By Tracie Korol
I have had dogs all my life but my current level of overbearing involvement began when we adopted my son’s first dog, Dave. He was the first dog that joined the family as an adult, the rest were puppies. With puppies I knew to start them off right from the very beginning–good food, consistent training and lots and lots of love. Save for the occasional beagle predilection to adventure afar, my early dogs were a breeze.
Dave spent his first year on a chain with little to no interaction with humans. He was emaciated, parasite infested, without any good dog manners and as my neighbor said, leaning over the fence to examine our new acquisition, “not much to look at”. He was, however, grateful, eager to please and my son loved him immediately, scroungy as he was. Me, I had to warm up.
Around that same time Drs. Pitcairn and Billingsworth made news with the novel concept of feeding dogs what they were meant to eat–real food, raw food and raw meaty bones. I contacted Dr. Pitcairn, who wasn’t famous yet and was eager to share his message, and became his mentee. With his coaching and with a diet of real proteins, real fruits and vegetables Dave rather quickly snapped into a model of good dog health. His coat grew out, became shiny, he lost that wet carpet funk, ear goo and parasites and he began to settle into his new life feeling better than he ever had before, with a sparkle in his eye and spring to his step. The only thing he refused to eat was Jerusalem artichokes, but I don’t really hold that against him.
Good dog manners were another matter. Having lived in deplorable conditions out of doors during his formative months, we had some catch up to do in terms of where to pee (not on the carpet, please) and the development of trust from which we could work on a solid recall, a few basic commands (sit, wait, down, with me). This was a decade before the dog soul crushing training concept of controlling dominance and that “alpha” crap became a thing, so with common sense and a little fine-tuning from Ian Dunbar and Patricia McConnell’s training philosophies we slowly came to a place of understanding in a positive, reward-based daily program. While Dave never was much to look at in terms of “what breed is that?” (he’s a brown), he became a vital member of the household and lived a long, healthy life.
Why am I recounting this? To let you know that it IS possible to have THE best pet ever with very little effort, a lot of common sense and some hardcore targeted love. You can start any time in a dog’s lifetime and achieve positive effects. How about today? My time in the Lowcountry has been spent helping other inveterate dog lovers achieve a level of understanding that it IS all about what we eat, that food IS medicine, that good health IS NOT something Dr. Whitecoat sells you in yearly vaccinations and drugs, drugs, drugs but is something that happens every day, at home. Good dog manners are the same thing. It’s between you and your dog, not your dog and his trainer. All dogs want to cooperate and especially with the human he loves the most.
To those of you who have changed the way you go about the business of pet management, who feed real food, who truly advocate for your Best Friend, say “no” to Dr. Whitecoat, who have spent some time Googling before automatically accepting the next best drug, who have worked to develop that special love bond, I admire and applaud you (and so does your dog). For those who think that cheap Big Box store food is just fine, who run to the vet for medicine fixes every whipstitch, and who believe Neanderthal training practices are the way to go, I wish you all the luck in the world.
Many thanks to all of you who have allowed your Best Friends to become my Best Friends, too. Please keep in touch. And, with full credit to Douglas Adams, so long and thanks for all the….dogs.