- Lesson from Sugi: When getting a new dog, find out about the dog’s history. Sometimes bad experiences from the past will manifest in the present as fear of objects, people or other dogs. If you suspect a history of distress or trauma, he will need to receive extra understanding and patience delivered with calm leadership!
- Sugi says, “Sometimes I’m afraid of new things, especially if they’re loud! Please stay beside me and calmly guide me.”
Story: Around Christmas Day 2005, we were walking along 4th Avenue and came across a pet shop called Urban Puppy (it’s no longer there thankfully). There were some puppies in the window. The largest puppy had red-brown fur and was beating up on his younger sister. Greg and I both exclaimed about how much he looked like Tom as a kid!
The next few days I pestered Greg with comments about the puppy and how much Tom would appreciate a friend. On the one hand I felt that it would be the right thing to do to get this puppy for Tom (and I), and on the other I felt cheated that I had been so obviously sucked-in by the puppy-in-the-window trick. These conflicting thoughts would effect me in a more profound way later on.
On January 2, 2006, we went into the store and the sales person asked if we wanted to hold him. I used some hand sanitizer they gave me, so as not to spread germs to the pups, and received him into my arms. I was struck by the way he looked directly into my eyes without turning away and seemingly without fear. He did resemble Tom but had a different energy – a kind of silent thoughtful state. We loved his red-brown hair and felt he had a kind of Zen presence. We named him Sugi (the name of a Japanese cedar).
That evening we brought him home and Tom immediately showed him who’s boss. On reflection, this introduction to a new home and a strange dog could have been handled better (see Cesar Millan‘s tips on raising a puppy). When he wanted to play, Sugi would tease Tom and then leap underneath the sofa to hide. This tormented Tom who barked and barked! For weeks, Tom generally protested Sugi’s presence.
After some time we noticed that Sugi was scared of objects, open spaces and loud sounds. We tried to make him feel more comfortable by giving him a kennel to rest in. We also noticed that, unlike Tom, he didn’t really feel comfortable cuddling with humans. He seemed to be uncertain about relationships with other beings.
The fear of objects and sounds continued for years with Sugi and we had to work with him regularly to get over many of these fears. Unlike most dogs, he also has to work harder in social situations.
Over time I learned about pet shops that sell animals, and puppy mills that use inhumane techniques to breed dogs. These are unethical industries and patronizing them only encourages these types of businesses.
We speculate that Sugi may have suffered as a small pup – probably from coming a puppy mill environment. Some puppies are removed from their mothers too early and this can cause harm in their development.
We love Sugi and continue to learn from him about respect, trust and compassion.