My relationship with Lyle tells my story as a volunteer at BACS, as well as my evolution away from my Pit Bull prejudices. Once the dog I’d never walk, he’s now my sweetheart. I’d adopt him myself if I could!
A mere eight months ago, had you told me I would soon be training difficult Pit Bulls, I would have said “heck no!” Then my 10-year-old daughter, Addie, talked me in to visiting the shelter to meet her friend and her dad who were already volunteers. Addie quickly talked me into taking the volunteer class, and before long we were walking the “green dot” and “yellow dot” (easy) dogs once a week.
I remember well when I first saw Lyle. He scared me: BIG dog. Red dot. Jumping. Yellow, squinty eyes staring at me. And, yes, I thought he was just about the meanest and ugliest dog I’d ever seen – pink skin showing through his thin head-coat and all. No way would I be walking that dog!
Meanwhile, Addie’s twin brother, Matt, also became a volunteer and I graduated to orange-dot volunteer status. We got to know Little – a mild-mannered brown Pittie that my daughter had grown fond of. But, after many months in the shelter, Little got increasingly “kennel crazy” and was elevated to red-dot status. Addie was on my case to petition for red-dot volunteer status so that we could walk Little again. Not feeling ready, I got special permission to walk her, and that’s how I started to learn how to handle more difficult dogs (with lots of help from staff and more experienced volunteers).
It wasn’t until I met Lyle on the street with another volunteer that I began to overcome my prejudice against him. He seemed so calm and looked up at me so sweetly. Maybe I could give him a try. So, I asked permission to walk him, asking Tim to get him out of the kennel for me. Once I got used to him, I started getting him out of the kennel myself (no easy task) and soon Amelia put a red dot on my badge (Addie and Matt were so happy!).
Then Amelia encouraged me to take Lyle to Bad Rap obedience training down the street on Saturdays – he really needed some training, and so did I! On the first day, Lyle tried to declare himself the boss – rolling over when he was supposed to be sitting up, jumping up on me, and generally making me look like the novice I was. But with help from Bad Rap, I learned how to be the boss, and by the third class, Lyle was sitting on command, making eye-contact and waiting for the next command. What a change, and what a smart dog!
Recently, BACS volunteers were treated to a special “red dot training” with Kathy, where we learned to patiently wait for the behavior we want, and give a treat when we get it. Now I wait for Lyle to sit before I open his kennel – he knows what to do. We go for long walks and practice what we’ve learned. We stop at the Seabreeze Café where he gets a rawhide chew and we let him mellow out after being cooped up for too long. He is very content to “hang out” calmly around other dogs and people.
Now, far from that dog I swore I’d never walk, I’m in three times a week to see him! We’ve nicknamed him Piggo, since he has big pink ears and a pink nose. We’ve decided he’s half-cow, though, with those big brown spots on his body and his tendency to graze. He gets so happy and excited when he sees us!So, if you have love to give and receive, can handle a big dog (or are willing to learn), please consider Lyle. He may still seem overwhelming, but it’s clear he has the capacity to learn. And, since we now take care of Little while her owners are out-of-town, I can attest to how much a dog can mellow out once he or she comes home. I have no doubt that Lyle will likewise be transformed when he’s yours.
Written with love by BACS volunteer Nancy R.