Brandy's Gift

 I had made up my mind! I was getting a dog.  For years I had wanted a big dog and the vandalism of my car and the theft of my stereo the night before prodded me into action.  I had certain requirements for this dog; it had to be a female (so I could have her spayed), shorthaired, preferably at least six months old, and about 60 pounds full grown.  I know I was being very picky; but that was my criteria.  Scouring the newspaper I found nothing that fit my "ideal" so off to the pound I went.  The county animal shelter had nothing that fit my criteria, so I drove to the local SPCA.  There a gentleman escorted me back into the kennel area; as I looked down the row of runs my attention was drawn to a Dalmatian.  "What about this one?' I asked.  "You don't want that one she's deaf" responded the man.  I was starting to resign myself to the fact that I was not going to find the perfect dog and was walking out of the kennel area when to my left in a run shielded by the open kennel door I saw a red object move slightly.  "What's back here?' I ask hesitantly as I slowly moved the door aside.  My eyes met with the most pleading eyes I have ever seen.  To say there was immediate chemistry.  Behind the door was a golden red dog, approximately 50 pounds, shorthaired, and about the right age.  "She's is a chicken killer.  We adopted her out as a puppy, but the people could not keep her in a fence.  She has been spayed. She is a spook-afraid of men" was the comment I heard as my eyes could not break away from that LOOK in her eyes.  I calmly knelt down and gently called the name on the kennel card." Brandy, do you want to come home with me?"  Slowly her short stubby tail that I had not noticed started to move in a tentative wag.  "I'll take her" came from somewhere and shortly I was leaving the parking lot with a very scared dog on the floor board of my car. 

Brandy's fear of men became very apparent when my vet walked in the examination room.  She cowered in the corner and urinated constantly.  Given a clean bill of health, I happen to think on my way out "Well atleast she didn't try to bite."  That thought should have been the key but I missed it.  As it turned out Brandy had been beaten by a man repeatedly because of her chicken killing.  Brandy loved women and children but terror filled her eyes at the mere sight of a man.

One month later Brandy was a part of the household. She slept on my bed at night, went riding everywhere I or my mother went, and one strand of electric fence on top of the chain link solved her escaping problem.  There was only one thing left-obedience training.

Brandy was a natural in obedience but her fear of men continued until one day the instructor said that she needed to be taught that she could defend herself.  His concern as he explained was that one day Brandy would become a fear biter and that he thought teaching her Schutzhund (German Protection) training might help.  "Schutzhund? That teaches them to bite!" I replied astounded.  My instructor assured me that Brandy needed the training so I relented.

The following week we started her aggression training.  The instructor had seven or eight dogs in training and he would put us in the middle of the pack as the agitator work down the line. The more experienced dogs would just sit there until given their commands to make contact with agitator and the bite sleeve while the younger dogs were barking and lunging at the agitator.  The instructor told me to encouraged Brandy to bark, jump or anything but cowering behind me.  Three weeks later I thought it was useless, Brandy cowered behind me constantly. I was defeated.

On what I had decided would be the last session, as the agitator approached Brandy she moved in front of me and barked softly.  The agitator immediately turned and ran away from Brandy in an effort to reinforce that she had thwarted the threat. Her eyes told me the story, she had got the message.  Soon Brandy was progressing nicely in her training and her fear of men was disappearing.  Brandy's change was short of a miracle.  She would walk up to strangers and asked to be petted - even men- and she excelled in obedience.  Having achieved our goal with Brandy, her Schutzhund training was stopped; but I had been made a believer. 

The next few years would see us competing in obedience contests, her highest score being 199 1/2. I also acquire a Doberman for obedience work and competed with both of them. We often particpated in obedience seminars for the public. My journey into the world of dogs and dog shows had begun.....

Someone made the comment to me about what a good home Brandy had gotten and how I had given her so much.  I disagree because before I got Brandy I was a shy, insecure, and unpopular high school student.  As Brandy was gaining confidence I did too.  I could speak to crowds of hundreds, I had learned to never give up.  I could succeed and that I did not have to be afraid.   Brandy's gift to me had been herself-unreserved love, and the opportunity to learn to face my fears.

Brandy is long gone to doggie heaven but I am still involved in the sport of dogs.  I learned my lesson well and I hope she is proud of me. She was my first "Heart Dog".