ABC Dog Training Program
Student of the Month
In 2010, ABC student Linda Domer was diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer. Throughout multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgeries, the one thing on her mind was, “What will happen to Holly Belle if I die?” Holly Belle was a rescue dog who had come to Linda as an 8-month-old puppy with many issues. She was very guarding and aggressive, and made life with her a challenge, to say the least. By the time Linda was diagnosed, Holly Belle was a senior dog with bad behavior and her chances of being adopted were slim. Fortunately, Linda recovered and Holly Belle remained with her until she died. As Linda continued to recover, she decided that no one facing their own mortality should have to agonize over the fate of the pets they might leave behind. She made the decision to learn as much as she could about animal behavior and how to modify it- and she has never looked back.
What was/is the biggest challenge you faced during your externship and how did you overcome it?
The greatest challenge was when I took Delilah to her first training session with my Mentor Trainer, Chris Bevillard, in Frederick, Md.. Delilah was young, not food motivated and exhibited every single stressor on the list. She could not function at all in the class environment. It was time for a plan. I took her to Petsmart or Petco every day. At first it was only for a few minutes, and then we slowly built up to longer periods of time. We eventually began asking her to perform behaviors she would routinely give at home. By the time her second class rolled around she was a little improved but still not at all comfortable. So, we continued our trips and by week three, she was ready to work in class.
What has been your most rewarding moment during your externship?
My most rewarding moment was that week three when we walked into class and Chris said, “What’s up with Delilah? She is calm, what happened?” My only reply was, “Lots of hard work.” She continued to do well during the remainder of her formal training. We still continue training at home and she is brilliant.
Describe one pet story that touched you the most during your volunteer hours. Do you plan on continuing your volunteer work?
I have many great stories about the dogs I have worked with at the Washington County Humane Society, but the first always sticks with you the most. Deuce was a 2-year-old, unaltered, 51-lb male American Pit Bull Terrier who had been surrendered by his owner. He was terrified, aggressive and lashed out. The first few days I just sat by his kennel door and talked to him and offered treats. By day three I was in his kennel with him. By day five we were outside doing leash work. He would walk on the leash, sit, down and relax when asked. He no longer jumped on or lunged at people, and he was becoming a really great dog. I worked with him for about three weeks total; three days a week for about 1.5 hours each day. I left Deuce one Friday feeling really pleased for him because he was really “getting it” and for myself because I was making a difference in his life. When I returned on that Sunday to work with Deuce, he was not in his kennel. I hoped he had been adopted, but was told upon inquiry that he had been euthanized. I was devastated and left the building certain I would not go back. But, I did go back. I have worked with many other dogs and brought them successfully to adoption. I will always continue to work with shelter dogs and Deuce will always be right there with me.
What has your experience been like in the ABC Dog Obedience Program?
I have loved every minute I have spent in this program. It is well paced and help is always available.