Freddie’s Story

Freddie Story

Freddie (aka Stanley, Chicago Canine Rescue, Chicago, IL)

When Bill was starting to decline, I was devastated. I suppose normal people wait for their ailing dog to pass away, but knowing myself, I had to have another diversion so I wouldn’t spend my time dwelling on the inevitable.

I found the process of looking for another dog very similar to my dating life: There were lots of prospects, but not too many you’d want to bring home, and I approached looking for a dog and looking for a date with the same method. First I’d search the Internet, and then select the ones I liked and “save” them in a file; then I’d make an appointment to meet them. And let me tell you, I was often as disappointed meeting the dogs as I was the men, because just like the pictures on the dating sites, some of the dogs’ pics were from their high-school yearbooks too!!!

But one day, while searching the Internet, I saw the face that nearly stopped my heart. It was love at first sight and remains as strong to this day.

The first time I met him was at a Whole Foods parking lot where the rescue group was having an adoption event in the pouring rain. I brought my good friend, Michele for support and also because I wanted to introduce her to the dog that she’d be walking on those rare times when I’d get home late from work.  Stanley, as he was called, was picked up roaming the streets of Franklin Park, IL and landed at Animal Care and Control. This young, very underweight Mastiff/Boxer mix with the most amazing face was said to be about 8 months old, based on his skinny frame with large head and paws. (Later I would discover during his first veterinary check up, that he was most likely a very malnourished adult dog, but to me he was a pup.)

I was ready to adopt him on the spot, but as it turned out, this rescue group was having another event the following day so Michele convinced (stalled) me to do a second visit when the weather was dry and I could spend more time with him.

The next day we went to the Angels With Tails event where many local rescue groups with their adoptable dogs were in attendance. I found the rescue group who had Stanley, and walked him around the neighborhood on that beautiful August day. Again, I was ready to take him, but Michele convinced (stalled) me to have lunch before making the decision. I didn’t mind waiting another hour because I knew that all the stalling was not going to stop me from giving this pup his forever home and besides I was hungry.

When we walked back to the rescue group’s table, I found out that someone else was interested in him and I panicked for a moment, but then went into action mode. No one was going to take MY dog! With the application already filled out from the previous day, I located the founder of the rescue group, handed her my papers and told her that I was an experienced “Pit Bull” person, (having been dog-mom to my Billy for almost 16 years) that I would give him an amazing life, and moreover, he was meant to be with me! This was not my typical behavior, and in most instances I would have stepped aside to look for a different dog, but except for wanting a particular horse when I was a kid, I’ve never been more determined to make this happen, and so I did!

After the paperwork processing, and having passed the home inspection, I drove to the doggie daycare that was his foster residence, to bring Stanley home! I was told that he was a big drooler in the car and suddenly my mind flashed to the Turner and Hooch movie scene of Hooch galloping in slow-motion towards the camera, tossing his massive head with gobs of slobber flying out of his big jaws! Yes, Stanley did look like Hooch, but a lot smaller as was his drool, fortunately. And while his belly was a little upset on our first car ride together, that was the last time he drooled in the car; in fact car rides were one of his many favorite activities.

While I LOVED Stanley, I did NOT love his name and spent the next few days, compiling a list of suitable names, among them, Manfred after a cartoon dog character. I liked the name, but it still didn’t sound right. A few days later Michele, “No Name” and I went to our favorite outdoor beach restaurant where we were seated on the patio, with my dog’s leash secured to my chair, or so I thought. Our waiter Raulo, put down a bowl of water for my dog and asked his name. I mentioned that I liked the name Manfred, or Fred, but wasn’t too sure. Raul took our order and left. Suddenly my dog took off running, breaking away from his tether. With Raulo fast on his trail he found my dog in the kitchen of the restaurant! When he returned, he handed me the leash and said “Here’s your Freddie.” Yes, Freddie…I LOVED that name, and it fit him too because it occurred to me that he had very large “Freddie Flinstone” paws. Yaba-daba-do, my dog now had a name!

Just like with my dog, Bill, I implemented the “no-training for you, program”, so I attached a prong collar to his neck and took him out for a walk where he pulled with the strength of  a freight train, even with the prongs digging into his neck! Wow, Freddie was not like Bill who never pulled, and I instantly realized that my “no-training for you, program” was not working!

As fate would have it, I happened into a pet boutique that was across the street from where I was working, and saw a flyer posted on the bulletin board that read, “Family Dog Training using positive reinforcement methods”. While I wasn’t familiar with the method, I knew it had to be a lot different from the harsh, jerk, pop, and threaten, methods I used on my childhood dogs (which is why I didn’t train Bill)!

Freddie and I enrolled in this class and my world was transformed. It was there that I was introduced to this “Zen-like” method of behavior modification and began the process of studying for my perfect career.

Freddie blossomed with this method, not only learning functional behaviors, but it was the perfect compliment to his inquisitive nature which allowed me to select and reinforce just about any behavior I wanted, and believe me, he was always doing something. The truth is that I never really taught him to do behaviors,  but rather taught him when to stop!  I once made the comment that Freddie was a combination of Curious George and Dennis The Menace!

Yes, Freddie was a lovable handful and he not only change my career direction, but had a significant impact on my fitness routine which went something like this:

  • Awake at 6:00 am and take Freddie outside for a 30 minute walk.
  • Feed Freddie and drink coffee.
  • Take Freddie for a 6 mile run.
  • Get ready for work.
  • Crate Freddie with lots of toys and goodies and leave for work.
  • Come home at noon to run Freddie for 20 minutes.
  • Crate Freddie with different toys and goodies and go back to work.
  • Come home at 5:30 pm. Take Freddie out for a 30 minute walk.
  • Feed Freddie and eat dinner.
  • Take Freddie for a 3 mile run.
  • Relax at home with Freddie Take Freddie out for a 20 minute walk before bed.
  • Awake the next day and repeat!

And this routine did little to reduce the energy of this dog who would, without warning, get an attack of the “puppy zoomies” and start running, pulling, and twirling, using his leash like a bungee cord!

Freddie and I were inseparable and I was on a quest to find all the fun dog-friendly places where we could hang out with other dog-parents. I should also mention Freddie had separation anxiety so it was a good thing I found so many places where I could take him. For my birthday, my good friend, Michele (Freddie’s godmother) found a very cool restaurant that allowed dogs in the lounge area. What a treat it was for me to be with my good, two and four legged buddies to celebrate!  My gift from her was an hour session with a very insightful “dog communicator”, Dr. Kim, as she was known to the animal community. I had never had a dog like Freddie and I was excited to hear what Dr. Kim had to say, so that I could provide the best life for him. Now to be clear, I am a critical thinker (most of the time). My profession is rooted in well researched science, and my thirst for knowledge will never be quenched. However, I believe that somewhere in the universe, there are those who have the ability to see, hear and feel what others do not, and so it is with that in mind that I will tell you that meeting this warm, kind, sensitive individual whose ability to communicate with animals and translate the animals’ needs to the caregivers, proved to be invaluable in Freddie’s and my relationship. Among the many things that she told me, was that Freddie, having been re-homed a number of times, was concerned that I would return him. She then taught me a mantra that I could say to sooth his fears each time before leaving him at home.

You are my Freddie and I am your person.

          I will love you forever.

          I will never leave you.

At the time, I didn’t understand his anxiety, but I knew I had to stop it pronto, so I enrolled him into a nearby doggie daycare where he could play with dog friends and I could go to work, not worrying that he was sitting at home alone howling in confinement or finding some way of being destructive such as the time he  managed to grab a tiny corner of the bed-comforter, and pulled most of it through the bars of his crate. I came home to find him “snow covered” in goose down, as was most of the bedroom floor and mirrors!

Just like a real mom, I had the pleasure of dropping off my “canine kid”, giving him a pat and a kiss and while handing him over to the daycare staff, telling him to be a good boy and I’d see him soon. And just like the teary-eyed mom who sees her child off to school for the first time, I too, would get misty-eyed , only it happened every day! Freddie on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less, as he charged the doggie day care door while barking to his buddies that he had arrived! And that barking got the daycare in big trouble on one of those rare occasions when I had to leave him overnight. As mentioned, he had separation anxiety, but it was my understanding that he’d be staying in the doggie daycare owner’s apartment upstairs. Unfortunately for Freddie, this was not the arrangement and poor Freddie, along with about 20 other dogs were put into crates around 7:00 pm, and not let out until 7:00 am the following morning. Apparently Freddie vocalized his disapproval and began screaming while running around in the fenced yard, getting all this cohorts to chime in. This prompted a neighbor to call the police for the noise disturbance which, I was informed of later, was the first incident in the 10 years the doggie daycare had been in business. It was also the last time I left him over night at this place; not that he was welcome to return, mind you. I did, however continue to bring him to the daycare, because it was a better situation than his confinement alone at home.  I learned that he LOVED water and during the summer at doggie daycare he could be found with a few of his Labrador friends  cooling off in the kiddy pool. On walks through the neighborhood, he pounce on the underground sprinklers, filling up his big jowls  before pouncing on the next one in line!

Things were changing for us and I got the bug to break out of the old mold; after all, I had been studying for a career in dog training and behavior counseling, and Freddie needed some “siblings” (actually, my attachment to him was so strong that I felt I needed other animals to transfer some of this love). So I sold my condo and we moved to a home that had a larger space, a small backyard for him to run around, and I bought him a kiddy pool! It was also at that time that I quit my old job and transitioned slowly into my new career with dogs, which meant a very flexible schedule, so no more doggie daycare. I now had time to work on his separation issues which, later I found out, was not separation anxiety, but “confinement anxiety”. With the proper protocol, I was able to give him the run of the house and he was never crated again. This experience along with my education taught me a valuable lesson when helping my clients’  anxious dogs.

Things were going great in our new home. We loved exploring the dog-friendly neighborhood, especially during the summer , and being able to hangout with other dog-parents was a big plus. Around the same time, by some stroke of luck I was introduced to an animal trainer who had just founded an organization dedicated to raising awareness for shelter dogs. His concept was to take people and their dogs, and train them for a game-show type of entertainment, that used  public appearances, videos, and TV promotions, for our message platform. In the grand scheme, our goal was to have our own training facility where we not only could rehearse for our shows, but it would also be a place where we could offer ongoing training support for rescue organizations, foster homes and to the families who adopted the dogs.

Through this organization, we met many dedicated and fun dog-people, all of whose dogs had a variety of behaviors in their performance repertoire. Freddie, as it turned out was a “one trick pony”, not that he couldn’t do other things, but he LOVED spinning the giant roulette wheel. All the dogs in the show were taught to spin the wheel, but only Freddie was a little workhorse when it came to endurance, and that came in handy when we’d do public appearances to raise money and awareness. People would stop by to bet on a number on the wheel which Freddie would spin; if the person’s number came up, they’d win one of the many prizes that had been donated to us. I recall a time a few Decembers ago when Freddie and I were called out for a holiday fund raiser. I can still picture this little trooper snuggled in his red plaid fleece hoodie and Santa Clause beard, waiting patiently in the cold for the “gamblers” to arrive, so he could go to work!

Yes, we did lots of volunteer work with this organization, but it wasn’t the first time we volunteered our time. When we first arrived to the neighborhood, I took Freddie to the retirement home a few blocks away. As we stood before the folks who were waiting for Freddie to do some tricks, I caught a glimpse of a horrifying sight. While most of the residents were seated on the sofa or in wheelchairs, a few had aluminum walkers with tennis balls affixed to the legs of the walkers to prevent the users from slipping. OH NO, NOT TENNIS BALLS! And with that, Freddie sprung into action and began grabbing at the walkers in hopes of removing the tennis balls! There I was telling everyone was a good dog he was, while trying to pry open his mouth. And no, we were not asked to return.

Freddie and I were an amazing duo. We made the ordinary extraordinary, just by being together and he changed my life immeasurably.  Because of him I changed my wellness routine, my career, and my neighborhood. His easy going nature made it possible to adopt other homeless animals. His unflappable temperament aided me in my work around clients’ aggressive dogs. His happy go lucky goofy personality endeared him to everyone he met and we made lots of friends because of him. Freddie made me a better, more compassionate person. His natural curiosity, boldness, and seemingly endless energy, belied his age so I never noticed that he became a senior or even the unimaginable, that he would not be around much longer.

Freddie was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and was gone 4 weeks later. Fate stepped in as I was introduced, prior to learning about Freddie’s illness, to a knowledgable and caring veterinarian in my neighborhood whose specialty is senior care. Surrounded by his roommate, Fonzie and his kitty buddies, Felix and Fergus,  Freddie made his journey to a peaceful resting place with the help of this compassionate veterinarian.  As I waited for the vet to arrive that morning, I cradled Freddie in my arms and recited the mantra that I learned from Dr. Kim so long ago:

  You are my Freddie and I am your person.

          I will love you forever.

          I will never leave you.

Freddie’s stories will live on in my blog and lots of his pictures  are in “Fido Fun”; so many memories that cannot be captured in one space~