I’ve decided that Mondays will be an opportunity for you to learn something new about me. If you have any questions that you’d like me to focus on in the future, please leave it in the comments or email me TLNicholas@live.com.
I thought today I would tell you where I’ve spent the majority of my working life, and that is with animals. I started out at thirteen working for a Veterinarian, walking dogs, cleaning kennels, etc. I was thrilled to have that job. I wanted to be a Veterinarian when I grew up, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Throughout many moves and life changes I worked for Vets from thirteen to twenty-six, at various times. I spent time as a kennel assistant, Veterinary assistant, and before certification was the standard, a Veterinary Technician. I was a dog trainer and a kennel manager. Even an office manager for a local Humane Society, where I also had the job of Abuse Investigator.
I was a dog trainer, from the tender age of fourteen, and spent some time with the local police department at the time, learning how they trained their dogs, learning from the best. It was a truly wonderful time for me, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Working at the Humane Society was far more challenging for me, both emotionally and mentally. Having the dual jobs of Kennel/Office Manger and also Abuse Investigator was incredibly stressful. It certainly had it’s rewarding moments, but a lot of heartbreaking occurrences as well. It was not a No-Kill shelter and so I was,much too often, in the position of having to decide who lost the gift of life, and who got to keep it.
I often put myself in the position of fighting for an animal that others didn’t believe in, and fighting WITH that animal to make others believe. For instance, the Pit Bull and the Neapolitan Mastiff that came in after being abandoned in an apartment for weeks. So desperate they had eaten the furniture, the walls, anything they could. The Neo had cherry eye, which of course made her look terrifying along with her cropped ears and tail. She was not a beautiful dog, but I knew that at heart she was. They were terrified, and they were incredibly aggressive. They came into the shelter on a rabies pole, each of them trying to bite anything in reach, and had to be put into cages where they didn’t need to be touched to be let outside. An empty cage on either side of each, so they wouldn’t cage fight the others, and each other.
It was argued that were eating up our limited space, which, to be fair they were. It was argued that they were dangerous, and yeah, at the time they were. But they didn’t want to be, and I could see that. So I sat between their cages, in the empty one in the middle, for hours while we were closed. I would sit in front of their cages with my hands flat on the ground in front, where they could smell me, but not reach me. I spent days letting them get used to me, helping them learn that not every human was something to fear. And they did learn. When I decided to get the Pit (I won’t use their names, though I very much remember them) out of his cage and take him for a walk, one of my co-workers stood by the door ready to call 911. He thought for sure this was the stupidest thing I’d ever done, and that I would surely need an EMT when I was through.
And the Pit did growl, he did false lunge a couple of times. I didn’t move, I stayed calm, and waited until he became curious enough to check me out. It took about twenty minutes, but check me out he did, and he let me put the leash on him and then he went for a walk with me. It was a beautiful moment, and I discovered what I had always thought to be true. He was gentle and sweet. Loving. When I gave him a small liver treat for walking nicely, he licked it out of my hand. In the space of thirty minutes he was following commands like a pro, so eager to please. When I asked him to sit, he did, then leaned against me so I could pet his big head. He wanted to be a good boy, he just had forgotten, or never learned, how. Within a week he was accessible, not only to me, but to the volunteers as well. He could walk past another male dog and not even look at them. He was a whole new animal and he was amazing.
He was placed two weeks later, and the last I knew (two years after) was still an excellent boy. No behavioral issues, no aggression.
When the Mastiff saw that he trusted me, she took a chance too. And despite her limitations of health, she quickly found her forever home. They fixed her cherry-eye, and loved her for the beauty behind her appearance.
Through my years of working with them, training them, and rehabilitating them I learned that there is no one way to train a dog, or to save one. But if you pay attention, if you watch them and listen to what they’re telling you, you’ll know what to do. They will tell you what they need, what they’re afraid of, what they need you to show them.
I will never get to be a Veterinarian. My days of working with animals as a profession are over, at least for now, but I am very much attached to them. There will probably always be animals in my books and they will crop up on this blog. To me, a home empty of animals is never really a home.
Thanks so much for reading. Do you have an interesting experience with animals? A love of animals? I’d like to hear it!