DaDane of DaWeek

 Created: 01/05/04


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– Shall We Dance?

January 5, 2004 – We're kicking off the new year with one of my favorite characters, six-year-old Alex. Since 1997, Alex has warmly greeted customers at the Rogas Jewelry booth at the GDCA's annual National Specialties. His owners, jewelers Kathy and Rodney Gammill, keep Alex with them at their booth every year and he has developed quite a fan club among their customers and other vendors.

Alex has a wonderful, warm personality. He is friendly to strangers and gentle around other dogs. At the October 2003 National in Orlando, I watched with amusement as Alex tried to nuzzle every puppy within reach; he was utterly captivated by them.

The love of Alex's life, however, is Kathy. He clearly adores his "mom" and tries to be at her side whenever possible. This week's DaDane portrait is based on a photo I took of the two of them at the 2002 National in Kentucky. The picture reminds me of Louise Peterson's most excellent bronze sculpture, Shall We Dance?, which has always been a big favorite of mine.

Kathy tells us more about Alex:

"Alex achieved his Canine Good Citizen award when he was one year old, and he received a certificate for Recreational Agility Class the following year. (He does not think highly of being off the ground, and he puts all four feet down to protest!) When he turned four, Alex earned his Companion Dog title with scores of 186, 179 and 186. Two years later, Alex received his Therapy Dog certification from Happy Tales Humane/Smile Program sponsored through the Delta Society. He is certified for complex situations, which means he can handle unpredictable events. We often visit a nursing home where the residents are happy to see him. He particularly enjoys giving hugs to those who want one. The Activity Director observed that Alex doesn’t mind getting close to the patients, whereas some dogs are uncomfortable with this.

Somewhere along the way Alex has learned a few tricks. He will shake hands, give a wave or high-five, bow, play patty-cake, play dead, and best of all, he gives those great big hugs! Sometimes his tricks can backfire, though. Once, we had entered an Obedience Trial and Alex was doing pretty well – until the recall, that is. He approached me with good speed and then he sat, but he had stopped short. The rule is that if you can still touch your dog, he can pass that part, so the judge told me to reach out and touch the dog. I started my reach and Alex threw his big paw up in the air for a handshake, giving me a high-five. The crowd got a big kick out of his stunt. Unfortunately, we were disqualified when Alex got up from the sit, but it remains a sweet memory.

Another sweet memory involves a deaf Great Dane. One of the MAGDRL rescue ladies, Kathie, was fostering a deaf female, which she had with her at the MAGDRL rescue booth. We were walking out together and planning to take the stairs. The deaf female didn't know anything about stairs, so she was afraid of them. Alex and I climbed up midway to show her what to do, while Kathie tried to coax her along. I sent Alex down and he came back up. I remember that he then went back down on his own, walked over and nuzzled her, and tried to show her the stairs one more time. She was still frightened, so we left the stairs for another day and walked out a different way.

I feel very blessed to have Alex as a companion and I am sure you can tell how much I love him. He was born with such a wonderful temperament! People often comment on how good and well-behaved he is, and that makes me proud. But it is important to realize that it takes MORE than a great temperament to make a great dog. I would encourage everyone to take the time to work closely with their pet, especially when he or she is a puppy. It's important to bond with your dog, socialize him, and teach him how to be a good family member. Obedience training is one good place to start. There are many other activities that can help challenge and stimulate your dog to be the best he can be. Enrolling in a Canine Good Citizen's, Companion, or Therapy Dog program can help you bond with your dog as he learns impeccable manners. Performance sports such as Agility, Fly Ball, Tracking can be stimulating and fun for both of you, and help your dog become more physically fit.

The extra time and energy we devote to teaching our dogs to be good citizens – both in the home and outside the home – is amply rewarded by our dogs themselves. They are a pleasure to live with. They provide unwavering loyalty, affection, and companionship. They enrich our lives."

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