I went back to the Bonnyville SPCA the next morning, hoping against hope that Spike would still be there. Everyone went; my brother and his family were home on holidays so they came with me, along with my parents. I walked into the shelter, knowing I wanted him so much to be my dog that it would be devastating if that kid from the day before decided he was the one. I got to his run, and there he was, tail wagging, eyes pleading, as if to say "you're back, are you my person??". The man working confirmed the kid was there to see Spike, but had wanted to sleep on it one more night too, and I had beaten him back to the shelter. I paid for Spike on the spot, and he was mine with the agreement I had to leave him there while I went on a trip to Regina and they had him neutered.
When I got back from my trip, I picked Spike up first thing. I knew then I was in for an adventure as I took him outside and attempted to get him in the car. Spike clearly had no idea what a car was, and I struggled for 15 minutes to get him into the backseat. No luring, cajoling, begging worked and I finally had to pick him up and put him in the car. He settled on the floor, right behind my seat for the 40 minute drive to St. Paul where he chewed through his leash. Fun times!
When I got him to the house, I tried to get him up the front stairs and through the door but it became obvious Spike had never walked up stairs before. Or gone through a doorway into a house. He had no idea what to do! I, once again had to physically help him into the house where I put him in his crate to rest, become a little more comfortable and settle in.
I learned within hours of his arrival that Spike was not accustomed to stairs and had to learn how to walk up and down flights, into a dark basement without panic. He was not used to crates, but he settled into that amazingly well; he has never had an accident in his crate ever. He did not know anything; no come, sit, down or anything else. He wanted to please so badly, but he was terrified of doing something wrong, so he opted to do nothing most of the time. I remember the first night Spike was in the house, he picked up my DVD remote and started to chew it. I verbally corrected him and he looked horrified and devastated all at once. Spike has never touched anything of mine since, as if that was the one lesson he needed to know his place in the pack. Spike was the most shut down dog I had ever worked with. I tried to train him to sit on command, but he had no idea how to go about doing that, and he cowered in fear, as if something bad would happen if he couldn't figure it out.
I walked Spike obsessively that summer, trying to help him settle in and that is what finally got him to start loosening up. But, along with walking came a realization that Spike was bonded to me, and really just me for life and with that came a great desire to protect me from anything. He became incredibly leash reactive, not able to walk by people or dogs without lunging, barking or snarling. At that point, I wondered what I had gotten myself in to!
I soldiered on with him and moved back to La Loche where that reactivity intensified. I would let him out in the mornings, off leash and he would chase people away from the house. I learned very quickly he would chase cars, dogs, people, bikes, really anything that moves and those days were done. He no longer got to go out unless he was leashed. I remember the final time I allowed him out in the morning off leash, he chased my friend Renee out of the yard as she was coming over to my downstairs neighbor's place so they could walk to work together. I clearly had a snarky, miserable, very devoted guard dog on my hands.
Somehow, we muddled through that year even though my "doggy guru" Sarah had moved back to Ontario and I was on my own with limited experience training dogs. I got many questions from my students about Spike, usually phrased something like "Why is your dog so mean, Miss?" I worked at the clicker with Spike and used positive reinforcement as much as I possibly could, but Spike was such a neurotic mess, I knew I needed to do something more for him. So, I called Rita at Mystyroch Kennel, in St. Paul and enrolled Spike in both group classes and private sessions. Smartest decision I ever made! Rita worked with us to get me to lighten up and have fun with Spike. And, she worked with Spike to get him over his MANY fears; men, men in hats or uniforms, other dogs, noises, new circumstances. That was the beginning of the dog I now I have and I am eternally grateful for her help in the journey!!
The other smart decision I made was getting Spike a puppy; he needed another dog around to help him be balanced and less neurotic and somehow in researching breeds, I realized I needed a goofball of a dog to help him lighten up too. Originally, I had my heart set on a German Shepherd, but with lots of lots of thought came an understanding that both Spike and I needed a lighthearted, silly dog so I settled on a lab. So, that was the beginning of Sophie's life with us. And, is the conclusion to this lengthy chapter in Spike's life with me... Spike, the single dog to Spike, part of a pack.
How could this silly, smiling boy be such a mess?? Ah well, Spike has clearly come a million miles from that sad little farm dog, dumped at the pound to a much loved, happy, flyball running, agility playing, sleeping on the bed, happy being with people, Therapy dog extraordinaire!