Carol Reiter: Little shelter dog reveals his standout smarts

06/04/2011 2:27 AM

06/04/2011 3:07 AM

I love old dogs. Because of that love, I've rescued a lot of dogs from our local shelter over the years, many of them old-timers. I love the old white faces, and I love the quiet, peaceful dogs a lot of the oldies have turned into.

Len is my old dog now. He had his 11th birthday in May, and he's getting slow, chubby and a little bit stoved up. Pretty much like me, I guess. Maybe that's why I like the old ones; they remind me of myself.

But it's not just the old dogs from shelters I like. At the dog classes I teach, a lot of the dogs came from local shelters. Some of them are big, some are small, some are young and just a few are senior citizens.

This is my story of one little dog that came from a shelter. His owner got the scruffy little dog from a local sanctuary. I'm not sure why she got him -- he is awfully cute, but so are a lot of other dogs.

The dog came through my beginning class and did quite well. But the class was big, and he kind of got lost in the shuffle. Oh, he did fine in class, but he really wasn't a standout. His owner was a very nice lady, and I could tell she worked with her dog because he got better each week.

Then I started an advanced class. Starting out with just a couple of people, we grew to four, and then I got a phone call.

It was the lady who had the little scruffy rescue dog, and she asked if she could come to the advanced class. Sure, I told her. I didn't really remember her dog when she talked to me on the phone, but I figured if he made it through beginning class, he should do OK in advanced.

Well, that lady came down to the park with her dog and she listened to everything I said. I showed her how to teach the "watch" command, and she started using treats to train the dog.

Let me make something very clear. Everyone in the advanced class works hard with their dogs. The dogs have come such a long way in such a short time it amazes me. The dogs have started learning hand signals, and learning to stand on command and to heel while they're watching their owners.

But this little dog stood out. A lot of times, for reasons I can't figure out, little dogs are hard to train. Not this guy. His owner wanted him to watch her, no problem. His eyes never left her face.

And when the dog and his owner started the advanced class, the dog didn't down very well. No problem, that lady went home and practiced for a week, and now the dog goes down like a champ.

At last week's class, it was cold and windy and some not-so-wonderful people were setting firecrackers off at the park. The dogs were getting tired, and I was ready to drop. I had worked all day, then spent an hour teaching a beginning class. I really wasn't looking forward to that advanced class.

Then I started watching the little white dog and his owner. While I was talking, the dog was sitting at the lady's side, staring at her face.

I asked the people to down their dogs, and that little dog went right down. Now I was pretty impressed. Then I showed her how to teach the "stand" command.

Within minutes, that dog had it down. He figured out real quick that when she said "stand" he was supposed to stand up.

I couldn't help myself. I told her how wonderful her dog was doing and how quickly he learned.

"He came from the Last Hope Cat Kingdom," she said, with just a little bit of pride in her voice.

Wow. What a great little dog that lady got. She calls him Tucker, and he's cute as a bug.

But even more important, that little dog is smart, and loves to learn. And his owner has worked hard with her dog, and it shows.

Congratulations, my friend, for adopting a dog from a shelter. And congratulations to Tucker on getting a great home. You truly deserve it.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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