In the late summer of 2013, I began my volunteer hours with Howl A Day Inn as part of my graduation requirements with ABC. The volunteer hours were hands on in training shelter dogs in basic obedience. HADI isn’t an official dog rescue, but Melina extended herself and her kennel business in providing shelter to adoptable dogs either she personally rescued or were placed in her facility in a foster care capacity, so I gave some volunteer time in exchange for absorbing some of her canine knowledge.
During the entire book learning with ABC, I applied my studies in practical settings by working with Jack. As you know, he TOTALLY needed it. I felt resolute in my application of the theory when it was just me. Now, being in front of a seasoned trainer on her turf with the dogs she already established trust and a relationship with, this completely intimidated me. I’m no stranger to new and challenging situations, so I remained humbled and open during this new experience.
I know I was passionate about learning, but I also knew I wasn’t an expert and I was a little afraid of making mistakes. I was glad my first day was with Glenda from Heeling Hounds. She gave me some time with her walking a few of the dogs and gave me guidance which I grew more confident as our first session at HADI progressed. After a couple of more times at HADI with Glenda, I was set free and I began my time there as what became a long term volunteer.
The first day on my own, “on the job”, Melina was ready for me to get started even if I was a bit hesitant. Yes, i already had a couple of hours under my belt in working with some of the dogs. As I entered into one of the yards where many dogs hung out during the day. I knew no direct eye contact and I refrained from granting any immediate attention to any or all of the dogs. I also followed the number one rule, keep walking and ignore! I was making my way into the kennel area and out of nowhere, Felicity came to say “hello” by jumping off her paws as though they had springs in them and landed right on me, practically taking me out. I was beyond a little shocked, but from that point on, I fell in love and was intrigued with her level of energy.
From that day forward until I moved, every Tuesday, I arrived at HADI at 8am, excited to see what Felicity had in store for me. I worked with her on leash walking, sit, stay and maybe a few other basic commands which for a novice like me, she tested my abilities. She hardly looked at me, she sometimes didn’t respond to her name, she acted like I didn’t exist. I continued trying and working out new ways in getting her attention. Melina offered her wise experience and at one point even watched us as I tried to get Felicity to sit before I opened the gate to come back inside. Felicity just stood there waiting for the door to open. Melina suggest I walk her away and come back and try again. At some point in the following 10 minutes, she sat and her reward was coming inside. Felicity forced me to dig a little deeper and have patience for myself. Now, looking back, what she taught me was trust. Trust in my growing skill set and seeing trust as a vital component in the animal/human bond.
Trust is such a huge component in the relationship between dog and its human. Its something created by building consistency, affection and above all else, mutual respect. Trust seems to be the most apparent when the least expected happens. One Tuesday, Felicity and I went for a walk around the fields. We were working on pulling on a leash, for a pit/boxer mix, she has some serious muscle. As we were walking, the buckle on her collar broke off and there she goes, full out sprint. I wasn’t sure what she was after, maybe the peacocks peeked her interest or if she saw a loose dog. Whatever the case, She was too fast for me. I was unable to catch up with her, so I stopped. I thought to myself, how will I get her back. Melina will be expecting me to arrive back at HADI with Felicity, what do I do. So, I proceeded to walk in the general direction she ran to and I called her name only once or twice and what do you know, she full out sprinted back to me. I was utterly surprised. I didn’t practice recall with her and up until that point, I didn’t think she even acknowledged our relationship. From that day forward, I felt the strong connection with her. I walked and sometimes ran with her every Tuesday. Felicity enjoyed her time with me, but I know I learned the most from her and loved every minute of it. By the end of 2014, she would clear a 6ft fence just to come and say hello when I came by HADI. I would sometimes help Melina clean kennels and here she was right behind me following me around and checking in with me. Trust is the most vital in creating a bond. Trust is something where I will take with me and hold in my heart with every dog I come into contact with in my work and with my own pups. Trust will be what moves me in making decisions for a dog who doesn’t have a voice otherwise. Its something which needs nurturing for any deepening relationship.
I planned on adopting Felicity and include her in our move to Oklahoma. Eddie and I looked for a house with a backyard and a fence thinking and planning for a three bear household. We talked with new property managers and explained our situation. We remained honest someone will rent to us with three dogs. In the end, in the county where we live, we were not allowed more than 2 dogs and on top of that the owner of the home we liked wouldn’t budge on a 2 dog maximum. I was devastated and I didn’t know how I was going to break the news to Melina and I wasn’t prepared for how much my heart was going to hurt when I saw Felicity for the last time.
The last morning in El Paso, Eddie was packing up our last bits and I was off to pick up Jack and Bernie at HADI. As soon as I walked in, what do you know, Felicity hopped over the fence and was so happy to see me. Her wiggly body, her ears back and tail wagging. In that moment, I gave the sad news to Melina and I honestly believe Felicity heard me too. With tears streaming down my face, practically in a full out bawl, I said goodbye to Felicity. My heart still hurts, tears still streaming as I recall this moment and my hope is for someone who has room in their heart to adopt her. Someone who can be active with her, train her and show her as much love as she will give you.
If you’re interested in adopting Felicity, please contact Melina Garos at Howl A Day Inn. HADI’s number is 915-355-7949.
If you have any questions or want additional information, please contact me directly. I would be happy to talk to you about her.