When it came time for a new working dog (so that Cash and Lily could partially retire), I headed to the local kill shelter and asked to see the unadoptable dogs. I was given a list of dogs who would be put down in the next 24 hours: Doc (then Skeeter) was on it. When I looked at him, I could see him asking for help.


I signed papers saying that I was a dog trainer and could handle then-Skeeter. He’d been picked up as a stray, passed his first temperament test with flying colors, and adopted out. When he was found as a stray again, the shelter called his owners. They said they couldn’t deal with him and the shelter should keep him. At his second temperament test, he had minor dog reactivity. This pattern of adoption-escape-returned-test repeated another time or two before he failed his temperament test spectacularly; he was highly leash reactive, and re-directed onto the person holding his leash. While he didn’t bite down, it was too much. None of the foster or pit bull organizations would take a possibly human aggressive pit (and I can’t blame them).


I got him home and carefully (with Margo’s help) introduced him to Cash and Lily. It was love at first sight! He had no problems with dogs off leash, though he played a little too hard. His leash reactivity was pretty impressive, but the biggest problem ended up being separation anxiety so severe that he would injure himself trying to get out of the house/crate/yard and find his person.


In the first two days that I owned him, he broke through my house window screens three times, went over the fence twice, and went through the car windows (opened a few inches for air) four times. He was leash reactive and manic. He was not house broken, excitedly jumped on people hard enough to bruise, and couldn’t be kept in a crate or x-pen. His saving grace? He was great with dogs off leash, and let my step kids practically maul him.


While it only took a few months to defeat the leash aggression, the separation anxiety took all my tricks and medication. A year later, he still has mild separation anxiety, but he can safely be left alone with minimal barking. Phew! The rest of his problems kept me busy for months, and he’s still a work in progress – but now we’re working on good door behavior and staying reliably so I can drop the leash and work with a client’s dog, rather than any reactive or aggressive behavior! He is and always will be a “dog trainer’s dog” — he’s a handful, needing constant mental balancing, stability, and work to keep his energy levels down. Reminds me of Lily!


He is eager to please and learns swiftly; he earned his Canine Good Citizenship and he’s a registered service dog for my disability. His personality reminds me of Cash, when Cash was that age, and I suspect as he gets older he’ll also become the resident big brother, and then daddy figure!