Dork is my best friend and my savior. I adopted him and his Mama from a local shelter during one of the lowest points of my life in December 2007. They actually came through the women’s prison rescue/training/adoption program, Heeling Hearts, for 3 weeks before I adopted them. My dear friend who coordinated and runs this program told me about them, and I fell head over heals (or is that “heels”) in love. They both may be rescues, but they rescued me more than I rescued them.
Event though I started in obedience training back when I as 12 years old (1978), worked at a vet clinic, a boarding kennel, and bred and raised Huskies for several years, my experiences with these two have taught me more in the last 4 years than the 30-odd years prior.
Dork was approximately 3 months old when I adopted them. He was a little white fluff ball – just cuter then one can ever imagine. Mama was dropped off at the animal shelter with a full litter of puppies. He is a lethal white, and when at the shelter, he had a sister just like him. The rest were normal. The shelter had adopted out the female lethal, but she soon died. From what I understand, she just sat there… wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t play, wouldn’t interact. Sensory deprivation most likely. Therefore the shelter decided that Dork and Mama must be adopted together. Twist my arm… oh, ouch, stop. That was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make. So, off I go with two white Aussies.
Mama is pattern white with a blue merle patch on her face. Dork is also a pattern white, with some red merle coloring. Both vibrant crystal blue eyes. Dork was born completely deaf, as well as blind in his left eye. It never completely formed, and the pupil is small and does not focus at all. I have tested his vision in his left eye by bringing my hand up from behind and waving it near his left eye, but out of sight from his right eye, and there is no response. He has fairly good vision out of his right eye, although in the bright sunlight, his pupil does not dilate properly, which does leave him nearly blind. But, PLEASE… do NOT tell him his is deaf and partially blind. He does not know…. Nor do most people until this is pointed out.
From day one, I could see that Dork was personality plus – and fearless! He shadowed his mother everywhere, and it was by being with her that he learned how to be a dog. When I adopted them, I was unemployed at that time. Therefore I spent nearly every hour of every day with them for close to 10 months until I finally found a job. I’m glad I had that opportunity to do so – but I wish that I had thought to keep a log of how I watched Dork grow and learn his commands.
I do not have an exact count of commands, as a lot of how we interact was developed as he grew up in my company. I do have several “set” signals, such as tapping his nose tells him to sit down. Tapping his right shoulder means to shake. Tapping each side of his muzzle at the same time using both of my hands, he will sit up and give a “High 10”. A flat horizontal hand starting at eye level dropping to the floor means to lie down. Waving my hands towards me is to come. Plus there are several more. He has learned to read my body movements and facial expressions, and I can easily guide him with my movements, in addition to simply light taps on his body which works as directional signals.
When I trained both he and his Mama on lead, they are both on my left in standard heel position, with Dork on the outside. My reasoning here was his one good eye is his right eye, therefore he would be able to see both his Mama and myself when on lead since we are both on his right side. They have both been trained to heel side-by-side on my left. When we stop, they sit.
There are absolutely no regrets in adopting these two. They have been my lifeline since the very first time I laid eyes on them.
(Below) Here is a picture of them taken at the shelter before they went into the prison program:
(Below) Here they are being transported to the prison from the shelter. They are in the crate in the lower right corner:
(Below) Just after arriving at the prison, it is bath time: