ALFIE WEEKS FOUR AND FIVE

 

Another grooming, this time without tranquilizers for anyone. Again no dogs or humans were hurt during the process, but one of the two finished off a bottle of wine later. Here are the results and one cross dog:

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Alfie now goes outside by himself. He has begun to check out his environment. He has noticed squirrels, birds, cats and lizards; but doesn’t react to them. He is getting his “dog” on and now sniffs everything on his walk. His favorite day is trash pick up day with all the interesting garbage cans along his walk. Here he enjoys his after grooming reward, a large marrow bone:

He has learned sit, come, stay and down. He now sits before he bolts out the door. Hey, progress is progress. He no longer responds to blondes and white vans.

Unfortunately, he still obsesses over my wife if she leaves the house. Any ideas? He can go anywhere with us as long as my wife is in sight. We are using a trainer who has reinforced that it takes a rescue dog a long time to accept that we are his forever family, and this is his forever home.

ALFIE’S WEEK TWO AND THREE

Week two brought a second grooming. Ears still filled with wax and dirt build up. As this loosens up it must feel strange to him as he frequently shakes his head and wants his ears rubbed and scratched. We opted for tranquilizers (one for Alfie and one for me) for this grooming since it involved a cut down. Everyone survived, and no dogs or humans were injured during this grooming.

He still will not go outside on his own, but thoroughly enjoys it when we go out with him. We tried to teach him to come. Sharon and I both had pockets full of treats. The idea was that when he was by me she would call him and reward him with a treat when he came. When he was with her, I would call him and when he came reward him with treats. Sounds logical, right? Wrong. Twice he came to her when she called, and twice he came to me when I called. We were so proud, but then he started running from one to the other of us without being called to collect his treats. He figured that game out pretty quickly.
Week three we have been working on “sit”. Alfie does not like to sit. Tried standard approach of bringing treat in front of nose and up while giving command and lightly pressing down on rump. No way! Anytime we touched his rump he bolted. My conclusion is that someone must have held him and hit him on the rump. The new plan was to up the ante with a piece of turkey and offer the reward without reaching for his rump. That worked. Well, almost. He would sit only in the spots we trained with him i.e the back of the SUV and on his bed. Ok, those sound like pretty strange places to try to train a dog, but those were the only two places we could actually catch him sitting. You gotta do, what you gotta do, where you can do it.

 

Alfie seems to understand stay, but can only stay for a short amount of time. Someone has tried to work with him, but it appears the commands were inconsistent. The stay command elicits a wide variety of behavior which so far makes no sense to me. He may come to my side, he may circle to the other side, he may stay momentarily. If I am confused; I am sure he must be too.

 

 

Alfie sleeps in our bedroom on his own bed or on the floor. He alternates between the two places based upon how hot or cold it is. He is just now venturing out of the bedroom and leaving us on his own usually to get a drink of water. The other night though he did hear someone outside, sounded the alarm and ran back into the bedroom. My wife and I are retired. Guess who is not retired and likes to get up at 6:45 in the morning.
We have had three poodles. All three wake us up with this routine. First comes a head shake which makes the ears slap loudly. Then comes the prancing from one side of the bed to the other. Next, comes the whine or poof six inches from the face. Finally, if you open your eye even slightly; you will see a poodle face framed in its big ears staring at you. At which point you have been busted. As far as the poodle is concerned your eye twitched so you must be awake and its time to get up and party with the poodle.

 

The obsession with human females, blondes and white cars seems to be lessening. However, he is still obsessed with and demonstrates separation anxiety whenever my wife is out of sight. The change here has been minimal. But, any change brings hope.

Alfie contnued

 

Alfie is the first “rescue” dog that we have had. However, to be truthful, as a child, all my dogs were strays and always had “problems”.
On the day that the owner brought Alfie to our house, her choice; not ours, she shared with us that she worked twelve hour days and had four more standard poodles and three toy poodles beside our Alf. When she went to work she locked the dogs in a spare bedroom. She also mentioned that he had been placed with a man and his wife, and for some reason Alf had ended up crated and living in the garage. The man returned Alfie to her.
It was no surprise then that Alfie was very clingy to his old mistress and whined and barked when she left. (For later reference the owner was blond and drove a white car.) When he accepted she was no longer with us, he turned his attention to my wife and has clung to her since then. However, he has been a little more adventurous with each passing day.

FIRST WEEK

We decided that because of his previous experience with the crate and garage we would let him stay with us in our bedroom. That night there was a lot of crying, barking and whining along with urinating in the house which was to be expected. The next day there was some of the whining and none of the urinating

Since my wife had promised to walk a neighbors dog while the neighbor recovered from knee surgery, I was tasked with walking Alfie. It was obvious that several people had tried to work with Alfie, but in his training his was not consistent. Although he wanted to pull, it wasn’t with force; and it wasn’t the charge to the end of the lead that our previous poodles had used before their training.
When corrected for pulling with a pop on his lead, Alfie would turn come back to my left side and wait. As soon as I started again, he went to the end of the lead. Sometimes he would stop at the end of the lead; sometimes he would circle around to my right side. He responded to stay, but momentarily. It was apparent that this was going to be tricky, and I would need to let Alfie teach me what he knew first.

The third day we had to both leave because of a tax appointment with our accountant. We figured that he would be ok for a couple of hours. Boy, were we wrong. We returned to find my wife’s clothes from the hall closet along with his harness and leash strewn around the living room and dining room. He had dragged down a bag of treats and destroyed them. He had managed to get our bedroom door open and my wife’s closet door open. He had dragged her clothes and shoes from the closet and strewn them around the bedroom. He left us a definite message because he had urinated in several spots around the house. All this in less than two hours. OK, message received. The separation anxiety and the focus on my wife were going to be our biggest rehabilitation issues and would need to be addressed before serious training began.

We decided that we would take turns leaving and returning to the house in our natural routine except that someone would always be there. The person staying would ignore his crying and barking. It soon became clear that I could come and go with no problem, but that it was my wife that threw him into a panic attack. He was anxious when both of us were not with him and would search for the missing person.

Alfie and my walks were going well. He was friendly and eager to meet most people but would then bark and back away if it was a man. I soon noticed that a sight of a white car would excite him. He also became excited when he saw a woman, particularly a blond. When he met other dogs on our walks he was eager to greet them. They did their doggie thing, and we went on our way.
I walked him in the morning and my wife walked him while I tagged along in the evening. We notice that he was much more relaxed on the evening walk, and by the third night his tail was up and wagging on his walk.

The rest of the week was spent establishing a routine working on lessening his fixation on my wife. By the end of the week, he was still following her wherever she went but not in a panicked state.

FINDING OUR POODLES

With the aid of the Internet we quickly found AKC registered breeders. We selected a breeder who had puppies and set up a visit. We were as interested in the breeder and the kennel conditions as in the puppies. Down a county road, on a wooded two acre property we found two houses. As we approached the first residence it erupted with a cacophony of barking. A middle aged lady, the breeder, approached from the other residence. It turns out that the first house was the residence of the poodles. We were taken through the back door into the kitchen which had been converted to a grooming room. In a corner was a large pen with a rather large litter of puppies. They were all silver poodles with the exception of one white puppy. Before we got to selecting a puppy there appeared to be a series of questions as to whether we would be selected to get a puppy: Were we familiar with the breed? We’re we too old to raise them? (We were in our fifties.). Were we physically fit? Did we have young children in the house? Finally the last question. Does your husband like dogs? She then introduced us to Gentry, the stud for this litter. Gentry was a magnificent silver poodle. He immediately came over to be petted, and petted, and petted. He obviously used to being the center of attention. She put him up on the grooming table so we could continue uninterrupted and meet the bitch of the litter, a small white female Chenile, who was as timid as Gentry was outgoing. Finally it was time to move over to the pen and meet the puppies.

All the puppies clamored at the side of the pen to be picked up except one. The single white poodle sat in the corner of the pen watching the fracas and growling when his litter mates came near. (Let it be noted that in the multitude of discussions about this addition to our family, my only criteria was that the dog would not be white. White dogs are very difficult to keep white and take a lot of grooming to keep them white.) That said, the breeder lifted the puppies one by one from the cage and handed them to my wife who took the wriggly puppies. I stood aside petting Gentry, keeping him occupied.

One by one she held the puppies and put them down on the floor. Finally, the breeder reached to the farthest corner of the pen to retrieve the white puppy and handed him to my wife. The place he had been guarding on the newspaper was completely dry an free from puddles of puppy pee. I guess if I was white, I’d keep and protect a clean spot for myself. She handed the white puppy to my wife. This puppy didn’t wiggle about, but nestled in my wife’s arms, putting his head over her shoulder.

baby fletch

Guess what color poodle we ended up with? In the mean time I looked down at my feet to find a poodle puppy napping on each foot. We had picked our pup, now all we had to do was wait for him to be old enough to be separated from his mother.

While we were waiting our white puppywas busy. There were visits to the vet to verify that he had no problems, shots, and a visit from the breeder’s trainer to check for potential show dogs.

Life can never be simple. The breeder called to say that she didn’t want to sell the white poodle because he would make the best dog for show. We had a contract; she wanted out. As a compromise we would keep our dog, but show it. He would no longer be a companion dog, but a show dog. It seemed like a good solution — to someone who knew nothing about showing dogs.

We had no idea what we were getting into and more importantly what we were getting our little white puppy into. We had to come up with a name for his AKC registration. That name had to include the breeders AKC name. We ran into conflict immediately. We named him after the owner of Saint Croix Leap, Fletcher Evan Pence. Saint Croix Leap on the island of Saint Croix.  He loved his dogs and large women.  He made objects from recycled mahogany trees. This was not a name she wanted to follow her kennel’s name. We prevailed.

Fletcher Evan Pence became our beloved Fletchie. The most important thing with showing poodles is the fur. What this meant for us was making sure that interaction with other dogs didn’t damage the fur.  It also meant daily groomings. It meant limited socialization. We did what we were told; until we met the trainer. The trainer explained the training and showing process, we became less and less enthusiastic. The dogs are loaded in a truck with cages stacked along both sides and transported from one show to the next until they get their points. She took us into a dark barn where the dogs she trained were caged and kept. As we entered, the dogs started barking. She grabbed a plastic baseball bat and hit against the cages. The sound was deafening and the dogs whimpered to silence. The trainers husband came out. I told him Fletcher could be a little stubborn. He said he would take that out of him. On the way home we decided that we would not be showing our dog.

Three years later we were in Las Vegas at a campground next to Circus Circus when one of these trainers pulled in with a semi truck of show dogs. Pens were set up in the sun on the asphalt in 100 degree heat and the dogs were brought out in rotation for their fresh air. We knew we had made the right decision.

Since we both worked, we decided we should have a second dog, and the two dogs could keep each other company.

Enter Alfie, Alpha Centauri Last Flight Out. I was looking for a red poodle this time. I never learn. We visited kennels specializing in red, apricot, silver, and black poodles. One by one they were viewed as unacceptable for various reasons. By now, since my schedule was more flexible, I was doing the visits. I pulled into the driveway of a modest home in a rural area. I rang the door bell and once again was met with a cacophony of barking. The door opened and a middle aged woman stood in front of a half dozen standard poodles of various colors. She turned to the dogs, “it’s ok, go play.”. The dogs turned and sacheted back to whatever they were doing. She asked me to wait by the garage door. It opened and out scampered five white puppies straight to me. One black puppy shot right past me and went pouncing into the flower bed. She explained that he loved to catch the little lizards so common in Florida. He was to be our Alfie, focused hunter, two speeds – off and full on, climber of trees, catcher of moles, digger of holes, and lover of everyone and every dog. He saw only the good till he was shown otherwise.

Alfie

 

Next:  The Poodle House