Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love — which is literally what the name means — and that love came through for Andre and I when we came to town.
Not only did we get to see the birthplace of the United States, we got to visit the country’s first animal shelter ever, indulge in all the great food including, of course, (real) Philly cheesesteak, and Andre and I raced up the famous “Rocky” steps — although we don’t quite agree on who won!
But the real impact of the city’s love came in the form of a group whose name shocked me at first: Throw Away Dogs. I thought, “Who would want to throw away a dog?” Well, so did Carol Skaziak, the woman who founded the organization — but what she does with those unwanted dogs is very, very special.
With Carol’s help these dogs go from thrown away to working police dogs; from unwanted to having a purpose in life. I cannot express what a profoundly meaningful thing that is — whether for a person or an animal.
Andre and I were fortunate enough to be able to help Carol with Sting, a rescue Belgian Malinois who was very close to making it as a police K-9 except for one problem: He would try to bite anyone who touched his collar. Fortunately, the key was relaxation, for both the dog and his handlers, and he went on to success in his new career.
While the title “Throw Away Dogs” is very strong, their purpose is very real. The message behind the name is something I love and it really embraces that spirit of brotherly (or familial) love. One way in which the people of Philly exemplify the best of canine behavior is in being extremely loyal to their pack — or, in the case of Philadelphians, their teams, including the 76ers, Eagles, Flyers, and Phillies.
Of course, Andre and I also saw what can happen when a dog disrupts the team, which was the case with Carol and Steven Davis and their Chihuahua mix Rascal, who made it impossible for them to enjoy trips in their RV. Rascal is a great example of how little dogs can cause big problems, especially when we don’t learn how to assess their behavior and feelings in order to bring them to a better state of mind.
I see time and time again how people make their dogs anxious through a lack of direction, and teach them how to correct the problem by mastering the walk and making the dog more connected to you and helping you to be more connected between body, mind, and soul. The other key, especially if you have a rescue dog, is to not dwell in the past or pity the circumstances they were in. That was then. The best thing you can do for a “throw away” dog is to live in the present. Celebrate their rescue. Don’t lament the reasons why.
Finally, if your dog is anxious give them a calming place in the form of a crate or even just a comfy bed that they learn as their “place.” Create the association between that place and calm energy and it will have a calming effect on your dog whenever she goes there — and it will carry over to her behavior in general.
As I’ve said many times, our dogs reflect our energy, and one of the things Andre and I found in Philly is that the people there have a very definite, confident energy. As he put it, “You can tell the energy in Philadelphia. People have this energy to where they know where they’re going, there’s no need to ask questions, and they know how to do it because they’ve done it many times before.”
One thing that can be a challenge, of course, is when people’s determination keeps them stuck in a routine. Of course, I never tell people they’re wrong. I prefer to show them how to be right, so it was a little tricky sometimes. As Andre told me later, “When we went out there, we were telling these people, ‘You’re doing the right thing, but let’s do it a different way so you can get a much better success rate, 100% of the time.’”
In case you’re wondering, yes — people ask Andre for dog advice now, too, something that happened to him when he was off on his own in the city. “When they asked me questions,” he told me, “I made the tips as simple as possible, they were so used to the routine that they never considered what I had to say. Instead, you adapt to how they are and you find ways to best explain and make sure that they get your concepts and methods. And that gives a better success rate all the way around, because not everyone is the same, and I truly believe that.”
We proved that part about not everyone being the same when we raced up the “Rocky” steps at the museum, although we don’t quite agree on who won — because, of course, I did! — although he’ll tell you differently: “I put in much more effort, and I beat you.”
Stay calm, and win the race!