When Mr. Geek and I discussed getting married, he wanted to get an idea of what kind of engagement rings I liked.
“Don’t waste your money,” I said “I don’t even know if I want an engagement ring–what about an engagement dog?!”
We needed a furbaby. A month before, we put down my 17 year old cat, Autumn. I had her since I was ten years old. I was used to having a pet around. It broke my heart coming home to an empty house.
After stalking the Last Hope K9 Rescue website, Mr. Geek had an idea of some of the dogs he wanted to meet at the upcoming adoption event. I already knew which dog we were going home with.
Gronk’s adoption profile said he was 2 year old pit bull mix–and he had the cutest and such a goofy, loving face. At the adoption event, he was dressed up as Batman for Halloween. We pieced together different versions of his story to believe that he was found by an airport in Little Rock, Arkansas and taken in. He hung out on a construction site before he was fostered and brought up to Boston. And he loves popcorn.
I had always been around dogs, but I had never had my own. Mr. Geek had NEVER had a dog in his house while growing up (which still baffles me to this day). When it came time for Mr. Geek and I to adopt our first dog, I was pretty confident in our abilities, but I didn’t realize how much we would learn when we adopted Gronk.
Dogs have all types of personalities, just like people.
Before we got Gronk, I envisioned our dog that we can take anywhere! To play with other dogs, to a friend’s house, to the beach, swimming in the ocean, the local breweries and restaurants that allow dogs….
Sure, we can take him to all these places–but on a leash, under close supervision, and we both need to be prepared to remove him from any situation he’s not ready for yet. Large crowds of people make him anxious. He still gets a little too excited to be around small children. He also HATES swimming and water– so there goes that activity. He also doesn’t like every dog he meets. He’s done fine with some dogs, but others he may react.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the same sweet snuggly dog that lounges on the couch or the dog that follows us from room to room just to be with us could get so riled up–but it’s true. He has his moments.
The best advice I ever received was from my best friend, Alaina: “Just don’t set him up to fail.”
There are plenty of opinions on how to train and raise your dog.
We don’t have kids yet, but I do know there are a lot of opinions on how to raise children. What I didn’t realize is that there were so many opinions on how to train and raise your dog. Even when you follow the advice from the dog’s foster mom, someone is still going to have an opinion against your decision.
He was running our house. We’ll be honest–he didn’t warm up to us right away and would growl every so often–especially when food was in the equation. I didn’t agree with the old fashioned “show him who’s boss” and smacking him around. I just couldn’t wrap my head around meeting aggression with more aggression.
Therefore, we choose to train and walk with a Herm Sprenger dog collar. Yes, it’s a prong collar that looks worse than it actually is. In fact, I was SUPER against it at first. I thought it made him look mean. I thought it was hurting him. Once I actually put the collar on my leg and gave it a good tug–it doesn’t hurt. It’s just pressure. The evenly distributed pressure guides him and corrects him. We also brought in an amazing dog trainer that showed us how to properly use the collar and work on weaning him off.
Of course we get some backlash for this collar. It’s not for everyone, but it works best for us and our strong dog. I’d much rather a safe way to keep him out of harm and allowing him to be successful than being pulled all over the neighborhood without a good handle on him.
The dog trainer isn’t just training the dog, they are training you, the owner.
It’s hard to say what Gronk’s real age was when we first brought him home. His paperwork said he was two, but the vet said his teeth showed he was closer to one. Either way, his behavior was still very “puppy”.
As “puppy” as he was, he was still a full grown dog that needed to be trained. It was difficult to label our dog as “reactive”, meaning he had previously nipped or snapped in different situations. It was new for us to deal with a reactive dog. Any dog experience I had in the past just did not apply to Gronk. It was unsettling not knowing what to do. We took it personally and thought of ourselves as bad dog parents. We were worried about our future with Gronk.
Then an angel stepped in. We brought in a local trainer that came right to our house and worked with Gronk. I adore this woman and we referred her to all our friends! She didn’t talk down to us. She didn’t think our questions and concerns were stupid.
She didn’t just train the dog’s brain, she trained ours! Our mindset was shifted and more confident in approaching situations with Gronk. She pointed out his cues and gave us strategies to calm him. She also helped us put together expectations for the dog and ourselves when it came to raising him. For example, we both agreed he was not allowed in our bed–but is allowed on the couch but has to “ask permission” first. He sits attentively at the edge of the couch, makes eye contact, and we invite him up. All these expectations have helped shaped him and how he behaves in our home. Gronk’s behavior and our relationship with him has improved significantly since we brought him home a year and a half ago.
You are your dog’s biggest advocate and protector.
Last weekend we were up in our camp and walking our dog, on a leash, around the campground. A family drove by on their golf cart while their leashed dog was running alongside the cart. When the dog started to pull towards Mr. Geek and Gronk, barking and lunging at our dog, I went into Momma-mode. The other dog was pulling his owner along with him while Gronk sat politely in heel with his tail wagging. Knowing that Gronk could react badly, I stepped between them.
“Please don’t do that,” I said, holding my hand up.
“Oh? Is he not friendly?” she replied.
Well, hold on. Gronk is the sweetest snuggliest little guy! He just has a history of not liking all dogs he comes across. We’re not going to put him in a position where something could go wrong.
“He just doesn’t like other dogs,” I quickly blurted out while the other dog was clearly controlling the woman.
Which brings me to my next point…
Not everyone is going to understand your dog, but that’s okay.
She reared back and pulled her dog away saying in a baby voice, “Ohh, I know you want to play, but he’s just not a friendly dog…he’s just not friendly!”
I thought Mr. Geek was going to lose his cool.
“She doesn’t know Gronk, how can she say he’s not friendly? And her dog was barking like a lunatic!” he shot back at me.
Sure, it stings to hear that–but it’s also really none of her business. You know your dog and his or her limitations and stressors. You know how sweet and loveable they can be. You’re the one taking them home at the end of the day. Just like we can’t judge the other owners and their dog. They know what is best.
Although the journey was not what we envisioned (but when does that ever happen?), adopting Gronk was one of the best and most rewarding things we have done as a couple so far. He has brought us so much joy, laughter, and made us our little family.
Gronk also has his own Instagram account (because we are THOSE people…)