Tuesday, December 4, 2012


“He passed! Judy, he passed”. Those were the words that were ringing down the hallway when I returned to pick Benjamin up on exam day. His 16 year old trainer, Caprise, was beside herself with joy. My Planned Pethood foster dog, Benny, participated in the “Teacher’s Pet Program” which is run by the Toledo PET Bull Project. Ben and Caprise worked together for many weeks to make him eligible to take a test to become a “Canine Good Citizen” (CGC). Benny was the ideal candidate for this program and proved more than one casual observer wrong that he did not have the right stuff. If any dog needed to add good citizen behind his name, it was this whirlwind of energy.

Before we describe the program, let’s take a brief journey through my custody of Benjamin.  Ben is a schnoodle, a poodle and schnauzer mix, now a big boy at nearly 2 years old and 18 lbs. and he is nothing short of adorable. He was a death row dog (DRD) at the pound nearly a year ago. How hard could it be to foster a small terrier who had already been returned once to the dog warden? Besides, he was so little and charming, no way would he be around for long. Somebody should have told me to fasten my seatbelt. I should have known something was up when the first thing he did was gather up every toy and bone in the house and put them in HIS crate. With love in my heart, when asked his breed, I would respond without hesitation “poodle/terrorist”.

Benny’s antics could fill a decent sized children’s book but here are a few stand outs. He went to bunk up with PPI volunteer Lynn while we went on vacation. I was concerned about him being intimidated by their two giant male labs. I was not home from the drop for more than a minute when the phone rang. Ben had jumped into the bath tub with teenager Katelynn, grabbed her scrubby, and proceeded to bound throughout the house full speed ahead. On our return, he was playing tug of war with one of the big guys with Lynn’s sock. On another occasion, as I was rushing out of the house for a meeting, Benny knew he would be heading for his crate. So he jumped up on the back of the couch, looked me in the eyes, lifted his leg and peed on the curtain. And, speaking of peeing, as he was meeting a wonderful potential forever family at an adoption event, he once again lifted his leg but this time peed all over MY leg. I saw the exchange of glances between the couple and I knew we would never hear from them again.

This was the formidable challenge young Caprise stepped into at the Teacher’s Pet Program. She has wonderful energy and the patience of a saint. The program pairs at-risk youth with hard to adopt dogs (Planned Pethood fosters) for a workshop in dog training for the benefit of both youth and dog. “Students learn the basics of canine communication, dog body language, animal handling, identifying stress in dogs, dog breeds, owner responsibility, dog aggression, greetings, spay and neuter, and dog fighting”. It seemed like a match made in heaven. Benny loved Caprise and Caprise loved Benny. She could get him to do things I thought were impossible.

And in the end, Caprise and Benny prevailed. Although not valedictorian, he now has a diploma as a “Canine Good Citizen”. I have to chuckle to myself as I write this, who would have ever thought? There are 10 behaviors tested including: “Sit, down, and stay”, “Coming when called (from 10 ft. away!)”, “Reaction to another dog (handlers shake hands, then move on and the dogs must leave each other alone)”, and many more. Caprise said her ally toward success was lots of practice and lots of patience. When I asked her what she liked best about the program, she gave me a one word answer, “Benny”.  Jay Barman from “Bingo Dog Training” did the heavy lifting as the kids’ and dogs’ instructor but he said he found it very rewarding.

A final note (I hope) about Benjamin. One of the things I have to be thankful for this holiday season is that he has been adopted for the third time by an amazing couple, Pat and Jim and their terrier, Jonny. You know they say the third time is a charm. They were duly impressed when they found out that he had a diploma. And boy, it sure is quiet around here without him.