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Yes, rescue pets can be used as special needs dogs!

Bronco was chosen by Denver  from several dogs checked out by a trainer.
Bronco was chosen by Denver from several dogs checked out by a trainer.
Terri Wardell

Terry W. was looking for a hearing assist dog for their son. The process included a trainer coming to their home to get to know the family. She wanted to observe their lifestyle since they try hard to match the dog to your style of living. This mom described their family as “fairly active and rambunctious.” The family has four sons who love to roughhouse and wrestle. With that in mind they preferred a larger dog since that is what they always had in the past.

According to Terri, they chose a rescue pet because they believed, “There are far too many homeless animals and purchasing from a breeder or pet store encourages breeding of unwanted pets.” She admitted they once got a boxer from a breeder since it was scheduled to be put down due to an under bite. So this family has been rescuing pets and saving lives all along.

Once the trainer chose a few dogs that might be suitable in temperament for the task required of them, their son Denver chose the final dog. The dog he chose is Bronco. This dog is very smart and was able to learn several signs in American sign-language within 10 minutes.

Being a rescue dog, he did come with several problems which had to be addressed. Being a dog that loved food he tried to steal food from your hand or surf the kitchen counters. When that didn’t work, he would also check to see if there was anything interesting in the garbage. This family was smart enough to know it was best to tackle one problem at a time so as not to overwhelm the dog or the family. Terri talks about the startle method they used, she claims with great success. “We kept a container of pennies or other objects handy and when he would be counter cruising we would throw it at the same time while saying “NO”.” Of course she reminds us they never threw anything at the dog just somewhere close enough to startle him.

A trick their trainer suggested worked well according to Terri W. She said, “I’m not sure how exactly to explain it other than a giant red piece of plastic is attached to a mouse trap. When he would hit the mouse trap, the giant piece of plastic would flop toward him, startling him. It was designed so it couldn’t actually snap him.”

“For the garbage diving, they bought a can with a flip top but this smart dog learned to step on the pedal. They solved that issue by simply turning the can around with the pedal facing the wall. Sometimes they would set noisy things on top too.” In just a few weeks he learned it was not acceptable.

"The biggest problem, said Terri, was his running off. They solved this problem with exercise- lots of it. They started out using tennis courts which worked well since they cannot run there. Eventually they worked up to a small dog park and advanced to taking him to Bear Creek. The believed since he is a Border collie mix, mental stimulation was vital as well.:

This intelligent dog can open doors for the cats, he can herd the ‘daycare children’ and knows spoken commands in addition to the sign language. His loving, stable nature was seen when he ‘mothered newborn kittens’ and washed guinea pigs. He has been chased by rabbits and still his good nature allows all the children to do anything to him from being sat on to being dressed like a princess.

Interesting to note, Bronco is a vegetarian by choice and often pushes bones away and ignores bacon scraps. Terri says he prefers spinach and tomatoes.

Terri relates a humorous story. She said in July of 2009, her grandson moved in with them, He was a baby only two months old. The dog Bronco kept waking his owner, their son Denver whenever the baby would cry in the night. Terri says, “It wasn’t until I heard, in the middle of the night, “It’s not MY baby! Wake them up! That I realized what was happening.” Too funny.

This story should give everyone dealing with a rescue dog hope. This animal has become part of a family and a hearing assist dog to Denver. The dogs still have the same good stuff inside even though they came from a shelter. They just may require a bit more work on the owner’s part to reach it.