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— May 15, 2012 —

GoGo’s Transformation
by Patience Hayes

The first time I thought I could touch GoGo without getting bitten, I did so by lightly brushing a small spot on her side with my fingertips. Immediately, she dropped to her side - trembling, cowering, begging, pleading with her eyes. She turned her chest toward the ceiling, submissively. Her forepaw lightly waved in the air in peace and in her defense. A puddle of her urine spread out where she lay. To me, it looked as if she knew a beating was coming and that she just hoped it wouldn’t be too terribly bad this time. GoGo had been in our facility, Bark Avenue Playcare since the night before, when she had been the subject of a high-speed police chase, all in the effort to get her off the street and safe in human hands. GoGo wasn’t so sure about the “safe” part. It looked as if she hadn’t touched her food or water. Catatonic was the word that came to mind. She wouldn’t even go potty (voluntarily), as long as anyone was around. I so wanted her to relax for her own good.

This was what it was like for three days. It hurt me to see her suffer. I was impatient. Enough was enough. “Can I introduce her to THOR!?”, I asked my boss. “Yes, the sooner the better”, was his reply. THOR! a very well-tempered Cane Corso Mastiff who stayed in the lobby with the trainers, —(Daniel & I)— on training days, often acting as the “tester dog”, assisting other dogs in our training. “Bullet proof” was the term we used to describe his temperament. I leashed up GoGo and brought her into the lobby and ordered THOR in a “down”. I led GoGo up to his hindquarters for a sniff. Then, a small miracle happened… … GoGo’s thus far perpetually bowed head rose up, her mouth opened and relaxed in that “doggie smile”. Up came the tucked in tail, and it began to wag! At this point, clients were starting to come in to pick up their dogs from daycare. I released THOR! from his “down”, to let him greet clients, as he so loved to do. Anyone that THOR! greeted was instantly OK in GoGo’s book! She was right along side of THOR!, wagging her tail at whomever got the THOR! endorsement! After the evening rush died down, GoGo relaxed on THOR!’s bed with him. She simply slipped her body in the narrow space that was between THOR! and the wall, effectively “spooning” with him, looking as about as contented as any dog possibly could.

While this was a lovely beginning, GoGo was by no means ready to be adopted. She wasn’t much good around people, if THOR! wasn’t right at her side, and any dog that was overly excited got the look-o-death from her. Little dogs were unmistakably regarded as prey. GoGo was living at Bark Avenue and, like THOR! stayed in the lobby with the trainers on training days. We had to monitor all contact with humans and dogs (except THOR!). With few exceptions, no one was allowed around her. She was threatened very easily. No one could hover or bend over her in any way. You couldn’t touch her backside anywhere. Really, without THOR!, Daniel, or me right next to her, she was a danger —her savage-sounding low growl telegraphing this fact. Not even all the staff at Bark Avenue was safe with her. Generally, the trainers or a female member of our staff handled her, and I mean gingerly!

It was obvious that GoGo had been treated very roughly. Furthermore, it was apparent that she’d not been socialized to other dogs, during that important time in her puppyhood. She’d never be a candidate for a dog park! A couple of the policemen who took part in her capture, had recognized her as a former “crack house dog”. She’d gotten loose, when the place was raided. She was a mess! It was easy to imagine the rough treatment she might have received by drug “gangstahs”. In contrast, the posh home that THOR! had come from was responsible for THOR!’s afore-mentioned “bullet proof” behavior. Or was it?

Fast forward to today: It’s been a year and four months, since GoGo’s “capture” and a little over a year since I officially adopted her. She has proven to be quite biddable and easy to train in basic obedience, which, along with good everyday treatment, has boosted her confidence tremendously. GoGo no longer tolerates people; she likes them! She seeks out the attention of passers-by! The biggest surprise of all —and this part just keeps getting better— GoGo LOVES other dogs! What once made her nervous now piques her interest. Off-leash dogs, galloping at full speed towards her once made her body go completely tense and made her ready for attack. Her tail now wiggles back and forth in controlled excitement/anticipation when a new dog approaches. If she’s already familiar with and likes the approaching dog, she might let out a happy whinny and the little short, stubby tail goes nuts!

Was GoGo truly abused? Probably, judging by her knee-jerk reactions to certain stimuli. But how did she recover so beautifully? Certainly basic obedience training gave her confidence, but can it truly explain such an immense transformation? I doubt it. I have seen hand-raised puppies, exposed to nothing but tender treatment and loving attention show extreme fear of strangers, as if they had seen years of bad treatment. Anyone who has gone to pick out a puppy from a litter has probably seen the varying personalities of the puppies in that litter. Furthermore, getting to know the litter’s parents can give you insight as to the puppies’ temperaments. Google “choosing a puppy”. There are reams of information on the internet on observing puppy behavior and picking out the best puppy for you and your family. Observe a litter of three-day-old kittens and you will see who is the boldest, the shyest, the one who wants to snuggle the most, the show off, the nurturer, etc. If you are lucky enough to observe the cats from that same litter ten years later, (as I have), you will see the same personalities. They will be more developed and more complex, but essentially the same.

GoGo: my sweet gem… … She wants to eat, sleep, guard, play, get lovin’, work for Mommy, and be silly —one of her favorite things! If I were some animal behaviorist and could back it up, through research, I would even say that GoGo has a great big sense of humor! I firmly believe that my sweet GoGo-Girl was born a happy, well-balanced pup. I believe that she was prevented from showing her best side, because of the ill-treatment and crummy environment she once endured. The best sunflower varietal will not die in the shade; it will twist, underfoot, along the ground and give you a pitiful blossom, resting in the dirt. Transplant it into the sunlight, and it will stand tall and give you a big, bold bloom like my GoGo Girl. I’m looking at her right now and talking to her. She’s wearing that doggie-smile and wagging her whole rear end and I am shedding tears of joy!

Patience Hayes �Canine Etiquette Consultant� is the owner of Doggie Manners with Patience in Augusta, Georgia. She can be contacted at Beasty914@yahoo.com or 312-720-9561.