Sometimes I forget just how well-behaved these two really are. I witness their foibles daily and know just how imperfect they are. Then one day, one person, whose opinion actually matters tells me "they're well-trained dogs," and I realize all that work we did and still do is not for naught.
I've been interviewing pet sitters and kennels lately. Europe holidays are around the corner and it's time we all took a break from each other. Our neighbor's teenage daughter and another pet sitter have stepped up for duty for days Mr. Wild Dingo and I will be gone longer than 8 hours. But for long stays, I felt it was necessary to find a kennel.
Only for the really cool kennels you have to interview to get in. This is Switzerland people! The country where they determine if you will go to college or vocational school at age 7. I kid. But it's not far from the truth when it comes to the intense Swiss educational system.
I found a family-oriented, cage-less kennel operating with a pack-structured environment. In other words, a free-roaming pack of dogs with access to a home and garden all day. When I spoke to Bernard, the kennel proprietor, on the phone, he asked me endless questions about the GSD.
Is he dominant?
Hm. Define dominance.
Has he bitten a dog?
Hm. Define bite.
During the phone interview, I was brutally honest about Loki and we still got invited for an in-person interview.
Bernard's an older seemingly retired fella, who's also a dog trainer and married to a vet. When I visited him, he had about 15 dogs of various breeds happily scampering about including a 2-pound tea-cup poodle, a Chinese hairless crested, a golden retriever puppy, several terriers and a Belgian Malinois. His own dog, a female Dogo Argintinio, acts as the pack leader keeping the peace and herds wayward dogs on their off-leash walks.
I was anxious about Bernard meeting Loki. Loki doesn't exactly give a great first impression. But after our long interview and meeting of the current pack, he went to the car to meet the dogs. Juno of course was elegant and poised. He was surprised she could walk off-leash. Being a husky sure comes with discrimination! Then Loki hopped out in his usual barbaric fashion, gregarious and barking. After a few sniffs, I gave Loki a target jump command to release some of his anxiety. Then I saw it. A huge smile came over Bernard's face. "He's fine," he said.
Loki's a "guy's dog." Most men like him just fine. A huge sigh of relief. My dog passed the initial test. All that anxiety for nothing.
"They're both well-trained," he said as I put them both back in the car. Score! Switzerland's version of Ceasar Milan gave us kudos!
It's not over yet. Remember this is Switzerland. Dog's have to do more than one interview to get into the Ivy League kennels! Next week, they go for a one-day trial visit to determine if he can keep them for long stays. The trainer in me says leaving the dogs in a big pack is not a great idea for their long-term behavior, not to mention the dreaded vaccinations that are required. But the other part of me thinks it will be an excellent experience for Loki and Juno to be a part of bigger, structured pack where they can relax in an cage-free environment around people who love animals.
It will be good for both of them. Let's just hope Loki doesn't screw it up!