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In Memory of
All of us have lost that special dog or someone in our lives. When that soul leaves there is an empty spot that seems to never be filled the same way again. This page is in honor to all those who have lost companions.
In loving memory of the three Jack Russells that inspired so many training articles
Many of us who own Jack Russells are quick to say this kind of dog is like no other. Some of us will say the dog has changed their life. My dog Cookie was not only like no other dog and most definitely changed my life, but she probably saved my life. That event happened after I saved her life.
I’m privileged to live within walking distance of the national forest. The day I saved Cookie’s life I was on a walk on a pleasant September afternoon. Cookie and I were half a mile out on a grassy path which had a scattering of pine trees nearby. Not a lot of people travel this area, so I wasn’t surprise that I only saw a lone horseback rider pass me on my walk.
After the horseback rider disappeared into the forest ahead, I heard a noise from behind and turned to see two German Shorthaired Pointers racing toward me. I pulled Cookie into the grass and stepped off the path to let the dogs run by. One dog passed me, but the other, seeing Cookie, turned and without warning grabbed her. Only her head and part of her shoulder protruded from his mouth. From that point on, things happened in microseconds.
The male German Shorthaired Pointer, with Cookie in his mouth, began to run off. I grabbed at his collar, but missed. I had hold of Cookie’s leash and used it to stop the attacking dog. I worked my way up the leash and took hold of the dog’s mouth. For an instant, I realized that trying to free my dog may result in this dog coming after me, but I made my choice to continue. With my thumbs at the back of the dog’s mouth, I tried to pry it open to free Cookie. His jaws seemed made of iron and didn’t budge. I began to yell out "help" hoping someone, anyone would come along. I pried as hard as I could, but Cookie remained in the dog’s mouth. The German Shorthaired Pointer lunged forward, and my fingers came out of his mouth. I grabbed and caught hold of the leash, got back to the Shorthair’s head and jammed my thumbs under his tongue to pry Cookie free. Finally Cookie got lose and she rolled onto the ground. She hardly had time to get to her feet when the German Shorthaired Pointer grabbed her neck and shoulders. He had her again.
This time I got hold of the German Shorthair’s collar to halt the dog. I quickly wedged fingers over his teeth and into the soft tissue under his tongue and pried. His grip on my dog didn’t loosen. I took a moment to yelled out "help, help, I need help" then put all my might into trying to pry open the dog’s mouth. I couldn’t get his mouth to budge. Since Cookie wasn’t as deep in his mouth as the first time, I managed to bend my fingers and shove them down towards the German Shorthair’s throat. He loosened his grip and Cookie slipped free. She hardly had time to get to her feet when he grabbed her again, this time in the middle of her back.
This time when I tried to free my dog, I stuck my fingers at the back of his mouth, trying to shove fingers down his throat. He lunged
forward dragging me with him and I fell, knocking into him. He lost his grip on Cookie and I ended up with my hand jammed into his mouth. I scrambled to get on top of him and grab his collar. But when I tried to remove my hand from his mouth, he trashed and almost got up. I shoved my hand back inside his mouth and positioned myself on top of him to pin him down. I glanced at Cookie. She appeared dazed and she wobbled as she tried to keep standing. The German Shorthaired Pointer crunched one of my fingers so I began to remove my hand from his mouth, but he responded by throwing his head against the ground so he could better leverage to break free. I couldn’t hold him any other way except to keep my hand jammed towards his throat. I tried to keep my fingers away from his teeth as much as possible. For what seemed forever, I’d yell "help, help." Each time the German Shorthaired Pointer crunch a finger, I’d start to pull out my hand. He’d thrash to break free and I’d shove my hand back into the dog’s mouth. Unfortunately, some of this thrashing had dislodged the dog from beneath me and I knew I couldn’t keep him penned down much longer. I also knew Cookie would not survive another attack. I crushed my eyes closed for a quick prayer.
No sooner had I opened my eyes when the man who’d passed me earlier, came riding up on his horse. He asked what I wanted him to do. "Pick up my terrier," I gasped as the German Shorthaired Pointed began to dislodged himself from beneath me. The man’s feet thumped onto the ground and he scooped up my dog about the same time the German Shorthaired broke free. John, I learned his name later, told me later that he’d thought he heard someone calling out for help, but in the wind wasn’t sure. Finally he’d decided to turn around from his ride and see what was up.
Cookie went to the emergency hospital. She’d gotten lucky that she didn’t have internal injuries. The German Shorthaired Pointer’s first grab had failed to puncture her abdomen because her leg was bent under her. Cookie wore an extra wide slip collar which helped protect her neck from the second attack. As for the third attack on her back, since Jack Russells are durable dogs, she managed to escape without any cracked bones. I also got lucky, none of my swollen fingers were broken. Cookie had to spend time in the vet hospital and needed pain pills for over a week. And she did suffer psychological effects. For a long time afterwards, she’d wake, jump off of my lap, and run and hide in her crate. Sometimes, she’d hide out in my closet to sleep.
More than time was needed to heel Cookies psychologically. Ironically, this little dog started out as fairly people shy and dog shy. I had to do a lot of socializing with her and teach her to trust me when she was around people and dogs she was uncertain about. A lot of that training included leadership training where she not only learned to do my bidding, but to trust my leadership. I used that same training to work with her about again trusting dogs she wasn’t familiar with. For that
reason, I can’t stress enough that even though these are harder to train dogs, they are well worth taking the effort.
I mentioned that Cookie reciprocated in helping keep me from harm. A couple of years after Cookie was almost killed, I faced an uncertain consequences from a very powerful male Great Pyrenees. On this particular walk, Cookie wasn’t with me. Although she had gained enough confidence to go with me on walks, and again compete in the agility ring, there were some days that she seemed a bit spooked and was reluctant to accompany me. I respected her wishes on those days and didn’t force her to go on a walk. The day I faced down the Pyrenees, Cookie didn’t want to go along with me. I thought she was just having one of those reminiscent days, but now, I have to wonder is she knew something I didn’t.
After Cookie’s attack, I took up a new habit I never expected to have. I began to carry along pepper spray. I was about half as far away from home as I was the day Cookie was attacked when the Great Pyrenees pushed his way out of an unlatched gate and marched towards me with a predetermined look in his eyes. Now I pride myself with a lot of success at pulling back my shoulders, snapping my fingers and pointing as I give a forceful "no" to a dog. I can’t tell you how many times I turned away hostile dogs with this action, dogs often intent on harming a dog I had along with me. However, this dog didn’t flinch. He just kept his forward march with a look in his eyes I will never forget. That intense stare seemed to say "you’re dead."
This was the first time in my life I have ever used pepper spray and let me tell you it worked. Of course, no one knows what would have happened if I hadn’t had that pepper spray. Would I have gotten a serious bite? Or would I not be here to type this article now? One thing I know for sure are, if it hadn’t been for the incident with Cookie, I’d have never had that pepper spay along with me. It is a good bet that dog would have done me major harm, because recently that same Great Pyrenees did hurt someone. The dog owner’s grandchild got off of a chair in the kitchen, and the dog, unprovoked, grabbed the kid’s jaw. The child ended up with seven stitches. I heard that the grandchild didn’t tease the dog or do anything to invite the attack. Me, on the other hand, walked by that dog’s fence almost every day and he often barked and lunged at a gate when I passed by.
I lost my precious Cookie in January 2009 to cancer. The problem came on quickly and she was gone at age 12 before I ever expected to lose her so soon. But at least she didn’t suffer the loss of a more normal life after the German Shorthaired Pointer attack, although she had every right to be terrified of any dog. Such a life of constant fear wouldn’t be much of a life for her. What helped Cookie returned to a fairly normal life, was the trust in me she’d learned through training. That same positive training originally took her from a people and dog shy youngster, to a more confident dog. About six months before I lost her, I took a
picture of her with a dog she’d just met named Monster. To be honest, this powerful dog’s massive size could intimidate me. I’ve sent along the picture of my dog. The collar she had on is the same one she had on when she was attacked.
Behaviorist and APDT member Peggy Swager is an award-winning author. Two of the articles she wrote for Grit made this years finals in the DWAA contest. They are posted at her website www.peggyswager.com. Her newest dog training book is "Training the Hard to Train Dog."