The surest way to get Dusty’s attention is for me to say, “Dusty, help me.” That little phrase and he’s right there. I got him as a 4 month old pup not long before I had hip surgery. Because he was a pup, and so freaked out from whatever dark times he’d experienced in the first three months of his life, he was pretty impossible as a pet. But Dusty LOVED me and that was that.
I knew a dog trainer, Lisa. She’d helped me with an incorrigible untrained husky I’d adopted — Cheyenne — and she undertook the training of Dusty. For Dusty, it was like summer camp. He had a crate in Lisa’s garage (as did all of the other dogs she was working with) that was all his own into which he could go if he were overwhelmed. Lisa said at first Dusty spent a lot of time in the crate, but little by little he began to join in with the other dogs. He was easy for her to leash train and soon was going with all the other dogs to run on Shelter Island and to play in the ocean. Lisa also took him out with her when she went to ride her horse so Dusty became fond of horses. Then Lisa taught Dusty to help me up if I fall.
Dusty came home six weeks later. He still did not like people passing in front of the house (he still doesn’t) and he’s never learned to accept men in uniforms or other dogs when he is leashed to me, but once a person is inside the “territory” — the yard, the house, or Dusty is off-leash — everyone is his friend.
Dusty has taught my nearly full-grown Great Pyrenees mix, Bear, this trick, and Bear has taught this serious dog how to play. I don’t think Dusty has ever had a friend like Bear and I’ve never had a friend like Dusty. In the winter, when I wanted to make a snow angel and lay down on the ground to make it, both dogs were right there to help me get up. The snow angel didn’t come out so good but that was because I had two dog angels interfering.
The photo above is Dusty and Bear the day Bear came to live with us. She was a four month old puppy and Dusty was DEFINITELY skeptical. Now Bear is bigger than Dusty and they are inseparable.