If you’re part of the positive training community, you probably know Layla. I honestly don’t know how she became so well-known. Certainly, I’ve posted about her to plenty of positive training lists. But my posts have generally been about our training challenges: things like her resource guarding, dog aggression, stranger aggression, aggression towards kids, biting me… the list goes on. Not to mention her many health problems: horrible allergies, urinary incontinence, hot spots that develop from little nicks and scrapes due to her worrying at them constantly. Not exactly the model of an “ideal” dog, Layla. Of course, I’m crazy in love with her, to steal one of Patricia McConnell’s phrases. She continues to be one of the best teachers I’ve ever encountered, and her lessons continue to make me a better person. I still don’t understand why so many people who have never met her are so crazy about my little dog, but I’m glad they are.
The first time I met Layla, I thought there was something seriously wrong with her. I’d love to say that we had an immediate connection, that I knew she was going to be My Dog someday. But that wasn’t exactly the way it worked. I was working at a local shelter at the time, and Layla had just been surrendered by her owner, who could no longer deal with her. She was stuck in quarantine to prevent the spread of any diseases she might be carrying. I entered the quarantine ward, and immediately this tiny little black puppy went nuts. She was in one of the bigger kennels, so she had lots of room to run around. But she didn’t run. Instead, she started spinning in crazy circles, her eyes huge and wide, her tail whipping back and forth as fast as it could go. She was completely silent, other than the sound of her nails clicking on the floor. But she was out of control. I picked her up, and her little legs started going as fast as they could, as if she could run away from the whole situation to somewhere that would make her feel less crazy. Her eyes were still huge. When I saw that she wasn’t going to calm down, I set her back in her kennel. And she went back to spinning.
As usual, I got the adult quarantine dogs outside to their kennels first. The shelter hours left a lot to be desired, so I always tried to get the housetrained dogs out first, since they had to be uncomfortable after 14+ hours of “holding it.” Then I hooked Layla up to a leash and walked her outside. I was glad to see that she could walk in a straight line – I’d been worrying about whether she had some sort of neurological condition. But she zigged and zagged her way outside, pulling like a freight train on the leash and acting as frantic as ever. Then we got outside. And she immediately squated and peed. I realized that this tiny, 7lb, 12-week-old puppy, had held her bladder all night long. She was housetrained! After she peed, she ran up to me and started frantically scratching and clawing at my body, trying to climb me in her need to say hello. I left her darting around her outdoor kennel while I went back inside to clean the quarantine ward. And that was how I met Layla.
I’m not a very good trainer. I can be lazy and impatient at times, and I don’t spend nearly as much time just being with my dogs as I should. But Layla continues to improve me, and I want to share my journey with her. She’s a special little dog, and I’m always going to be crazy in love with her.