dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, Frankie, Gomer Pyle, hard to adopt, Pit bull

Testing My Assumptions About My Canine Good Citizens

Assuming anything about your dog is probably a mistake.

(Same goes for most people.)

When Gomer arrived, he was a manic, frenzied force, racing around my kitchen on his noisy toenails, tongue hanging out, pausing only to leap on any persons who happened by.

We took him for a walk with Frankie and he lunged at him over and over, snarling and yipping and frothing at the mouth. And when he was on his own, he attacked the leash itself.

I tried to contain him in the kitchen, and he leaped over the gate to follow me.

I thought, “Oh no, this dog is a nut case. It’s going to be a long summer.”

Turns out, that was a silly assumption.

Gomer, like so many dogs, was turned into the shelter with a sketchy history. The only thing clear was that he knew trash cans were the best places to find food. He didn’t know about leashes or crates or rules or expectations or manners. And Gomer, like all dogs, wanted to know what was expected of him. He wanted to be a good dog.

And in just two short weeks, that’s exactly what he’s turned out to be. He’s gotten better each day thanks to a structured day that includes time in his crate, behavioral expectations that earn him playtime with Frankie, time with me in my office, and supervised free time in the house. We got for short leash walks around the pasture and explore the woods.

He’s happy and calm. Yes, he can still get his happy going on overdrive, but the manic look in his eye is gone. He walks beautifully on a leash (unless a squirrel happens by – squirrels are his kryptonite). He sits at the door before he goes out and again when he comes in while I take off his leash. He refrains from jumping on most people (although the boys have a hard time enforcing this expectation).

The first time he jumped over a gate, I told him ‘no!’ and put him in his crate for a little time out. He tried it one more time and never again. He’s a quick study.

He knows he must sit nicely before he gets his dinner and he’s learned to hop right in his crate for a treat without hesitation.

I didn’t have time to take him on long walks this past week and I assumed this would make him harder to handle, but in fact, it’s been the reverse—he’s calmer. While the long walks were good for him physically, they maxed him out mentally. He’s anxious away from the house—passing cars, loose dogs, construction equipment, the neighbor’s donkey—these things worried him and sometimes caused him to panic. Eliminating them from his day has produced a calmer pup.

Ian has remarked that when Frankie and I are out, Gomer is very ‘chill’. He likes being the only dog. His manners and his control multiply exponentially. He sits in Ian’s lap, gobbling up the attention, happy as a little clam. In fact, the two have become best buds. Ian made this little video of Gomer yesterday-

At this point, Gomer’s worst fault is that he likes to lick you. All. The. Time. Legs, ankles, arms, faces, hands, whatever he has access to. It’s almost comical, except with Addie—she shrieks and yells at him, much like Lucy from peanuts, she doesn’t appreciate the dog germs.

What Gomer wants more than anything isn’t to run around my house or jump over gates or tackle the other dogs.

What Gomer wants it to make us happy. He wants to please. Seriously.

This dog. He’s like an earnest, fuller brush salesman willing to do anything to get you to buy what he’s selling – his absolute devotion.


So many of my assumptions about Gomer were wrong – I assumed that Gomer needed tons of exercise, time with other dogs, and that he would fight the enforced crate time. I was wrong on all counts. Gomer doesn’t need any more exercise than the next dog. While he likes to play with other dogs, they worry him and ramp up his anxiety. He’s happier and calmer on his own. And that crate? That’s the place where he can truly relax and feel safe.


What we have two weeks out, is a completely different dog than the one who arrived here– a pup ready for his forever family.

Gomer’s story is an unlikely one—he turned up at a crowded shelter as a basically feral dog and he was heartworm positive. Not many dogs with his history would have had a chance of getting out a shelter alive. But OPH believed in him. He’s been treated for heartworm and is well on his way to being an awesome family dog for some lucky family. And you know what? I think Gomer knows that. I think that’s why he’s so eager to please. I think that’s why he can’t stop kissing everyone.


And my other assumption – that Frankie was destined to fail his Canine Good Citizen Test? Well, after five weeks of preparation, leaping in the faces of dozens of ‘friendly strangers,’ endless loops of Home Depot where he dragged me towards passing children and away from passing forklifts, countless ‘high value treats’ fed to reinforce his sit-stay and hours on the leash working on not pulling me along like a toe rope, I still drove towards the test on Saturday already talking myself into accepting that he wouldn’t pass on the first shot. And that would be okay. He’s still my wubba bubba, I reminded myself.

And then……he passed!


canine good citizen (2)

Now Frankie is officially a Canine Good Citizen! The CGC certification is from the American Kennel Club. I’ve been asked why it matters, and other than enabling him to compete in AKC events, it wouldn’t matter, except that Frankie is an American Staffordshire Terrier.

As a ‘bully breed,’ his CGC is a big deal. It certifies that he’s not a dangerous dog and it will open doors for him – to train as a therapy dog, to take agility classes, to visit dog parks with bully breed restrictions, and if I lived in a county that had BSLs (Breed Specific Laws), having a CGC could mean the difference between being able to rent certain homes or get homeowner’s insurance or not. When Michael Vick’s dogs were rescued, none were allowed to be adopted out until they passed their CGC. While a CGC is good for any dog, it just matters a little bit more when you’re a pitbull.

And those puppies? They are sweethearts! With their happy attitudes, long noses and lanky, endless legs, I’m going with some kind of collie in their genealogy. It’s been fun to play with them in the puppy yard – Frankie has especially enjoyed them.

Sherry and Brinkley are very people oriented – choosing people over toys, treats, and other dogs. I’m surprised they haven’t got a line of adopters vying for them, but maybe it’s the time of year. The girls (as I call them) are easy to have around—they aren’t noisy (other than a few whines, I haven’t heard a sound out of them). They are neat, as puppies go, are enthusiastic eaters, and love everyone—even Gracie who continues to growl at them.

The ’80’s Ladies’ are excellent little guests, but I’m hoping they find their forever homes soon. No doubt they are CGCs in the making.

And as for Gomer, my money says he would be an ace in any doggie class.

Thanks for reading!

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COMING AUGUST 2018 from Pegasus Books and available for preorder now:

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7 thoughts on “Testing My Assumptions About My Canine Good Citizens”

  1. I absolutely agree that having that certificate is a good thing. When my late English Bull Terrier was just two she “intervened” when a barking chihuahua alerted us to a man who was attacking the woman who owned the chihuahua. She tore his pant leg and bruised his leg and broke the skin in a couple of spots before he ran off. Since a bite was involved, our dog was referred by police for an investigation to see if she should be given the designation of a dangerous dog. When the officials arrived, I had her three levels of obedience training certificates, puppy school, good citizenship and her agility stuff ready in addition to the vet work on her shots. They approached her, handled her and she was a perfect sweet lady with them. The paperwork really impressed them. In the end they decided she had behaved appropriately, had used only the amount of force required to defend someone and not a whit more (“He’s just lucky she didn’t shred his leg because being a bully she could have.”) No dangerous dog designation for her. I think the fact she did so well in such a high stress situation, especially her exquisite bite control, is directly attributable to great training she had at the school we went to. The certificates and paperwork proved it to the officials and spared us the dangerous dog designation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is such a fabulous story! Love reading it. You should be incredibly proud of your dog. I understand the prejudice some people have, but I hate how it is applied in a big blanket to all dogs. Every dog should work towards a CDC no matter what it’s breed, but Frankie will always be held to a higher standard simply because he’s an Am Staff. I worry more that my hound mix, Gracie will bite someone (she has before) than Frankie, but he’s the one who frightens people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She was a great dog. We had 12 wonderful years before she had to leave us. I wish I could have seen it. She pulled the leash out of my hand and took off out of sight. Others told me what my dog had done after I came running up huffing and puffing. As soon as she saw me, my dog relaxed and acted like nothing had happened. All in a day’s work for a dog I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for giving Gomer a chance! So often, once a dog settles into a home we see a whole different side, and do have to reassess our opinion of that dog. Yet too few people are willing to do that! And congrats on Frankie! Isn’t it nice to be wrong some times?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hello! My husband and I have be searching through the OPH website and came across Uptown Girl or Brinkley. Thanks for the lovely description and pictures. Quick question… Do you think she will grow into a large dog? At 3 months and only 12 lbs, perhaps she is mixed with a smaller breed? We are a bit tight on space in our apartment (but with plenty of green space outside) so we want to keep our future pup to 30 lbs or less. Thank you!


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