Case Histories: The Story of Whip
(Dog Sports Magazine 1999)
"The past is but the beginning of a beginning." - H.G Wells
In the spring of 1989, an elderly man of 72 had called to inquire about training his dog. He said that three other trainers had come to his house, and all three told him that this dog couldn't be trained by anyone. "What kind of dog is it?", I asked. "I really don't know," he replied, "my son picked him up at the pound and they didn't tell him." "Well," I said, "what does he LOOK like?" "He's about 90 pounds, very muscular, brindle and white colored," he answered. "Okay," I said, "why don't you bring him over to the kennel and let me take a look at him." "I can't leave the house, can't you come and GET him?" said the man. Why can't you just bring him over?" I said. Then the whole story came out.
It seems the man was going into the hospital for major surgery. He wanted to come out of the hospital to a dog that was trained like Lassie. His description of what he had now was more like Cujo. "Pardon me for asking sir," I said, "but why would a man of your age with a medical condition want a 90 pound dog that no one can control? It seems you could have chosen a smaller, easier to handle breed. The man became very emotional. "When I was a young boy I always wanted a dog like this, but I could never have one. Later when I was married, I wanted one but we were too busy with the kids. It seems there was always some reason I never had one. Now I know I'm not going to be around much longer. All I want to do is walk around my neighborhood with this dog, fully under my control. Consider this an old man's last wish."
On the way to his house I was quite anxious, not even knowing what kind of dog it was. As I pulled into the driveway, an elderly man waved to me. I walked over and introduced myself. He said, "I have to go to the hospital now. I'll be in about 3 weeks. Do you think you can do anything with him?" "I don't know yet, where is he?" I asked. He replied, "here he comes now." I looked across the yard and here came "Whip," the largest Boxer I have ever seen. "No way he's only 90 pounds. He's huge! He must be part Great Dane," I said. "Yeah," the old man said, "that's what I wanted." He was very friendly, jumping up and snorting all over me. So his son just handed me the leash and off they went. I took him for a walk around the house to loosen him up a little. He was very happy, very friendly. Until we got to the car. The owner neglected to tell me that he didn't like cars. So here I am holding the seat down trying to get him in. He just stared at me and started growling. Great. Here I am trying to get this monster in my car and he's giving me THE FACE. Damn. About a half hour went by before I saw the box of LARGE dog biscuits in the bag the owner had given me. Instant "in the car" he went.
But nothing had prepared me for what was to follow. By the time I arrived at the kennel, Whip had spit, snorted, and drooled all over me, the windshield and the dashboard! I had no idea that any dog was capable of that much saliva! I had to pull over at least twice on the way there! But after I got him out of the car and into the kennel, we were on our way.
At that point I had been training dogs for about 2 years, but this was my first for a client. So I pulled out all the stops. I used a litter of puppies to pounce and crawl on top of him during long downs. I used bitches in heat for distractions. I used aggressive male dogs lunging at him. He didn't blink. We did long downs and sits in the middle of the highway outside the kennel. Stopped a LOT of cars. He was a natural. The owner was due home from the hospital in a few days. He was in for a surprise.
I arrived at the man's house that Saturday morning. I parked in the street with the passenger side door left open. He was waiting for me on the front porch. "Where's my new dog?" he laughed. "He's in the car," I answered. "But the door's wide open," the man said, "Why isn't he?"......Whip sat there staring at his owner. You could tell he missed him. He kept staring at me, waiting. The old man was stunned. "Okay," I commanded. Out he came like a shot. Right to his owner's side at heel. "He's not jumping on me!' he said. "No, he won't jump anymore," I replied. I spent the next few hours briefing him on his "new dog" and how to handle him. When I left the man had tears in his yes. He had called me the next day to tell me how he walked him around his neighborhood (no leash), glued to him like a pair of tight jeans. "I don't know how you did it, but thanks," he said. "No problem," I said, "any questions, just give me a call."
About a year later I received a call from the mans' son, and he had informed me that his father had passed away. After giving my condolences, he told me that although he had been in poor health for many years, he had never seen his father so happy since the day I brought Whip back a different dog. He carried about him a certain pride, and people around him saw it too. It seems the old man's last wish was answered.
So keep this story in your back pocket. And if anyone has the audacity to ever say that you're "just" a dog trainer, pull it out and make them read it.
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