I’d been having a dream about getting a female dog for our anti-bullying program. We already had Snickers, a small, male, Jack Russell mix, we had rescued and adopted off the streets six years earlier. He was phenomenal! After only ten days of training he passed his Canine Good Citizen Test and became a Certified Pet Therapy Dog with Therapy Dogs International. He also caught on quick and learned several tricks for our program.
In my dreams, for the past few nights I saw a female dog just like him. I told my husband, John about it, and of course, he had the perfect solution.
“A guy at the shop has puppies for sale, why don’t we go take a look?” he suggested. “They’re only fifty bucks.”
When he told me they were mixed with Min-Pin, Rat Terrier, and Chihuahua, I flat out said, “NO Thanks! I don’t want a demon dog I want a dog like Snickers!”
On our anniversary, just a week later, John came home from work and said he was taking me out to breakfast. I got all ready, applied some make-up, curled my hair, and dressed up. Once we were in the van, he sprang the news on me.
“After we eat we’re going to stop by and take a look at that puppy, it’s a female and they only have one left.”
I didn’t care what he said. My mind was made up. I wasn’t getting one of those demon dogs even if the man was giving them away. I knew from experience that those three breeds were some of the hardest to train, they barked a lot, and had a tendency to be meaner than other dogs. Besides, the dog in my dream looked and acted like Snickers.
When we arrived at his co-workers house, the first thing I heard was that loud annoying Chihuahua bark. “What a big waste of time,” I sighed under my breath. I stood there impatiently as the man brought the pup out to us and placed her in my hands.
I agreed, she was tiny, soft and cute, and didn’t look anything like her mother and father, which was a good thing. But she didn’t look anything like the dog in my dream, either. Then the guy began telling us about her.
“She was born on 7-7-07…” he said, and rambled a bunch of other stuff off.
All I heard were those numbers, 7-7-7. Seven is the perfect number. Hmmm… Maybe she is the perfect dog!
“Okay,” I said. “We’ll take her.”
John looked very surprised but hurried up and paid the man before I could change my mind. Once we were in the van, he started this, “I told you so,” speech. He was soon eating his words.
Soon, after we got home, and many months to follow, I couldn’t help but think we’d made the biggest mistake of our lives. Baby Ruth wasn’t anything close to perfect. She chewed up everything; cell phone charger wires, I-pod wires, computer cords, shoes, and anything else she could sink her milk-bone puppy-dog teeth into. She wasn’t potty trained either. Even though we took her out several times a day she still piddled and left a few Linkin Logs all over the house, and when we took her to events or other places, she’d often leave her markings there as well.
I felt terrible for her, because later I did the math and found out that her breeders actually gave the pups away when they were just 4 and 5 weeks old, so they all suffered from detachment syndrome and were very fearful. The other thing that made her hysterical is that a small child had mishandled her when she was a young puppy, as well as she’d been attacked twice by bigger dogs when we were out on a walk. But that still didn’t change the fact that she was out of control and I didn’t know what to do with her.
“We have to get rid of her,” I kept telling John. “She won’t mind. And I don’t know what else I can do.”
He started to agree with me.
“We can’t give up on Baby Ruth,” our son, Brian, interrupted. Although he had a congenital heart defect, he loved that dog, and walked the floors with her at each anti-bullying rally. “She’ll be better in time; you just have to work with her more.”
I never worked with a dog so hard in my life. That’s what frustrated me the most. It didn’t matter what I did, how many treats I gave her, she’d still run away when I called her name. She was nothing like Snickers or that dog in my dreams. She was more like a nightmare!
One day the front door opened and Baby Ruth bolted out of the house and darted across the street. Thankfully, we live on a deserted dead end road with little traffic. Still, she was out of control and ran all over the neighborhood. For a half hour, I zigzagged through yards, across streets, with her leash in hand, traipsing behind her, trying to lure her to me with a treat.
“Come, Baby Ruth.” When I’d almost get to her, she’d freak out and run again.
This went on for an hour. I threw the leash. “We’re definitely getting rid of that dog,” I stammered.
“If you ever catch her,” Brian said with a laugh.
“Oh, I’ll catcher her!” I picked up the leash and ran toward her through the backs of neighbor’s yards. The chase was on.
Baby Ruth charged ahead frantically and bolted out into the street of a nearby four-lane highway. Cars were coming in all lanes. “NO!” I screamed! “Baby, NO!”
Although the car squealed to a stop, Baby’s head hit one of the front tires. For a moment it knocked her back. Tears stung my eyes as I rushed toward her. Just as I got to the edge of the street and started calling her, she jumped up and hobbled across the highway into the path of even more cars.
I shrieked, “Baby Stop!”
She kept going, like she didn’t even hear me. I held my breath and watched in fear. Moments later she made it safely across the street and then hobbled down the sidewalk toward home, leaving a trail of blood behind. I ran after her as fast as I could and scooped her carefully up into my arms and just sobbed.
“Why don’t you mind me, girl? Don’t you know that I love you?” I prayed for her all the way home, as I held my hands over her wounds to stop the bleeding.
Thankfully, after a trip to the vet, Baby Ruth only suffered minor injuries, and a slight blind spot in her left eye from the impact. I felt relieved, yet concerned. Part of me wanted to get rid of her right then for her own safety, but something deeper inside told me to take Brian’s advice, so I started working even harder with her.
I’m so glad I did. Shortly after that tragic experience, Baby Ruth started coming to me when I called her, she learned all the obedience commands, she was soon completely housebroken, and she stopped chewing things up. Even better, she learned the tricks for our program and began doing an awesome agility course.
Today we use her remarkable story of change in dog training sessions, as well as our anti-bullying program, to show that bully dogs and bullies can change with the right love, discipline and training. At the end of each anti-bullying workshop, Baby Ruth jumps over a series of hurdles both high and low, dives through hoops and tunnels, and does this cute little dance that brings smiles and laughter to all.
Baby Ruth is phenomenal! I thank God every day for bringing her into my life. She is my dream dog, a dream come true!
Lisa Freeman is CEO of Abuse Bites, Paws for Healing, and A Time to Heal. She is also a lifelong Abuse Survivor, Award-Winning Author, Motivational Speaker, and an AKC Evaluator, Dog Trainer, and Certified Pet Therapist. For more information on dog training, school assemblies, church seminars, and other community events, please log onto http://www.DogsPawsForHealing.com and http://www.AbuseBites.com.