I’ve been walking Baboo, Sugar, Dude, and Bella for almost a year now. Boo, Sugar, and Dude are yorkies, and littermates. They’re little spitfires. Bella is a street dog, and her owners rescued her from St. Lucia just over a year ago now. They’re all freaking adorable.
They can be a bit of a handful. Boo, Sugar, and Dude are fairly reactive – they bark at other dogs with a threshold of, give or take, 30 feet. Dude can be snappy, though Boo and Sugar are all bark and no bite.
Bella is scared of everything. Or she was; she’s improved by leaps and bounds this past year. The story goes that her owners found her in the woods, near death, while on vacation. They won her trust (no small task, if you know this dog) and she won their hearts. Thousands of dollars, several weeks, and lots of paperwork later, she arrived in Toronto to cold winter. Trusting them was the best decision she ever made. When I first met her, she’d barely take food from me, and I couldn’t touch her. Now, indoors she’s like any other dog. Outdoors, she’s still constantly alert and scanning her environment, and she is jumpy at the tiniest noise, and terrified of strangers. She’s the least “reactive” dog I’ve ever met; she just hides and cries. To get her tail out from between her legs on a walk is a small miracle. She’s learned to love me though; I get face kisses and tail wags.
In the above photo, poor Bella backed up onto my lap and had her best whale-eyes going, just because it was a windy day.
When I quit dog walking, I gave up 16 dogs to a new walker; these four, though, I couldn’t. So, despite now working at When Hounds Fly, I still go visit Boo, Sugar, Dude, and Bella just about every day for a walk.
I’ve been working on some training with Bella, which is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. She had zero trust, zero confidence, and zero training until this past year, and she LOVES training. I pull out my clicker, and her tail just starts going.
Proudest moment: Bella is a street dog from St. Lucia. She has no history with training at all, and is very fearful of everything and everyone outdoors. I’ve been working on some basic training with her, but normally outside she is so nervous she won’t to anything. Today, we did some training outdoors, and she gave me 10 minutes of perfect focus and was performing her “touch” perfectly :) <3 #stray #streetdog #rescue #training #clickertraining #positivereinforcement #dogwalker #torontodogwalker #dogsofinstagram #dogtraining #barksnpurrs
A photo posted by Verena Schleich (@odditvees) on
And yet, I’d never had them meet Athena. Despite my love for (and borderline unhealthy obsession with) my dog, and despite my love for these dogs, I worried it would be a disaster. Bella is so nervous; Boo, Sugar, and Dude so dog reactive. I didn’t want to set them back, and I didn’t want to traumatize Athena.
Today, I decided to bite the bullet and bring Athena with me – with the four dog’s mom’s permission. “If it’s a disaster I won’t bring her again,” I promised, “but I’d love if they could become friends!”
And here’s the crazy thing:
Bella was unsure at first, and Boo, Sugar, and Dude barked up a storm for the first five minutes or so. And then, like magic, they just settled. By the time we finished our hour walk, Athena and Boo were chasing each other in the grass, Sugar was giving Athena face kisses, and Bella was walking right next to Athena and taking treats next to her with no issue. It was so, so heartwarming.
It was such a welcome reminder that despite some horrors in the world, despite sad times, despite illness, and despite heart break, some things just work out. And are happy. And everything can just be good.
It’s important to remember that.