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Our Dog Shane - by Andre Pelletier
In June of 2001, we went to visit Myra, to possibly adopt a Border Collie from Appalachian Mountain Border Collie Rescue. We went to look at a particular dog but it was Shane who caught my wife, Debbie’s, eye. Myra explained that Shane was “special needs,” and she wasn’t sure we’d want to adopt him. Shane had been raised in a small apartment with a couple who were profoundly deaf. He had no training and was just getting accustomed to the sound of a human voice speaking to him. Because his former owners were deaf, Shane had a lot to learn about self-control over his barking. He was a little shy, and he was still learning manners around other animals. Debbie was touched by Shane’s story and said she was ready to take on the task to help rehabilitate him.

Shane didn’t impress me very much when we introduced him to Champ, our first Border Collie, who we brought along to “judge” the new dog. Shane basically ignored Champ and everyone else, for that matter. Despite my reservations, my wife, Debbie, probably influenced by Myra’s reassurance that Shane is a good dog at heart, said she wanted to take him home, so we did. On the two-hour ride back to Leesburg, Shane and Champ sat in the back of our SUV and ignored each other. At one point, Shane gave me a “smooch” on the neck from the back seat and I realized he might not be all that bad.  

When we arrived home Shane initiated playing with Champ. The two frolicked in the back yard for a while with Champ retreating and banging into the fence because he wasn’t used to playing with a larger, more aggressive dog---we have a Maltese named Teddy who doesn’t like to play at all. Then Shane started to bark at our neighbors and kids and dogs from across the fence. In suburbia this is taboo, so we sprayed Shane with bitter apple in his mouth to give him the message to stop barking when we told him to. He just quickly learned to keep his mouth closed so that nasty tasting stuff didn’t get in.  

I then tried to play soccer with Champ and him. The name of the game, of course, is to retrieve the ball, which had straps around it so dogs could bring it back. However, rather than retrieve it, Shane decided to take it under the deck and chew on it until it eventually punctured. In fact, he did the same with all the other toys we exposed him to. Another time, he attacked Champ when Champ got to close to a Frisbee. Although Shane proceeded to attack most of our animals at one time or another, we also have three cats, none were physically hurt, they were just too close to an object Shane had his eye on. Debbie and I were told by our dog obedience trainer that he has “possessive aggressiveness” tendencies. 

So we proceeded to work on Shane. We rewarded him for good behavior and chastised him for bad. We gave him a treat if he immediately stopped barking from inside the house at people walking by or sprayed him with bitter apple if he continued to bark after we said ‘no bark’ or ‘enough’. We enrolled him in basic obedience at the Dog School in Leesburg. At first, no one was immune to Shane’s barking. Most of the staff at the Dog School were afraid of him, except for our instructor, Cathy, who explained that Shane was really fearful of new people and dogs and that was how he reacted.  

After several months of training and adjustment, Shane made immense progress. He no longer went after our other pets when there was an object of interest nearby, no longer barked at strangers, and only now and then, barked at other dogs. He even began to retrieve toys I threw to him. Outside, we play Frisbee. He loved to jump into the air and catch it in his mouth. Inside, I’d throw him a ball he loved, and he retrieves it. If I found myself distracted, he’d drop it on my lap, something he never would have done when he first arrived. We also took Champ and him for walks every day and that was always something he looked forward to. We still tried to avoid walking down some streets where dogs might come bounding towards us, stopping short due to invisible fences---good ole’ suburbia.  

But of course, Shane was affectionate and full of love. He always had those qualities. He took to hopping up on our bed and lying still for belly rubs. Or, if we were still trying to sleep, he’d lick us until we were forced to acknowledge him and return the affection. We enjoyed watching him and Champ play, although we’d have to keep reminding them to stay off the bed. Occasionally, the play got a little intense! With Shane’s growling and Champ’s snarling it was better than watching the WWF. Of course, it was just play, neither would get hurt and they both tired themselves out. So we were glad we brought Shane home.   

We started Champ in agility training. As Shane continued to get past his fear of strange people and other dogs, we tried enrolling him too. He was as fast and as intelligent as Champ so we thought he would make a good agility dog. He didn’t really enjoy agility as much as we hoped, but regardless, we’ve grown to love him and he’s an important part of the family.  
We have since added Heather, another rescue dog adopted from Myra, to our family. Because of Heather, my wife and I have gotten involved in herding training and trailing, and we have moved out into the country so we have more room for the dogs and can be close to places where we work sheep. Shane didn’t show any interest in herding but he has taken the addition of new 4-legged family member in stride and remains active and loving at the age of 9. 

Andre Pelletier
Berryville, VA