We walk a lot, and it just made sense to get a dog.
I wanted a well-behaved lab, one I could train to be a therapy dog. Lucas was in a large showcase room at the shelter. He could do tricks, like push a cart across the room. When people gathered at the window to watch, he stood on his bed in a showcase pose waiting for those words, “Hey Good Looking!” He knew they were talking to him.
He had a sordid past on the streets of Yonkers and moved through a series of shelters for unwanted dogs. After one year of rehabilitation, he emerged confident, polished and charming. His worse fault was excessive slobber. Ewwww!
“Why has it taken so long for him to be adopted?”
No one knew. Shelters will not tolerate an aggressive dog, especially a Pit Bull. My husband approved the next day, and Lucas came home with us. A lot of people recognized him.
One young man took his picture; he had adopted Lucas’s friend. Young people called out of their cars when we walked down the street, “Hi Lucas!” Joggers waved and the ‘ladies of Michaels’, stood in the alley calling for hugs.He is good with small children, toddlers, and small dogs can yip their heads off, right in his face, and Lucas is serene. He would NEVER take their candy on Halloween.
Lucas had a preference for a woman of a certain build -Amazon. If he couldn’t leap into her arms, perhaps he could put his paws on their shoulders. Some of the Amazons were OK with that, but it just takes one unhappy Amazon, and we decided to take a different path.
Then there was the unfortunate garbage bag. It had fallen onto the road, and Lucas decided he would lie down on the road until the bag was his.
“Did you teach your dog to play dead?”
We picked him up and moved him to the shoulder, but he wouldn’t budge. We squirted water on his butt. He was outraged! It was the first time I heard him bark. I didn’t know he had a temper. I soon discovered, he wasn’t a fetcher; he was a rip it to shreds kind of guy who required a bribe to release the shoe.
Pit Bull Terriers are all muscle. A 90 pound Lucas can leap and land six feet away in front of a gasping jogger. He also likes to grab the gloves right off your hand. There were boundary issues.
I got a radio control neck collar and put it on buzz only. It was OK, but a slow way to control a strong dog. Then I discovered the “Gentle Leader.” It was showcased in the Smithsonian one year. It’s a dog harness. Imagine trying to lead a horse by tying a rope to the horse’s saddle. You lead a horse by gently tugging at his chin. Lucas was slightly different. When the dog across the street barked at him, he thought it called for an immediate response, and his lunge turned into a somersault. Instant feedback! He did that twice, but now, he looks the other way.
“How did you teach your dog to walk like that?”
I don’t use the harness all the time because people think it’s a mussel. It also rubs the fur off his nose and blocks his breathing on long walks. I do bring it with me, in case he’s forgotten how to walk nicely.
A school teacher stopped us one day and told us she had worked at the rehabilitation center that Lucas was in. She didn’t know Lucas but she saw us walk him every day and wanted to bring therapy dogs to the school. Lucas loved her and wanted to jump in her arms very much! “Do you think Lucas could be a therapy dog?”