Journey to Rescue – Looking to the Future (4 of 4)

They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but don’t tell Nico that.  Nico is 6 years old and, by shelter standards, is already considered a senior.  However, he is constantly learning new things these days.   As you may recall, his life in rescue began a couple of months ago when we was pulled from a Los Angeles Shelter, a beaten and abused shell of the dog he has become.  He learned that day that he was not destined to die on a cold metal table with no hope of love to soothe his aching past.  He spent a short stint in a San Diego hospital where he learned about gentle touch and patient understanding, and that slobbery happy kisses can be bestowed on anyone and that very few people complain when they are.   He was eventually transported to Indiana, during which he learned that he’s a traveling man and that often the good things, like pigs ears and cookies, are stored in the back of the car.

Nico’s life over the past month and a half under the medical care of the Humane Society for Hamilton County and the foster sponsorship by the Invisible Fence Company has been all about learning how to be the pet he was born to be.  As we all witnessed during his rescue and transport, Nico has learned that people are good.  Not a person has touched Nico in anger nor recoiled in fear since he was pulled from that Los Angeles shelter in his not so distant past.  He has learned that he’s quite the ladies man – loves the female dogs and has gained quite the little harem from poodles to pitties and shepherds to schnauzers during his daily play dates.  He doesn’t necessarily dislike the boys in his play group, just isn’t quite as much of a charming flirt with them.  A calm dog by nature, he’s learned that a little romp every once in a while can shake some of the cobwebs from atrophied muscles, and that occasionally hopping on the tread mill can turn him into quite the stud muffin.   Nico has learned that it’s not ok to lift a leg on the couch but that cuddling on the couch is infinitely worth that regulatory inconvenience.  Nico has learned that things that smell like feet – shoes and socks – are not the best things to seek out and chew, but that pet oriented households have these wonderful bins full of fluffies and balls and ropes and chews that can provide amusement with no rebuke.

He finds the toy basket endlessly amazing and still can’t get over the fact that each basket can hold so many toys! Nico LOVES to go “shopping” for new toys every day.  He has learned that you don’t have to scrounge for meals because, when someone loves you, food comes to you on a regular basis.  He has learned that if one rolls on one’s back, belly rubs are often forthcoming.  Nico has learned what it means to be a gentleman and will be attending his first black tie event as the official representative of amazing rescue stories at the Tinsel and Tails Fundraiser at the Hamilton County Humane Society on November 19.  We have no doubt that he will continue to amaze his fans.

Julie, Nico’s trainer and foster mom, is giving Nico his formal training using the clicker training method.  However, as you know, Nico is deaf and clicker training requires the dog to associate a sound with the fact that they’ve done something right.  Nico’s “clicker” is actually a little LED light.  When he does something right, the LED lights up and he gets a treat.  Being deaf, he needs to be constantly vigilant about what his trainer is asking so as not to miss a cue to do something correctly and trigger that ever generous light.  It didn’t take Nico long to figure that piece out, and now his loving gaze in Julie’s direction often is followed by a series of hand signals and then the much anticipated treat when he does what he’s asked.  He has learned SIT, DOWN,  STAY, HEEL, COME, LETS GO, PLACE and NO!   “No” was his biggest challenge. Nico had to accept and make sense of “NO”, which meant whatever he is doing he, for some mysterious reason, had to stop, for example peeing on furniture, chewing on leashes or barking – all the fun things.  However he did get it and, while he simply doesn’t do the things that require the command “No” anymore, the little light flashes often as Nico is a quick study with the rest of his commands as well.

We have recently learned that, while we had expected Nico to be ready to be placed up for adoption this week, his journey to adoption will be delayed by a few more.  In the process of taking off some of the lumps and bumps on his battered body, it was discovered that a few of them contain cancerous cells.  Luckily the cancer is of a slow growing sort and the vet (a skin specialist) believes that they can be completely removed with another surgery.  The surgery will be on November 13 and we ask for your good thoughts for guidance on the surgical blades that they get all that needs to be gotten. Once he has recovered, we are excited to announce that he does have a family lined up who is very interested in adopting him so he may have the gift of a new home for the holidays!

I think that, in Nico’s journey to rescue thus far, we’ve all learned what it means to love.  We’ve learned the meaning of grace and the healing power of canine forgiveness.  We’ve learned that you should not judge a book by its cover and that it takes a village to make a difference in the lives of animals.  There are so many Nicos in this world waiting for your love and your faith.

(originally posted on PetcoScoop.com – 11/04/09)
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