Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Journey Comes to a Bittersweet End

We were informed yesterday that Sierra has been released from the Dogs With Wings program. They feel she shows too much aggression towards other dogs, and are unwilling to take a chance on her. We've known for a couple of weeks now that she was very likely to be dropped, but the final reason came as a bit of a shock. Sierra, from the first day we had her, was infatuated with other dogs. She just loves them, and at least when she was younger assumed that all dogs loved her. There are some that don't of course, and she has the scars to prove it. This love of other dogs made her a big challenge to handle in the off leash area when she was younger, and in general much harder to train when there are other dog distractions. It was nearly impossible to get her away from dogs that did not chase her away. Fortunately she grew out of that, and learned to be cautious with the dogs that did not like to play. She now is a treat to take for a run and a swim in the off leash. There is no such thing as quit when it comes to retrieving especially from the water. She will even retrieve when dogs that do not like the water take her stick once she gets to shore. Her dog social skills have also matured such that we have never had any sign of aggression with dogs we meet at the off leash. She now knows when to roll over, and has taken quite a few bites without responding back.

While she does not show true aggression to other dogs as I would define it, she certainly has since her first day with us, shown that she will engage in rough play with dogs of a similar age and temperament. We saw this the first time at the Christmas party last year. While she has improved quite a bit since then, she still likes to play rough with the cooperative dogs, which in particular are her female siblings. So unfortunately for her, the DWW environment, where there are like dogs, restricted room to run and engage in more normal play, brings out her worst. While I'm convinced this is a puppy thing (Sierra is 10 months) that she will grow out of, I can't guarantee that. It also would seem that this peculiar kind of environment is unlikely to be experienced by a dog actually in service.

Enough with the "bitter". Sierra has been offered to us, and we have gladly accepted. While I am a hunter and believe in eating what you shoot (except for gophers!), I'm not very fond of ducks or geese. So, not sure Sierra will ever get to practice her water retrieving skills for real! We do love taking her to the off leash and getting some exercise for ourselves too. The drop in Agility fun sessions are also likely to be repeated. She is a pleasure to have around the house, and helps Jeanine with the laundry, and does her daily paper delivery. Sierra has to be on the same level of our house as me, and goes up and down the stairs exactly the same number of times as I do. Jeanine is scheduled for two hip replacements over the next six months, so Sierra's help is much appreciated by all. We all welcome the loss of a few DWW rules. Sierra had no objections to giving up the Halti yesterday. Mel let Sierra sleep on her bed last night, but I think after 30 minutes, they both concluded the idea was not as good it first seemed, and she was back on the floor (Sierra that is)!

DWW also graciously offered us one of the future puppies, but frankly we are somewhat burned out for the time being, and that offer will remain in rain check status for now. So we may not see any of you other DWW folk for some time. It was fun for the short time it lasted.

Take care,

Ron and Mel


Bog_g said...

I'm really sorry to hear that Sierra is out of the program. I was looking forward to getting to know her at the office when I come to take the dogs out for "busy busy" on my lunch hour. I'm sad that we will not get to know each other. I do hope that all of you will keep in touch and that someday you can open your hearts to another potential Dog with Wings.


"Auntie" Marsha : )

Ally, Teddy and Kira said...

I'm so sorry to hear that Sierra was released from the program! As a puppy raiser about to raise for her Third organization I have to say that Dogs with Wings sounds like their main focus is the dog. Some dogs make it apparent from an early age they don't want to work, others don't make it known until they're placed with a client. Some organizations aren't so good about listening to what the dogs want. I'm glad you got to take Sierra back as a pet and I know she'll live a long happy life with you. Unforunately a lot of time dogs are career changed for behaviours that first show up in an "unnatural" environment, such as the training kennel. It's the difference of environment that reveals some issues that could crop up and create a problem for a graduate. Many times it those issues that are never seen outside of that environment that gets the dog career changed as they have a potential to get escalated and never go away after leaving that environment.

I hope it gets easier for you and you continue to raise at a later date when it suits you! My thoughts are with you, your family and Sierra! :-D