Before I adopted Ella, I had known for months that I wanted a dog. I had grown up with dogs and life after college did not feel complete without a dog. I worked as a Forestry Technician for a timber company that also happened to be a dog friendly work place. Many of my coworkers had dogs and brought them to work everyday. I always believed that working in the woods created the perfect life for a dog. What dog would not love to go to the woods everyday with its owner and be allowed to romp free all day while her owner worked? With this desire came a set of concerns: I can’t hike through the woods all day with my dog on leash, one of us is bound to get hurt. If I can’t use a leash, how do I make sure my dog stays with me and does not run off? I obviously need to develop a relationship with the dog before I can let it off leash. I asked various coworkers what they did with their dogs to make them stick around. Nobody could really give me a solid answer. The common answer was “Well if you lose the dog, leave your jacket and some potato chips near where your truck is parked. Your dog will likely be waiting there for you the next morning.”
I thought, “Ok, thanks, but I don’t think I could go all night without having my theoretical dog home with me.”
Finally, one Saturday morning a friend of mine called me up and said, “I am at the flea market, and the humane society is here with some lab puppies; you should come take a look.” I told her that I probably should not, because then I will want to take one home, and I am not ready. My friend assured me that I did not have to take one home and just come take a look. I headed to the flea market. Next thing I know, it is Sunday afternoon, I have a lab puppy on my lap in my friend’s truck and we are driving around town trying to collect supplies (crate, leash, collar, food).
I adopted Ella when she was 3 months old. She was a shy, mellow puppy. After about 1 week, Ella and I started to settle into a routine. I quickly figured out that she knew it was in her best interest to stick by my side. Our first days in the woods she was glued to my heels. I encouraged this behavior by offering treats. Meanwhile, I enrolled her in a puppy obedience class that we attended every Saturday for 8 weeks. Everyday we would come home from work and I’d practice what we had learned in class the previous Saturday. The text book advice is to keep training sessions down to 10 to 15 minutes. Well we’d start a training session and an hour later we were still working and we were both having a ball! It became apparent early on that I loved dog training and I had a dog that loved to work for me! We pursued every class we could find locally. When we finished all of the obedience classes one trainer offered I started looking for an agility class we could take.
When Ella was 3 years old, I finally found a local “agility for fun” class and a Rally Obedience class. The prerequisite for both classes was that the dog had to have its Canine Good Citizenship through AKC. Luckily, the trainer teaching these classes was also an AKC Evaluator. Ella and I brushed up on obedience and signed up for the trainer’s next round of tests. Ella passed and started attending classes!
Concurrently, I had started volunteering for a local pit bull rescue and found search and rescue. Ella and I worked tirelessly for 18 months at search and rescue. By the end of the 18 months, it was clear to me that Ella simply was not interested. At that time, Popeye swooped in and took the search and rescue torch, and I gave-in to the fact that my dog, Ella, just wanted to be a dog. She was nearly 6 years old, and done with training.
Now over 2 years later, Ella’s spark and energy is re-ignited. We are taking another Rally Obedience class and hope to participate in a trial one day soon. She is 8 years old and is more demanding then ever! Her love for working with me is back and I would not have it any other way! She is my inspiration and one would never guess that she is 8 years old!