Lisa Davis brings her twenty-five years of health experience and her love of dogs together in her PodCast “Dog-Eared” to interview authors of dog related books, memoirs like A Dog Named Boo and other advice and inspirational dog-related titles.
…success in the face of struggle, unconditional acceptance of others, joy in all things, and that Patience, Persistence, and letting go of Perfect lies at the heart of all of these. Everyone who has potty-trained a puppy has used a type of ‘successive approximation’ like this.
Patience– – Cleaning up over and over until puppy begins to learn. Persistence – – Getting the puppy out often enough so puppy can be rewarded for ever more successful behaviors. Perfect is not all it’s cracked up to be – – Sometimes we all make mistakes.
Boo was patient…
…when he taught me to give him the time he needed to learn things. Patience allows you take your time and let your dog show you who they are. Boo’s physical and cognitive limitations made it difficult for him to answer these questions quickly or at all sometimes.
Together we persisted…
…in his training for his Pet Partner’s evaluation because his working as a therapy dog was the only way he was going to have kids in his life. Each dog will need their humans to persist in training differently. Boo needed extra time to learn new skills and confront fears. When he was afraid in the truck I had shift from convention wisdom to ways that would accommodate Boo so he could learn how to love the truck at his own pace.
For Boo to achieve his goal of visiting kids, it was almost two years of outings that slowly worked on his basic skills and treat-taking abilities in public. I had to craft alternative cues that Boo could follow and understand, much like I advise clients whose dogs are visually or hearing impaired. They can and will learn their basics and maybe even more than one might imagine, but it will have a different shape and form from traditional cues and signals.
We both let go of perfect…
…when it came time for his therapy dog testing. I knew that in spite of his bumbling through the skills portion of the test, he would excel in the aptitude portion. Too often we get caught up in comparisons of one dog to another, yet one of the greatest gifts you can give your dog is to only compare them to where they started and how far they’ve come. Each dog will reach their fullest potential once we simply focus on each successive approximation as its own victory.
Boo never did things quite like any other dog, but it worked for him.
When I would ask Boo for the paw command he’d swipe his paw in the air as if he were searching for a light switch in the dark. It in no way compared to the perfect easy-going dogs who leisurely reaches out and gently places their paw in your hand.
But when Boo does it, you could see his effort and sense of accomplishment in his simple, wobbly gesture and it always brought a smile in spite of the imperfection and probably more so because of it—like everyone cheering for the little engine who could—or in this case the little dog who could.
The lessons of Boo can apply to so many elements of human and canine interactions…
…from dogs with special needs like him, to dogs who are reactive, stressed, need remedial socialization, and pretty much any dog who will be destined to work as a service or therapy dog.
We are the guardians and advocates for our dogs.
It is our job is to patiently observe what our dogs tell us then persistently and at their speed craft a training routine that suites them so they can become the best they can be given who they are.
Like Boo, all dogs have potential. Our job is to find it and nurture it.
On September 10, 2014 the final chapter in Boo’s long, courageous story came to a peaceful close surrounded by his loved ones.
On September 10, 2014 the final chapter of Boo’s story came to a close.
It is hard to write of something so painful as the loss of a beloved pet but the loss of Boo is not my own and that requires me to share his passing with all the people his spirit has touched. More than ten years of visiting children, seniors, adults with developmental disabilities and others makes it hard to count how many people loved him, but I know it was probably thousands.
Developmentally disabled with poor eyesight and an awkward gait, Boo was a trooper who was always game for a visit with anyone even in later years with his eyesight completely gone and arthritis making his bearing even more ungainly. Having overcome remarkable odds to be a therapy dog, Boo won the hearts of the people who knew him personally and those who read his story in A Dog Named Boo here and around the world. His fan club ranges from Russia, to South America, to Britain and back home. Boo was the clumsy black and white rescue dog who never wanted anything other than to say hello to and be loved by everyone he met (with some great butt scratches along the way) while reaching across physical limitations and political boundaries.
In both life and in death he teaches us that we are all better when we move through our days with patience, persistence and the understanding that perfect is not all it is cracked up to be—because sometimes it is in our imperfections where our greatest strengths lie.
In his work he brought joy to thousands, speech to Marc and Sister Jean, an understanding to my husband and me that we could be a family, and on the morning he left us he brought us one more gift. As our two-year-old son (who still only has only two or three reliable words and has yet to refer to anyone by name) brought all the pepperonis from his pizza-puzzle toy to Boo, who was resting on his big comfy chair, he pointed to Boo and said, “Boo” each time he tried to encourage Boo to eat the wooden pepperoni.
With this final act we knew Boo had made his mark on the little boy he had waited so long to have in his life and his job was done—he could rest without pain for the first time in a long time.