Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Furry Four Paws: Marshall

Marshall T Wunderstrudel was brought home December 8th, 2007 from the Michigan Humane Society. He was about five weeks old at the time and still recovering from bordetella, commonly known as "kennel cough" and pretty comparable in both symptoms and severity to pertussis or pneumonia in people. He, along with three siblings, had been abandoned in a box outside the MHS vet center Thanksgiving week.

We aren't quite sure what breed he is other than a perfect mutt. He's a black and tan German-something-or-other with a Zorro mask a little bit taller than a beagle. He meets the breed standards, behaviors, and appearance of a German Pinscher, the dogs that Karl Dobermann began working with in the 1890s. I find it highly unlikely that someone would abandon a whole litter of purebred dogs, so the commonalities are probably coincidence.

Marshall was (and still is) a snuggle pup from the first day we brought him home. After a few days of introduction, our older dog Ollie accepted his 'little brother'. He needed special love and attention but has always been a people-pleaser, so training came easy. He was mostly potty-trained in about seven days, learned "sit", "come", and "wait" in ten days. In terms of basic obedience and puppy kindergarten, he might be the fastest-learning dog I've ever worked with.

He quickly showed promise at doing Therapy Dog work. He came with me twice to visit my grandmother in a pet-friendly nursing home as a puppy and loved each trip. One gentleman down the hall who'd had a stroke looked at him with wide eyes and a one-sided smile. I asked the man if he wanted to pet Marshall, and the man started to move a shaky hand. I sat in a chair next to him, put Marshall in my lap, and guided his hand to pet my puppy. An orderly walked by and went to get a nurse. I immediately was afraid I had done something wrong, but the nurse assured me I hadn't. They were just shocked. It had been six weeks since the man had the stroke and hadn't shown any signs of responding to conversation or interaction.

Marshall trotted in his prancing little way out to the car. He seemed proud and alert and I know I am in danger of anthropomorphizing his behavior. I'll just say that I'm not sure if he was content to interact with others or was picking up on how proud I was of him. He snuggled into his bed in the back seat and quickly fell asleep with little choo-choo train puppy sleeping breaths.

We began socialization trips to start the Therapy Dog training. He's learned how to walk on different types of floors, use escalators and elevators, walk calmly next to people in scooters and wheelchairs. He can do a three-minute down-stay, wait for me even when I am out of sight, and only accepts treats on my command. He knows his manners when it comes to greeting new people and dogs, sits politely for petting, and does a perfect heel on leash.

That doesn't mean to say we don't have a few behaviors we're working on at home, but it's pretty fair to say I'm exceptionally proud of Marshall and looking forward to his Therapy Dog testing.

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