Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Brockle Grows Up.

I was given a surprise hour of freedom yesterday.

There wasn't enough time to run errands, besides, the dogs were with me and it was too hot for them to wait in the car.

Instead, I took my unplanned gift and stopped at a city park, thick with shade trees and quiet. I leashed up Charlie and Brockle, grabbed my bag and headed for the trail along Fountain Creek. It's narrow and rutted, and weaves in and out of the thick willows and gnarled cotton woods that hold the creek.  The trail is not officially part of the park, it's a highway for urban wildlife, an efficient cross-city path for those who prefer to travel on foot and out of the cities eye, and a great unofficial off-leash area.

We settled on a sunny bank dotted with boulders. I gathered a small pile of sticks, found a comfortable perch and pulled my Kindle out of my bag. I was lost in my latest read, throwing sticks out into the current for Brockle, keeping half an eye on Charlie as he hunted through the rocks, and still just about wiggling in the delight of the day. Talk about your multi-tasking.

The dogs were in high spirits. Brockle would abandon his stick to the current and jump on Charlie, teasing him into a rage. Charlie would snarl, go for his throat and within seconds, they were rolling around in the shallow water, putting on a dog reenactment of a battle to the death.

Charlie tried to stay properly outraged, but once they broke apart and stood panting in the cool water, he couldn't hide his grin.

The dogs and I looked north at the exact same moment. Two men were approaching. They had the unsteady gait of the drunk or high, and the wind-burned, dusty look of our local homeless. I called the dogs and leashed them, then calculated the steep embankment between me and the jogging path above me. I figured a surge of adrenalin would could me get up there if needed and relaxed.

They picked up their pace as they drew close. There was no communication between them  that I could see, but they moved with a sudden fluidity and purpose. There is a look that men on the hunt share, a certain stillness, a mutual gleam of mischief and excitement.

They had zeroed in on my bag. I knew better. Normally, I never bring it with me when I'm out walking. But I had needed my phone, my Kindle, my water bottle and treats for the dogs. I had set aside my own rule of never carrying something worth stealing when I was out on the trail and here we were.  Son of a bitch.

I stood and got ready to run.

Before I had slung the offending bag over my shoulder Brockle stepped in front of me. I barely had time to get my feet planted before he hit the end of the leash. He barked once at the men and when they kept coming he strained against the leash and cut loose with a volley of deep, cadenced barks. There was no yelping, no high pitched yaps, just a booming bass of serious warning while he lunged across the arc created by my restraint.

Charlie joined in, all twenty pounds of him ready to take those bastards on.

"Good dog, Brockle, good dog."

I could feel his tension through the leash and see strings of slobber slinging from his jaws. I would have loved to see his face, it must have been awesome, because the men turned in unison and bolted back the way they came.

 Brockle watched  until they were a hundred yards away, then snorted, peed and kicked up a small dust storm  with his hind feet.

I settled him with a few obedience reps and then threw a stick in the water. He ran to it, picked it up and faced the direction the men had gone. His eyes were sharp and I could hear him growling. The stick fell into the water and escaped downstream.

On the way back to the car Brockle stayed close, his shoulder at my thigh, and touched my hand with his nose every few feet.


  1. *sniffle* good doggie!

  2. Good dog, Brockle! It is nice to know they have your back!

  3. Yay!! Go Brockle! I am so very impressed and can't wait to hear the Heavy Metal Trainers response!!

    Sorry that the world is such that you had to face that but very glad you were prepared!

  4. What a good boy! And how nice to see your hard work paying off...and so glad you had the boys with you!

  5. Good dog!! Very good dog,both of them..

  6. Good boy, Brockle! That's awesome.

    Beautifully written, too, by the way.

  7. It's all in there! Good to see it come out when you really needed it to!


  8. Congratulations, your work and commitment and knowledge and skill and wisdom in training your dog paid off.

    Animals are just fabulous. It did also bring a tear to my eye thinking of your Brockle fulfilling his destiny, being all that his ancestors were bred for hundreds of years to be, and for which you have worked at training him.

    You selected him for his sake and now have the rewards of the benefits for your own.

    Very happy for you.

  9. Ozhorse--Thank you. Thing is, so much of what I've gotten done with my dog has been from listening and learning. HMT has been a huge part of this process, but the discussions that have gone on here, from training to soundness, to the boundary type guard dog info you turned me on to(very clearly how Brockle works BTW) has helped me sort him out.
    This is why I enjoy my rescue mutts so much, even the trials an screwed up behavior they come with. I get to learn, get to train, get to solve, it's my thing.
    A good friend recently pointed out how reactive I am to absolutes.
    She's right, I hate them. It might have something to do with why I like my mongrel dogs so much. They don't come with absolutes. Not a single one.

  10. Good dog and way to go you! Sounds scary, I am glad everything worked for the best! I had something similar happen on horseback in the middle of the woods, and was thankful when my mare was able to read my body aids and get me away safely and reasonably.

  11. HMT here. Hell yes I'm so proud of him!!! Amazing what someone elses' trash can do with the right handler (and trainer!). You both ROCK!!!!!
    Jim aka Heavy Metal Trainer
    Cool K9's Dog Training

  12. Awesome story. Don't forget Charlie, he was a big hero too, even if it was only in his mind.

  13. I got chills, Mugs. You must be pleased as punch. What a good dog.

  14. redhorse, I don't ever forget Charlie, he's the one I have to watch! He's a firm believer in bite first ask questions later.

  15. That. Was. AWESOME!

  16. I mostly just absorb what you write, the discussions on here, & take away what I can for working with all the horses I ride, the foster dogs I work with, & my son to raise.
    But holy carp, good dog Brockle! All that training, discussions, work, love, time, patience...wowza, what a way for it to pay off!

  17. I love seeing dogs who take all their training and everything they've learned and use it appropriately in situations all on their own.

    Good job Brockle and good job Mugs on teaching your dog to be what he is.

  18. What a crappy situation to have been in. Glad you had a couple of guardian angels with you! I've often wondered if my dogs would do the same for me.

  19. You save them and they save you back! Not always as dramatically as this, but in some capacity, always.

  20. I told you some posts back that if Brockle ever saw a true threat to you he would tear them apart. Before,it was a game that he already knew and was bored with. This situation was real and he handled it. Good dogs

  21. Wonderful. Way to go Brockle!

  22. Ah, anon, if you only knew how hard we've been working. Brockle wasn't bored, he was anxious. Weeks of careful confidence building, for both of us, developing my feel, helping Brockle understand he doesn't have to panic and wildly attack, but can listen to me, guard his perimeter with his warning bark, and save his bite for a direct assault.
    We're still not there. The best thing that happened in that situation was the men took off when he told them too. It gave him a clear idea of what his job is. I've never been worried about him not tearing into someone to protect me. We went into training to control his aggression, not develop it. He has become a happy, friendly, social dog, now that he is learning to bark a warning, and save his bite for a direct attack or a command from me. His looking away, sniffing the grass, refusing to engage was confusion and anxiety. He's relaxed incredibly since he's learned our safety isn't entirely on his shoulders. Now that we're a working team he's coming along like wildfire. This has been an amazing learning experience-- for both of us.

  23. I'm glad you got him,so many people had given up on him.. And really glad you had him with you.
    Hope this sign in worked..nope

  24. I got teary while reading this. What a good, good dog. And what a great sign of how far both of you have come (including the fact that you instinctively leashed Brockle when you saw the men coming).