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Guest Post: A Love Letter to Scuby

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I asked readers to write a love letter to their DINOS and picked a winning essay.  Throughout February, I’ll be sharing all of the entries.

Here’s some of what Theresa wrote:

To my DINOS Valentine: Scuby ‘don’t touch the hair’ McConville

My DINOS dog and I met quite by accident. I’m paraplegic and diabetic and have had two previous service dogs; one contract trained and the second was a program dog. Both had their joys and their difficulties. When the second dog was lost at 9 years to cancer I was lost to the world. Getting around in a wheelchair requires considerable hand and arm strength and coordination. Wheelchair leash-work requires more hands than I can usually find. Quite literally, without the leash I’d forgotten how to move around. I hated it. I was alone and vulnerable. Not my favorite neighborhood in my head.

My friend needed cat litter and seeing how bummed out I was, insisted that I keep her company on her errand. Soon I found myself in a pet store…on Dog Adoption Day for a foster rescue group. I do love dogs so I had a look around.

Amid the kennels, cages, boxes and x-pens sat a hulk of a collie looking thing. He was quiet and still, ever watchful though calm. His left eye was multicolored and eerie to look at. I introduced my scent, then he laid a gentle glance and a paw reached out, just short of touching my sleeve. I had to know more.

Our first on-lead walk together was in-sync from the very first step. He would not pull, but watched my every move over his shoulder as he picked his way through a retail crowd. I applied as many temperament queries as I could while on the fly and was impressed by his willingness to try anything. I did what I advise others not to do; I decided with my heart and took this gentle spirit home with me. It took me all of 45 minutes to decide.

“Scooby-Doo’s” paperwork listed him as seven years old, recently neutered, Australian Shepherd – St. Bernard mix, cruelty seized and returned by TWO previous adopters because of what the Dumb Friends League referred to as “normal herding behaviors”. There was also a notation written in RED that he should be the only dog in residence!

 

 

I’ve been training dogs for decades and have always adjusted the training to suit the dog, so I thought, but after a couple of weeks of settling-in it was apparent my skills weren’t up to the challenge this dog was laying down. He didn’t fit anything I knew. I had to change. The next five years became an evolutionary process for me as a trainer and as it turned out, also as a human being.

Four months with Scuby…he was reactive to everything… And I was suddenly on my own since ‘reactive’ dogs are considered unsuitable by most ‘serious’ trainers. Cowards!

I didn’t understand his fears. I couldn’t make him feel safe, until I made the leap to consider his feelings and offer him better choices. He devised a method of communicating his needs using his stuffed toys. Prancing gaily about with “Bruce” the gray shark in his mouth meant ‘potty’. “Baby” a brown monkey was related to food and “Rudy” the reindeer was for self-soothing from loud noises.

The care-taking role of an alert/service dog seems to morph the human/animal bond and ramps it up to whole different level. Scuby taught me how to reach through fear. There is no greater trust than that.

My bar’s been raised by a dog, again…I will not let anyone forget how this damaged and unsuitable specimen activated the Lifeline device to summon rescue that day I bungled a transfer and knocked myself out in the bathroom.

He’s twelve now. Muscle is retreating from all parts of his body and his senses aren’t as keen. It’s been a couple of weeks since he’s wanted to open the doors for us…The pain of losing him is exquisite simply because he is a DINOS. They’re in our face 24/7 and they need us to be better, softer people. Their very lives depend on it.

I’m afraid that on that day when I venture outside without a leash in my hand, not only will I forget how move my wheelchair again, this time I may forget how to breathe…

 Theresa McConville & Scuby 2012

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5 Comments
  1. My only comment is Thank You for such a tender, heart-felt letter. Just beautiful.

    February 21, 2012
  2. that is a beautiful letter….made me tear up.

    February 21, 2012
  3. What a tremendous story. The common theme through all these stories is growth of the human through the love of a DINOS.

    February 21, 2012
  4. Wow. That was beautiful.

    February 21, 2012
  5. Another beautiful letter. If only all dogs had someone who loved them as much as these contest entrants love theirs the world would be a far better place.

    February 22, 2012

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