I like to judge the impact of an event using my own personal “goosebump meter”. A concert, movie, song, etc. that elicits goose bumps is special. A couple of moments that I can remember include: The first time I saw the musical “Cats” in middle school (it kicked off a major TS Elliot phase, and I hate to admit that I can sing along to the whole show, having seen it at least 3 additional times), and watching U2 perform “Walk On” at Reunion Arena, while the victims names scrolled behind them, two months after 9/11 (that song just perfectly captured how I felt at that exact moment in time) . I think the movie “Garden State” gives me goosebumps every single time I see it, it’s just so quirky and weird and perfect.
I think recently that new song by Gotye (pronounced Go-tee-aye. Yes, I Googled this) gave me the goose bumps (in case you haven’t heard it, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UVNT4wvIGY and he’ll be performing it on SNL this weekend). The song is being overplayed (particularly by my 9-year-old who loves it too) but that’s ok. The first time I heard it, it was unique and different and I got a chill.
Anyhow, I got a little chill when I read this story written by one of our long-term clients Dr. Linda Carmicle about her dogs Amy and Landon. I love dogs with jobs (love all dogs, but think dogs with jobs are pretty cool). Plus she does a nice job summing up all the wonderful things they can teach you. Dr. Carmicle wanted me to share it with you guys, so here it is
Landon and Amy
Jerry and I are currently owned by two highly intelligent, black and white, registered therapy dogs. They weigh about thirty-five pounds each, and that is where their similarities end. Amy is a very out-going brave Border collie who loves all people and some dogs. Landon is a shy, fearful Kelpie who likes all dogs and some people.
In August 2005, our thirteen-year-old Border collie, Macy, was aging and developing health problems. We knew it would not be long until she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to doggie heaven. Macy was a registered therapy dog who had accompanied me to my office for years helping in my psychotherapy practice. I knew it was time to think about getting another dog, but Jerry was not convinced.
Jerry and I were sitting at the kitchen table on the Monday afternoon following our grandson’s wedding. All of the out-of-town guest had returned home and we were experiencing the little let down that often follows Christmas, weddings, and other major events. Facetiously, Jerry read an advertisement in his hometown, Kentucky newspaper about Border collie puppies for sale. I said, “that is a long way to drive, where is the ad section of our Sunday paper?” Jerry said, “You don’t need to see that,” as he walked out the door to retrieve the day-old newspaper from the recycle bin.
I would not let this moment of his vulnerability slip by and quickly found two ads for Border collie puppies. I made phone inquiries and learned that one litter was in Terrell, Texas, ready for adoption. I made an appointment for that afternoon. We rapidly got in the truck and Jerry said, “We don’t need another dog,” as he was starting the truck and backing out of the driveway. He repeated this several times while we continued on our way to see the pups. When we arrived in Terrell, we saw the litter of three beautiful Border collie puppies and quickly agreed on the prettiest little female. I wrote a check, received her papers, and we started back home as Jerry repeated, “We don’t need another dog.”
Amy was ten weeks old and a little ball of energy. She slept in the crate at the foot of our bed without a peep or cry all night long. Amy was easy to potty train and didn’t chew up too many things. Jerry was partially retired at this time so between the two of us, she had plenty of supervision. We took her to obedience and agility training. She learned new skills quickly and we were told that Amy needed a job because her mind was working all of the time. She kept both our arms sore with her insistence that we constantly throw the ball for her to catch. Macy passed away six weeks after Amy joined our family. Amy kept us busy and helped Jerry and me through our grief.
Just before Amy’s second birthday, Jerry was sitting quietly in his recliner when I walked in the room. He said, “After lots of thought I have made a decision I haven’t wanted to make.” I quickly sat down and gave him my full attention, as I never before remember a statement like this from him that sounded so serious. He continued on, “We are not enough for Amy, she needs another dog.” Whew! Boy was I relieved. This was a problem I could gladly solve.
Jerry had a consulting practice and left the next day to evaluate a project in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. As soon as I had a break, I went to the computer and started looking for thirty to forty pound male dogs approximately two years old. I narrowed my search and called Animal Rescue Klub (ARK) to ask about a sad-looking little male, named Landon. They said he was shy, very well-behaved, got along well with other dogs, and house broken. The foster mother brought him to our house the next day. Of course, I had to furnish a letter of recommendation from our veterinarian. Since Amy was so gregarious, I felt this shy little fellow would be a welcomed contrast in our family. I emailed the description and picture to Jerry and he approved the adoption.
So, from that moment on Landon has been my dog. He finally learned to trust several of my female friends and slowly, over time, he allowed Jerry to take him for walks. There are a few men that he has learned to trust; all of them kind dog lovers.
Landon had been in the pound a month before spending another month in the foster home. We don’t know why he was in the pound, but think he was probably abused. He was afraid of cell phones, remote controls, cameras, and bright lights. One hypothesis is that someone used a shock collar on him. It is also possible that these items were thrown at him.
Amy was very happy to have a dog companion, but Landon would not play with her too much because she plays so rough. However, they enjoy lying around together, barking at people, and howling at sirens.
I soon enlisted my young friend, Charity, (she is a couple of years older than my granddaughter) to help me with the training of my dogs. We continued in agility, obedience, and free style dog dancing. After much work, both dogs received their canine good citizenship (CGC) certification and passed the test to become registered therapy dogs. We were so proud of them. I was fearful that Landon’s shyness and Amy’s exuberance would prevent one of them from passing the test. But they both made it.
Amy learns everything quickly and in most cases is willing to try new things. Landon learns fast enough once he has decided that the new task will not hurt him. It took a long time to get him to climb up the ten foot A-Frame in agility, but once he did it, he pranced and looked very proud of himself. However, we were never able to get him on the titter totter (seesaw).
I did not choose to enter competition with my dogs. We just learned these skills to keep their minds and bodies active and to give them confidence. My goal has always been to have therapy dogs that I could use to benefit others. We have danced for nursing homes, reading programs, church, and other community events. When you dance with a dog, they are just performing neat tricks beside you with up-beat music. People are always amazed at their numerous skills. Landon’s specialties are retrieving my hat, prancing like a racehorse, and taking a bow. There are many more tricks in his repertoire. Amy can do everything that Landon can do with the exception of prancing. She has a few more tricks than Landon and her specialties are hiding her eyes and praying. We have great fun with our dogs and I could never have achieved all of this without the assistance of my friend Charity. Jerry just wants a “buddy” in a dog and has no interest in training them. When Amy is not performing or napping, she is always by his side. Amy especially likes to work in the yard and go to the feed and pet stores with Jerry. Landon is my shadow and a bit of a couch potato.
Landon also goes to the library as part of the Readers and Wagers program. He was recently on the front page of the local paper pictured with a little boy reading to him. We do not take our prima donna, Amy, to the library, as she would have difficulty being still long enough to read a whole book.
Amy is always ready to greet new people and show off for them. She has many talents and demonstrates them with much happiness and excitement. Landon’s strength is with people who are a little needy. When we visited an Alzheimer’s unit, one gentleman was slumped over asleep. Landon walked up to him and gently nudged his hand. The man awoke, smiled and began to pet Landon. In another facility that we visit regularly, there is a mentally challenged man that Landon dearly loves. The man sits on the floor and holds Landon for most of the visit.
I feel so blessed to have these two wonderful creatures in my life. They have taught me a lot about patience, loyalty, and love. I have been both surprised and pleased with their abilities to learn, to obey, and to perform. They keep two old people active and alert as they insist on our daily walks in the park.
Linda H. Carmicle
March 23, 2012