brady was wearing his current family out. Though he was bonded to the husband, Brady was a bit of a brat around the wife.
They were torn about turning him back over to WIN, but finally decided it was best for their family. WIN needed someone to foster him. I had lost my boy Blue, a WIN boy, suddenly on April 3, 2009, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to open my heart to a “problem boy.” Blue had been a handful of terrier energy who literally bound into my life nine years ago forcing me to learn everything I could about misbehaving dogs! He then became my assistant in fostering a string of foster dogs in the years that followed. (If you are interesting in reading about the typical response of WIN volunteers in the cross country WURL [Wheaten Underground Railroad League] that made it possible for me to adopt Blue and his subsequent life in Minnesota with me. (Check out his story at: http://www.wheatensinneed.org/#!blue2001/cpn2)
I was ambivalent about fostering Brady….I knew that he was not going to be a short term foster, and was worried about how I was going to send him off to yet another home after months of working with him IF I could stop his biting and overbearing behavior. We were days away from picking up a 18 month old Irish coated wheaten boy, named Miller from Vermillion Kennels in Duluth, MN. If we took Brady, Miller would have to wait. Breeder Barb Peterson, with whom I had been friends for years, told me to do whatever I needed to do….Miller would wait for me. I had recently remarried and wondered if this was going to be fair to John.
It had always been simple working with dogs when the dogs had only me to answer to. I knew Brady was smart enough to work the system, if John and I weren’t consistently using the same responses to him. Brady’s last family had really given him a “leg up” in life having spent hours obedience training him When we initiated Nothing In Life Is Free, demanding that he “perform” for anything he wanted, from food-- to petting --to being let outside, Brady knew what he had to do. I typed out the “rules” on a piece of paper on the fridge door for John…and he stuck to them. Brady had come to enjoy his alpha status and didn’t take kindly to being relegated to the bottom of the totem pole. We had to make him “last” in anyway we could make him last…last one out the door, last one to eat, last one to get a toy. My female, Maggie, made sure he appropriately respected her position.
Maggie would prefer to be known as “Her Royal Highness”. We almost felt sorry for him, but knew that dogs do not bite the alpha—he had to be completely “fired” from his job as self-appointed alpha. And climbing on our bed or the couch and then growling when told to get off WAS NOT acceptable. He could not be allowed on the couch or our bed, making him equal to us. He was so darned cute, it was hard to resist…but alpha terrier that he was, that was not going to happen for months, if at all. And, being a “pup” exercise was key in working with him….a tired dog is a more obedient one. He had been exercised regularly in his last home and we continued the routine and walked him at least 2 miles a day. Wearing Brady out wore us out, but it worked.
The play nipping was yet another issue….John and I walked around with bruises and cuts on our arms and legs, looking like we’d both lost in a paintball contest. Brady could NOT contain himself in greeting us….his mouth AND those big teeth were all over the place. We finally discovered that a high frequency noise remote trainer worked, stopping him in his tracks when he was in frenzy nipping mode. Brady slowly became more or a “typical misbehaving adolescent terrier”….not perfect by any stretch of the word, but manageable. At our last family gathering, he “worked the room” behaving like a perfect gentleman.
Now WIN needed to find him a home—one that would consistently continue making him toe the line. Most people seeking a rescue dog were interested in a “normal” dog. The list of possibilities was slim….days turned into weeks, and weeks to months. I watched as Brady looked adoringly at John after a half hour of playing fetch, it was apparent that Brady was not going anywhere. We called Barb and declined Miller, a difficult decision for us too…because in some ways Miller was already “our dog”. But Brady had fewer options in life and it seemed very obvious that his “forever home” was right here… and Blue, who probably knew how this would all turn out from the beginning, would approve.