This week marks the 8th anniversary of when I met and adopted my dog, Gizmo, also known as Gizzy, Giz-Giz, Goofball and Gizzy Bear. We’ve been through a lot together, like an old married couple: sickness and health, good times and bad. Our love has grown and matured, starting as infatuation (on my part – I can’t speak for Giz).

When we met, he was a gorgeous guy, almost 5 years old, big and fluffy and physically resembling the Golden I had just lost to a stroke at 14 years old.  But Gizzy was unlike her in personality; he was baaaaaad!  That’s why he needed a new home. His family surrendered him to the rescue run by their veterinarian’s office. Gizzy was growling at the children in the family. This rescue group knew of my work as a trainer and a behavior consultant, plus they knew I didn’t have kids.  I could easily deal with him.  Or so I thought.

I very quickly discovered that my pretty boy had some major issues besides his dislike of kids. Giz reacted wildly when other dogs came into view, wanting to attack if they approached. He was also very possessive of bones, he growled if you tried to move him off of furniture, and unpredictably would growl when strangers pet him. Giz was so much more of a challenge than I ever imagined. And to top it off, he was not very affectionate. Bonding to him became very difficult.

Together, we worked on his issues using positive reinforcement, counter-conditioning techniques and practicing “nothing in life is free.” Needless to say, he was not allowed on the furniture! He showed a gradual, steady improvement over the years.  He was a remarkable teacher to me – I learned first-hand just what my clients were going through with their problem dogs!! I became a much better consultant and way more empathetic to their issues.

Giz is completely over the possessiveness with bones and considerably better with other dogs.  He even lived with two dogs with no issues.  I never would have imagined that 8 years ago. He can sleep on the sofa next to me and be asked to move with no problem. But…he still cannot be trusted with children. Makes you wonder what transpired with the kids he used to live with?

Gizzy is now an old man, his hearing diminished, his joints stiff and his body lumpy with fatty tumors so common in Goldens. He’s turned into a mommy’s boy, becoming more affectionate with age.  He’ll never be an attention seeker but I relish the sweetness of his senior years. Oh how I love old dogs!

Happy anniversary, my Gizzy! I’m so glad  I never gave up on you.