You Get the Dog You Need (Or; Happy First Gotcha Day Jetpuppy!)

The day we brought Jet home, I thought his tongue would never completely fit inside of his mouth.

When I first met Jet, his shelter card said that his name was “McBarken.” I have to tell you, that even though I didn’t keep the name, boy did it suit! He barked constantly for three months after we adopted him. We actually never thought he would shut up. In the last year, things have made a 100% turnaround from where they were when we brought him home and the progress we’ve made still amazes me.

When I saw him, I knew he was the dog I was looking for. If I’d been smart, I would have waited a while longer and looked around for a much more laid back dog, but I saw this little black blur run in circles in the play yard at the shelter and from the minute he got outside and played with me, I was hooked. He was 9 months old then. He stole my heart from the moment I looked into his eyes. Jet practically exploded out of the shelter and ran around all over the place once we got him home. If he could talk, I’m sure he would have said, “WOOHOO! Let’s go! There’s STUFF out here! Let’s go do the stuff! All of it! Right now!” I, meanwhile, was certain that this dog and his incredible exuberance were going to be the death of me, but oddly enough, the opposite has turned out to be true. I had a visit with my doctor recently and he asked me what I was doing because my blood work looked amazing and I’d lost weight. I said, “I gave up soda and I adopted Jet.” After I explained what a Jet was, he promptly told me that I needed to get another one.

I looked at the guy like he was crazy.

Jet and Harry are getting a little attention during a bit of down time at the 2011 Bark For Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

If we’re friends on Facebook, then you know exactly why I gave him the crazy person look. I talk about how busy Jet is on Facebook all the time. I sometimes, even make him sound like he’s more of a pain in my ass than he is (in fact, right now, he’s standing on the other side of my desk, barking at me because he has a rope and he feels that I should be hanging on to the other end for dear life so that he can have some fun) but the truth is that Jet is just your average run of the mill Lab puppy. There’s probably something else mixed in there, there’s no way a tail that ridiculously curly happened by accident, but as far as his temperament and his activity, he’s all Labrador and I’ve been here before with young Labs. I’ve had a few in my time and they truly are temporarily insane until they turn three and I love that about them because they are full of life and joy. The world is still fresh and new and Jet’s soaking up every single second. Tomorrow will always be a new experience for him and that’s wonderful, but it doesn’t make him any less insane.

On the one week anniversary of his adoption, I wrote this post about my first experience with taking Jet out in public. It was so horrific that I’m still apologizing to August about the blueberry cupcakes that Jet knocked over that day. They were truly beautiful and looked amazing. Jet and Harry can attest to that, since they ate the leftovers. Then came a litany of terrible behaviors. First it was stealing, then he was dragging me around on lead and I would be remiss if I did not mention his incessant barking again. I was so frustrated with all of this and I knew how to teach Jet to not do all of these things, but I just was not getting the kinds of reactions from him that I expected to get. I was so confused as to why nothing seemed to work and that only escalated when Mugen passed away.

Jet and Mugen. When they got together, their antics were legendary and included everything from playing tug with a pair of jeans, to “assisting” with taking out the trash. They were thick as thieves right from the start and the shock of losing Mugen so suddenly hit us very hard, but it was hardest on Jet. He looked for his brother for weeks and I still see a very hopeful expression on his face whenever we meet a chocolate Lab.

Jet grieved for his adopted brother, hard. We all did. Then, to add insult to injury, while we were all still hurting and raw, I adopted Lexi and it was just way, way too soon. Things went from bad to worse. I was seeing what I knew to be aggression, toward my daughter and the other dogs. I knew it was dominance aggression, but I just couldn’t understand why and how it was happening. I thought I’d been doing everything right, but I wasn’t going to mess around. I’d been here before, so I knew I had to nip it in the bud before things got serious and I had to do it fast. There was only one answer.

Dog school.

The first time I spoke to the trainer, she was kind and patient with me as I described all of our problems. She warned me that I had to be prepared for the fact that Jet might not be with the right family and the idea of that just broke my heart. I knew when she said it, that I could not live without this crazy pain in my ass in my life and I knew in my gut that I wouldn’t take her advice if she believed that I needed to re-home him and that instead, I would find another trainer. So I was worried about our first obedience class. It ended up going really well though. I felt a lot better about things and then, after class, the trainer took Jet and me outside to work separately from everyone else. She spent twenty minutes and took this dog that was making our lives a living hell and turned him into a good citizen of the community that loved everyone and everything. He was the dog that I knew was there on the inside. She immediately saw my problem and I cannot thank her enough for seeing what I couldn’t. After I’d finished talking to her about my previous experiences with dogs and the sorts of personalities that were typical for dogs I’d owned, she took one look at Jet and said, “He’s smart. That’s your problem. He’s got you figured out and knows exactly how to push your buttons and challenge your authority as the leader and you’re letting him win.” The minute she said that, everything that had been going wrong made perfect sense. He knows that his bark annoys me. I ignored him when he barked at me and thought I was doing the right thing, but it turned out to be the wrong thing because Jet would bark to avoid obeying commands. I would issue a command, he would start to bark and I would walk away and ignore him rather than correcting him and demanding obedience. I had no idea that it was possible for a dog to manipulate me like that, but that’s exactly what Jet was doing.

Flash forward three months later.

This is Jet’s beautiful “Watch Me”! Look at how attentive he is and I didn’t have ANY food on me the day this was taken!

Jet’s “watch me” is beautiful. I love to just let him sit and “watch me” for as long as we can, he’s up to a full minute now. His sit/stay for letting a stranger approach him and pet him is perfect! I can now comfortably take him on a walk and know that he will not jump up on a stranger when they ask to greet my dog. Jet now walks on a loose leash. He still pulls, at first, but about a minute into our walk, he falls into a heel and we can enjoy our time together without me being drug down the road. Jet will also remain in a down/stay when I walk away from him across the yard and he’ll stay put until I call him.

Jet’s still not perfect, don’t get me wrong. On the second to the last night of dog school, the trainer asked if anyone was still having problems with barking and, as if on cue, Jet started barking up a storm. Before I could raise my hand, several other people in the class said, “Jet!” and we all laughed! I was embarrassed, but he’s really improved a lot compared to the first night of the class. That was the night when I thought I should just crawl into a hole and hide there until the hour was up. He’s still an escape artist too and he’s bolted out the front door a couple of times to run down to the neighbor’s house to smell her flowers. All I have to do is step outside and holler, “Jet! Here!” and he’ll come running at top speed and plant his butt right at my feet. God bless this dog, he’ll probably be the only dog I ever own with 100% recall.

Jet and his sister, Lexi.

In fact, that amazing recall leaves me at a complete loss as to how someone could have just left him wandering around with his harness and leash on. He clearly got away from his previous owners on a walk, but his recall is good, and has always been good from day one. I believe that if his owners had really wanted to find him, all they had to do was drive around and call his name. He would have come running. So, I can only guess that they got so frustrated that they gave up on Jet and just shrugged him off. It’s a good thing that Jet came to live with us, because this is not how I roll. I don’t give up on people I love. I admit that I had my doubts about Jet, but giving up on him was never an option. Now that things have turned around, Jet is an amazing dog. I just needed to learn how to work with him and I am proud to say that we passed our first obedience class with flying colors! Even if things do get hard again, we’ll go back to basics and keep working at it. We are his forever family and you don’t give up on your family.

One year after he came home, almost to the day, I took Jet in the car to go work on some obedience at the local pet stores. Our route to the pet store takes us past the Spokane Humane Society, where I adopted Jet. I will always be grateful to the SHS for giving Jet a roof over his head until I walked through the door so that he could bark at me and tell me that I was his person, but I imagine that animal shelters are not a place that dogs who have been in them ever forget. I saw Jet tremble. Jet is an extremely confident dog. He’s practically fearless. The only time I’ve ever seen him be afraid of anything at all, is when we have approached this shelter in the car. Even though the SHS is a very clean shelter, I’m positive that Jet can smell the place from a half mile away and that he has a sense memory attached to it. I know they were very kind to Jet while he was there but still, it’s a shelter. It’s not a home. So, Jet hunkered down in the floor board of my car and whined and cried and barked and didn’t settle down until the shelter was long behind us.  When I pulled up to a stoplight after he’d calmed down, I looked at him and said confidently, “I don’t care how crazy you are. You are never, ever, going back there. You’re my puppy, you belong with me.”

Sometimes, I swear to God that Jet speaks fluent English. The stinker got up into his seat after that and gave me a big wet kiss right across my ear. He said, “I love you too Mom.” I’m sure.

Cesar Milan says, “You don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need.”

Jet climbed into the couch behind me and put his head on my shoulder when I was sick and running a fever. I didn’t have enough blankets on me and I was freezing. Good boy, Jet. Good boy.

There isn’t anything that could have prepared me for Jet. He’s a ball of energy and he’s a pain in the butt and I wouldn’t have been able to get through the last year without him. He is definitely the dog I need. As I write this, Jet is laying under my desk with his tail on my foot. He’s never very far and when I wander away into the darker corners of my mind, he brings me back to reality with all of the laughter and the joy in his heart. He reminds me every day that life is actually pretty freaking awesome and, most importantly, that everything in life is better when you’re in the company of a dog.

I’d like to say that Jet has no idea how much he’s loved, and with any other dog, I would say that, but Jet’s different. He knows exactly how much we love him and he loves us right back with everything he’s got.

Happy gotcha day to the best, worst decision I have ever made! We love you Jetpuppy!

UPDATE: On October 30, 2012, Jet earned his first AKC title and became “Jet CGC”. He passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, something I never believed I would be able to do with him. I have never, ever been more proud of my boy! WTG Jetpuppy! We will be attending AKC Rally classes in January. I can’t wait to see what else we can do together!