Owners, furry friends work together for obedience

Published 12:13 pm Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Maddie Atkinson, 17, and her dog Opie. Maddie is the president of the 4H group CCC. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Maddie Atkinson, 17, and her dog Opie. Maddie is the president of the 4H group CCC. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

WINDSOR—A few weeks back, Heather Guilford had met with her new neighbor, Bruce Meier, who operated a Therapy Dogs International organization in Wisconsin, and she spoke about Eve, her Shar Pei/Lab mix, who was becoming something of a problem.

“We got her from the shelter in Newport News,” Guilford said. “And I thought that we’d have to bring her back. She would not listen to anyone but my husband, and she scared me a bit. I remember when I used to try and get her off the couch, I couldn’t do it.

“She used to drag me out of the front door, but she has not pulled me since the first class with Bruce Meier.”

Melvin Atkinson, and his son Kole, 11, had a similar experience with a beagle named Buddy they had adopted from a shelter.

“We’ve had shelter dogs before, but none were as bad as Buddy,” Atkinson said. “He would be in a corner somewhere hiding, but we turned him around with love.”

Titan, 14-year-old Alyssa Meier’s Rottweiler, also had a troubled past, as had Jack and Tabby, two beagles that Stephen Tate, 17, and Hope Tate, 10, had found on the side of the road and adopted.

“He needed some fixing up,” Alyssa said of Titan, but her Opa, or grandfather, helped with that. “He had been abandoned in the woods, and came up to our door. We took him to the shelter and decided to adopt him.”

Stephen Tate said he often picks up animals from the roadside.

“I hunt with the hunting club, and I usually will pick up dogs and try to find out who they go to,” he said, but couldn’t find Jack’s and Tabby’s owner. “They were cute, so we kept them.”

Most of the dogs in the group had not had troubled pasts, but they, and their owners, all needed a lesson on obedience, and Meier was trained to provide that lesson. So when Guilford and Meier decided to have a class, they went through the Isle of Wight 4H group, 4Cs — Critters, Crops, Crafts and Cooking, not necessarily in that order.

The group will even have an obedience showing in the 4H area of the Isle of Wight County Fair.

“I’m enjoying teaching the dogs and handlers,” Meier said. “They want their dogs to listen to them better, as do most people.”

But there can be more to it than obedience, as a dog trained for therapy can really help a person, he said.

“It is really a good cause,” Meier said. “I’m hoping to start one here.”

Guilford’s grandmother, Myrtle Bridges, was close to the family dog Piper before Bridges had a stroke and had to move to a nursing home. Piper, however, is not still enough for a nursing home.

Emily, 14, Heather’s daughter, has been working on getting Piper up to shape for a visit with the obedience class taught by Meier, so that she can go sit with Piper and her great-grandmother at the nursing home.

“I definitely have to use my stern voice to get her to listen because if I use any other voice, she gets too excited,” Emily said of Piper. “But she is listening a lot better, and she does not bark as much — she was barking a lot.”

When Guilford set the leash on the ground and commanded Eve to stay, she never expected to make the lap around the group and find Eve there when she went back — but she did.

Guilford said could not picture returning Eve to the shelter at this point.

“I found out that Eve, who was 7 months old when we got her, had three owners before us,” she said. “I’m selfishly glad that they had not given her a chance to adjust. She’s such a wonderful dog.

“She sleeps in the bed now. She’s so sweet.”

For more information on this 4H club, joining the club or the obedience class, contact extension agent Celia Brockway at the Isle of Wight Office — 365-6258.