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Sarah and Maddox

Six years ago, I came to the realization that I loved my dog Maddox, I just didn’t really like him much. Prior to working with Kathy, I had been to four other trainers/behaviorists. I heard everything from “Treat him with cheese to manage the behavior” to “ He is an accident waiting to happen. You should return him to the rescue now.” As if the behavior was not hard enough to deal with, he is also an American bulldog mix and DEAF. The bully breed delineation makes him subjected to a much higher level of scrutiny by the general public. Of course, the deafness also made it more difficult for me when I was screaming at him for crazy making behavior and all he needed to do was turn around and I ceased to exist.

Being a social worker, I just couldn’t imagine giving up on Maddox. When not being crazy, he is so adorable (think Petey from ‘Our Gang’) and gives great kisses. I knew that he potential, I just could not seem to tap into it. I was walking him early in the morning and late at night to avoid people on the street. I had gently asked my three housemates to meet friends outside of the house because Maddox didn’t really take kindly to having strangers in the house. I was living a shell of my former life.

The saving grace for Maddox, besides his handsome looks, was that he was always very good with other dogs. After the third fight however, I found myself scripting what I was going to say to the rescue orgnaization when I returned him. I felt lucky that Maddox has an affinity for chewing tennis balls, which has left him stubs for teeth. So, even when there was a fight, I knew he wouldn’t be able to do much damage. My regular responses had become “Oh, he’s shy around new people” or “He’s not really interested in other dogs.”

I had hit rock bottom with Maddox. I thought I had explored all avenues and then the universe took control. Kathy Kear happened to move into the other half of the duplex I was living in. A client came to my door with his dog in a muzzle and I thought “What does my crazy new neighbor do for a living?” I then met Lucille and Benjamin and found a person that had a peace with dogs (and me) that I had never seen before.

She did an assessment of Maddox and I found myself in tears. Maddox whimpered and kept trying to run to me. I did not realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of the relationship I had always longed for with Maddox. Immediately, Kathy began to teach me to be a leader for Maddox and to show him the way he needed to go. We began to work with a vibrating collar to allow me to communicate with my deaf dog. I wore a remote and gave him one vibration on his special collar for ‘come’, two vibrations for ‘down’ and three vibrations for ‘heel’ (which of course came much later). I felt like I had been living with someone with autism; living in his own world. Kathy finally showed me a way to help Maddox hear me and connect to me.

As I worked with her and Maddox, I began finding myself calmer and more focused in my work with him. I was no longer screaming at him when he did “crazy behavior” but saw it as an opportunity to guide him to appropriate behavior. Much to my surprise, at the time, Maddox loved training (after he got over the initial shock of the muzzle and prong collar). He did not like being in a down stay on busy College Ave., but he learned that he could handle the stress, I would protect him and he and I would get through it together. He now looked to me to help him cope. He had faith in me, which lead to me having faith in him.

Our process was not without hiccups. I distinctly remember calling Kathy after our sessions had ended because Maddox got into a fight with a dog at the beach. The difference was that I corrected him, he stopped, looked at me and then walked calmly with me off the beach. Kathy reinforced that I had done what needed to be done and this was another opportunity for Maddox to see that the behavior is not appropriate, a correction is given, and then we continue on with our way. Fights are always distressing, however I finally felt that I had been given the tools to contain the situation and show Maddox the way the situation should have been handled.

Six years after my work with Kathy, Maddox is now often described as “the calmest, coolest dog ever” and “such a love bug and wonderful with everyone”. I also have heard “why is your dog so amazingly calm and respectful when meeting other dogs/people?”, “can I trade my dog for your dog?” I have to warn people that if they sit on the floor, Maddox will back up and sit between their legs or on their lap (which can be disconcerting if he has just gone swimming).

I know can honestly say that I love Maddox more than almost anything else in the world. I can’t imagine how empty my life would be without Maddox. He is my fuzz ball. He is my heart. All thanks to Kathy and her guidance.

 

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