Hawk E. Wilkinson
Hawk joined us on August 20th. She was then just 5 months of age. She’s deaf. I knew that before getting her. We don’t really know her breed inputs so we’re calling it as we see it. She was listed as an Australian shepherd mix. She looks and acts more like the border collie though and I definitely see the touch of the Akita in her as reported by her original owner. What we do know is that she was born on March 22nd just outside of Atlanta, GA where she lived in a yard until she was 13 weeks old.

I learned about her from a client who saw her on Craig’s List. She thought immediately of me as being ‘the only person she knew who could give this dog a great life’. I too am glad Hawk found me. Her deafness is the least of my concerns. I fear for what might have happened to her if someone without my experience had adopted her. Just loving her wouldn’t be enough.
Szap is watchingI have lived with dogs most of my life– at one time during my childhood, we had seven dogs (more on that in another post). Not one was even remotely like Szap. HE was perfect in every way, a hard act to follow for sure! Hawk is already a great work in progress. She is my new journey. Had I not had my walk with Szap and others and a decade and a half plus experience working full time with people and their dogs, I might not be prepared for the work ahead with Hawk either.

Unlike many who rescue dogs, I have been lucky to have access to the rescuer who also had knowledge of the owner. While Hawk certainly missed out on a few things in her home of origin, the rescue process also contributed to her trials and tribulations. From my ‘research’, I see evidence–not just correlation but causation– of this in two glaring issues. One, she struggles with time alone and being apart from me and, two, she has specific handling issues.

Hawk’s separation distress is due to the reality that, during her critical socialization period (3-12 weeks), she had just one person in her life and was surrounded by her family of dogs. She was one of 14 dogs – seven adult dogs and seven puppies from two litters – and thus, she had not spent any time totally alone during the first 13 weeks of life. This is frequently the case for dogs rescued from points south and west AND the reason why I and other dog behavior consultants strongly recommend that dog owners choose puppies that have had alone training started long before 12 weeks of age or to gradually implement home alone time with each and every rescue dog.

While in the home of origin and in rescue, Hawk must have had lots of petting and close contact time with people because she really enjoys a good massage! Her specific handling issues were revealed during her first dermatology appointment. She wants to take flight from anyone who is holding anything white in their hands- the bigger ‘it’ is, the stronger she resists. This translates to cotton balls, gauze pads, paper towels, bath towels, etc. I attribute the development of these panic responses to the lack of early socialization in her home of origin along with the assembly line vetting process of the rescue machine. The story of how she was taken from the yard (and everything familiar) and the experience at the vet hospital lent to Hawk’s specific fear of people holding towels. Towels and other such accessories are predictors of danger and the inevitable violation of her ‘person’.

Hawk is a lucky dog, for one, her owner sought help for his puppies and dogs and the great people in rescue did what they had to do to save her. She is also a lucky dog because I knew from the get-go that I had my work cut out for me. My decade and a half plus experience immersed in the field of dogs, dog training and dog behavior has given me both foresight and hindsight. I have the skills and knowledge to do the necessary training and behavior modification to help her to become a well-adjusted adult dog.

I AM the LUCKY one because Hawk is with me. Our journey has already afforded me with many gifts. As the saying goes, ‘experience is life’s greatest teacher’. For many years, I’ve emphasized the need for dog owners to consider life from their dog’s perspective, that is, how the individual dog experiences life with people. I’m walking in my clients’ shoes and gaining perspective on living with a dog that has some behavioral issues. I thank the universe for the blessing.