Jane and Peter Pope
One of the big attractions of retirement was once more being able to share our lives with a dog. We had previously owned two dogs, both lab crosses and we were drawn to owning a characterful crossbreed, yet again, if possible. Our second dog, Arthur, had been a rescue dog and we were keen to repeat the success and fun that we had with him. He arrived for re homing, as a two year old, clearly a loved dog that had some basic training. He was a calm, steady boy who lived to the amazing age of 17 years.
Our searches of the rescue homes proved disappointing. Firstly, they weren’t keen on us as our large garden was not securely fenced and secondly we could only find tempting but tricky dogs that came with baggage and associated problems. Most of the time our household is fairly quiet with just the two of us at home. However, our three young grandchildren descend every few weeks from the West Midlands...so circumstances can rapidly change. During our search we met Kevin. After some serious discussion with Kevin it was decided that a safer option for our situation would be a puppy that could be trained into our ways so minimising risks for the children. We also wanted a strong dog with stamina that Peter could take on regular long (maybe very long) walks. The only other criterion was that “New Dog” would grow to love pub lunches!
I spotted the advert on the website Preloved.co.uk for husky/lab cross pups - wow, friendly nature of the lab, stamina of the husky, they sounded ideal to us and when we went to visit the pups they were lively and very appealing. We left to think about it and contacted Kevin.
“Why a husky/lab?” he asked. “Huskies have a mind of their own.”
Despite what proved to be a very telling comment we went ahead and brought Molly home on 22nd September 2012; she was unique and beautiful, copper/chocolate colouring, white bib and socks, one ear cocked and one ear down.
We then went into what seemed the longest, wettest winter ever known. Not conducive to getting a little puppy out into the garden especially when the garden is not securely fenced. Now, had somebody mentioned fencing before? With hindsight we did a lot of standing with Molly on her lead, little white socks firmly rooted to the ground. Not much “come” practice in those early days. Plenty later!
After a one to one with Kevin, when Molly immediately started demonstrating her cleverness, we joined training classes in January 2013. I could not imagine how we could possibly progress from where we were to down/stay, walking off lead, agility and...wait for it...recall. Mmm. We had one big disadvantage; Peter could not find his girly voice. Couple this with the fact that huskies are notoriously independent and stubborn; clearly we were in for the long haul.
Molly soon learnt and responded well to the mass of commands such as sit, down, stay, walk, through (the tunnel), over (the jumps). She even responded to Kevin’s coded commands before we had said a word. However, a straightforward “come” was a whole deal more difficult. As I said before, Molly was at a distinct disadvantage as despite Kevin’s instruction, patience (on occasions impatience) and imploring, Peter’s happy, girly (Minnie Mouse) voice still came over as a b******ing. This was Kevin’s apt description. The trailing lead became a permanent fixture for Molly; steadily other class members were able to manage without their long leads. Kevin would ask each lesson, “Who’s on a trailing lead?” Our hands would reluctantly rise...but we did need that lead to bring her in. It seemed as though this would last forever.
Molly continued to grow into a beautiful, well natured dog, well behaved around the house and was always reliable with the children.
We began to wonder if we would ever overcome the recall issues but were determined to persist and train Molly so that she could run safely off lead. Kevin emphasised the importance of high value treats so we became very generous with honey roast ham, liver cake, kidney and heart. The only thing which did not work was Bernard Matthew’s turkey which she actually spat out; say no more.
In March 2013 we went on holiday to the Isle of Wight and in addition to developing her pub lunch skills Molly began to respond better to the “come” command. At last, some success fuelled our enthusiasm to persist with Kevin’s classes and over the summer we began to try without the trailing lead, still with variable results.
A second holiday in the autumn was a real turning point for Molly. We were very relaxed and met lots of great dogs and their owners on the Northumbrian beaches. We gained confidence...Molly responded to “come” time after time! That brought delight from us and exuberant responses to each return of Mad Molly Mops. Just what Kevin had wanted from us for all those months. Nobody was more pleased than Kevin when we returned from that holiday on a different footing. It was the end of the trailing lead and the penny had dropped. Peter’s voice began to reflect his pleasure and Molly continued to respond, rarely in an immediate direct fashion, sometimes via a circuitous route but she was definitely coming!
We continued to attend training for the next 8 months but as Molly turned her second birthday in July 2014 we decided to go it alone. Following a few boisterous incidents where a doggie playmate had decided to assert herself and sit on Molly, Molly became less enthusiastic about the training venue. Having the dog’s welfare at heart as always Kevin suggested that Molly had got as much as she and we needed from training classes. It was hard to leave as we had really enjoyed our time working with Kevin and also had made some great new dog walking friends.
Molly still likes to have a wee and a sniff and maybe sample some rabbit poo on the way back to us but she does come! She is great company, thrives on her long walks and loves her pub lunches especially when they involve pork scratchings as a reward for excellent “down/stays” under the table.
Thanks Kevin for showing us how to train our clever and independent husky cross so she can run free and safely on her walks.
Kevin’s Comments: I would like to thank Jane & Peter for their kind words and for sharing Molly's story with everyone. It has been an absolute pleasure working with Jane, Peter and Molly and all that has been achieved has been as a direct result of the commitment they have made to Molly. As Jane has said, it has been hard work at times with the occasional backward step but they have both stuck with it and the results in class and at home speak for themselves and should be an inspiration to anyone who feels that they can’t overcome any issues they may have with their dog….so long as you are prepared for the long haul! Molly is a fabulous dog, very friendly with a lovely nature and I am so pleased for her that she has Jane and Peter as her mum and dad.