Our amazing girl Meika

Hello everyone, I felt that I had to tell Meika’s story in a way that honored her and also as a way to give hope to many people with reactive dogs.  My wife Pam and I used to be in search and rescue and were training another amazing dog named Lucky for search and rescue work.  Lucky would have been a great search dog if it were not for a degenerative disease that took the use of his rear legs away.  One day Lucky was hiking and the next he was dragging his legs.  We had a wheel chair made for him and he lived for another 6 months before we had to let him go.  It was a very hard decision at the time but we knew we made the right choice for Lucky and his quality of life.

Lucky hiking to Edison snow park shelter

Pam and I had talked about getting another dog to train for Search and rescue work and decided on getting a puppy, something we normally do not do because we believe in rescuing first from shelters or rescue groups.  We wanted to train a puppy from the ground up so we found a breeder in Salem Oregon with just the puppy we thought we needed.  I had talked with the breeder about the type of puppy we were interested and the temperament required for SAR work.  This breeder specialized in German Shepherds who excelled in tracking and police work.  We knew that this type of puppy was not going to be cheap but we were prepared to pay whatever we had to get the right puppy within reason.  I was told that he had one female left and he would make me a great deal on her.  We were told that he normally sold his dogs for at least $2500.00 or more so when he told us we could have this puppy for $800.00 we thought !wow! what a deal this is.  I think he knew that this puppy was not going to fit the bill for SAR work, after all he has been doing this for over 40 years and knows what he has(buyer beware) if it seems to ggod to be true then it usually is.

Meika in her posing position

  We made the trip to Salem and picked up out newest family member( Mekia) we would later name her.  Here is what the name is suppose to mean.  “Your first name of Meika has given you a responsible, expressive, inspirational, and friendly personality. Expression comes naturally to you and you are rarely at a loss for words: in fact, you have to put forth effort at times to curb an over-active tongue. Self-confidence has made it easy for you to meet people and you are well-liked for your spontaneous, happy ways. You sincerely like people and do not often experience loneliness: your work and home-life are likely filled with association” Did not mention anything about liking dogs which we found out in spades later.

Meika was very nervous right off the bat, the breeder said that was normal.  I agreed because after all she was leaving the only home she had ever known and going with people she had never met.  We got Meika home and wow nervous was not even close to what this girl was feeling.  We got her out of the car and she immediately latched onto my leg and would not let go, here I was dragging this fairly large puppy around our property attached to my leg. I knew that this was not going to work for very long as she was going to get much bigger.  I lured her away from my leg with a stick so she could carry something in her mouth, a German Shepherd thing. 

 She started carrying small sticks and quickly started finder bigger sticks( 10lb pieces of fire wood) which she carrys to this day or at least something has to be in her mouth.  Now we had to introduce her to our other dogs, I thought no big deal after all she came from a kennel full of other dogs.  We started off with one dog at a time, she immediately attacked each and every dog( no one got hurt so don’t worry) I as so clueless because for years I had only taught basic manners classes and had no idea about what caused aggression and how to fix it. 

The days went by and Meika learned to get along with our other dogs, Stormy our late American Stafford shire was her best buddy.  She was also very fond of Tuka our late wolf dog.  As long as Meika was with her group she was fine.  We made the huge mistake of taking her to a dog park in Bend Or, and to this day I am sorry for ever doing this.  We thought we were socializing her with other dogs but the other dogs mush have seemed Iike Satan to Meika because she attacked everyone of them, did I mention she was only 9 weeks old when we took her to the park( bad idea) she was not only attacking every dog in her path she was biting and ripping as well.  Pam and I thought ” what are we going to do? We pretty much kept Meika home for six months until we decided we needed some professional training help, another very bad mistake for which I will always regret for the rest of my life because of the hell we put Meika through. 

We looked in the phone book for a local trainer  out of Bend Or.  I am only   She claimed to be an aggression expert so we figured ok now we can get Meika the help she deserves.  She started by doing a temperament test which if I only had know what I know today I would have laughed and told her to get an education because this was a complete joke.  We were told after the aggression test that Meika was not aggressive towards humans( really now) we told her that Meiks’a issue was not with people but with other strange dogs. so now the training began.  It was about 100 degrees out that day and the training started with us walking meika through come cones( made no sense then and still does not) then she brought out what looked like a hobby horse which I guess was supposed to fool Meika into believing it was a dog.  Meika did not even look at this imposter because she is if anything a brilliant girl that is not easily fooled.

Now it was Pam’s turn to walk Meika through the cones, God know why but this was her plan.  Meika was getting really nervous now as well as very thirsty.  We were told that meika was not allowed to have water.  OK we said you are the expert( I feel so stupid all these years later).  Meika stopped moving and was jumping.  Now the aggression expert said to us” I want you to pay attention to what I am going to do because this is how the aggression will be fixed.  I said OK now we are getting somewhere.  She took the leash from Pam and brought Meika to a spot by a gate and then( please forgive me Meika for what this monster did to you) started beating her in the head with a metal dog food bowl.  I said what in the hell are you doing? She said that ” this little bitch needs to learn who is in charge” I grabbed Meika from her and Meika jumped on her and she began choking Meika.  We said we are done here and left.  Meika immediately jumped in the jeep and drank to her hearts content, she was shaking uncontrollably until we got home.  She refused to eat for a couple of days until we figured it was the metal dog food bowl we were feeding her out of( go figure ha!).  This began my journey as a trainer to learn as much about dog reactivity and behavior as I could. 

I started to go to as many seminars and workshops on aggresson and behavior as I could afford in the hopes of finding a cure for Meika.  I guess I can say that in some strange way I owe this so called aggression expert for making me go out and get a real education so Meika would never have to go through this again and I could learn to help as many dogs as I could as well as teach clients that there are many positive ways of helping their dogs rather than beating them in the hopes of fixing their aggressive or fearful dogs.  I also owe a huge thanks to Meika for not giving up and to Pam for supporting my obsession to help as many dogs and people as I can.

I would love to be able to say that Meika has been my obsession as far as fixing her but honestly I have not spent as much time doing the work that I should have with her over the years.  I can also honestly say that I wish I had protected her from the things she has gone through since her early nightmare with the aggression expert. Meika was attacked by a pack of Coyotes and had over 300 stitches and over 13 drains in her body.  She was attacked by an off leash dog and had to have surgery for that which was a nightmare for her especially after just recovering from the Coyote mauling, just recently she was playing with our wolf dog Cole and he got her with his nail and ripped her open and she had to have three surgeries to repair that.  I realize I cannot always be there to watch everything that happens to Meika and have to forgive myself for what she has gone through. 

Now you might be saying ” does this poor dog have any kind of a life?’ if you know Pam and I at all you know that our dogs are our life and we do as much as we possible can to make sure that they have great lives.  Meika has been to many places and has had many dog friends and is in great shape considering all that has happened to her. I can also tell you that I have not ignored her training and recovery, after all she has five great dog buddies whom she loves to be with.  Meika’s issues has always been new dogs.  I have done alot of work with her including BAT( behavior adjustment training) which she has done amazing at.  I can also tell you that I am constantly rewarding her good behavior around our other dogs. 

I know this has made a huge difference in her recovery and happiness.  I have also included her in hundreds of class orientations for new students for our puppy and adult dog classes.  Meika loves this time she has with me and loves to interact with the new students and it keeps her clicker skills very sharp. I know all of this has made a huge difference in her reactivity to other dogs as I can actually take her for a walk now and not worry so much that she will have a blow out be so stressed that she does not enjoy the walks.  Fortunately we live in the middle of nowhere and have five acres for her and the other dogs to run in and rarely if ever encounter an off leash dog.  That was until yesterday and is also why I decide to write Meika’s story because this was so amazing I could not keep it to myself.

I got home yesterday from a private training session and decided to take a few of our 6 dogs on a hike down our dirt road.  It was a sunny but cold day and thought it would be a nice change for Meika to do something different as far as her daily walk.  Pam would take the other five dogs around the property while I took Meika down our dirt road then when I got back I would tak another dog and repeat this until they all had at least a three mile walk.  Meika and I had got about 500ft when this little off leash and alone dog came out of nowhere.  He was just a little guy with an attitude and wanted the world to know he was there.  He saw us and immediately started barking at Meika and me.  I thought ” dam I have not seen an off leash dog in months and the one time when it is just Meika and I this happens” I did not have any treats or my clicker, just my wits and hopefully some dumb luck.  Meika barked once(amazing) considering this dog was only 10ft away and would not stop barking at us.  I told him to go home and he just looked at me and said ” you are not the boss of me and I am enjoying this way too much to stop” I started to walk back towards the house when I thought” this is just too good of an opportunity and Meika did not seemd to stressed out by this little dog so we pushed on. 

 I have to admit I was totally amazed and proud or Meika, this dog did not stop barking for a second and Meika just walked very calmly like this dog was not even there.  I know when she is stressed and she actually seemed to be enjoying this dogs company.  He got within two feet and we just walked like we were supposed to all be together.  I thought to myself “wow is it just Meika growing up and maturing or has all of the things I have been doing over the years actually working.  I have literally clicked and treated her thousands of times for great behaviors around our other dogs, I have told her what a good girl she is when she has seen another strange dog and not reacted.  Could all of this actually be getting through to her?  We walked for another mile or so with this little dog until he turned off to his street and went home.  I was so proud of Meika that I could not wait until I got her home and told Pam the great news. 

I made it back home and I said Pam” you will not believe what Meika did” I told her the story and she said well our other dog Flash did an amazing this as well.  We have a couple of dogs behind us that are allowed to fence fight with other dogs( not ours) we make sure we are with them when they are at the back of the property at all times.  The other dogs were barking at Flash and Pam called a touch(recall>come when called) from the back of the property and he did not even think about coming as he just flew to Pam.  We were so proud of both our dogs that we talked about it for awhile and just said ” we must be doing something right” I hope you have enjoyed this story about an amazing dog and her journey through life.

 

Meika and her stick…..

 

Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA) thanks to Meika and hundreds of other dogs out there.