Friday, August 26, 2011

Peggy Swager & Albert

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Peggy Swager. I’m a dog trainer who has also written dog books and articles. Two of my articles won DWAA awards.

Albert is a male Chihuahua. His estimated age is around four years old. He came from a puppy mill and was probably dumped by the puppy mill because he was a fear biter. I’ve learned a lot about the differences with Chihuahuas compared to other dogs from Albert, and by reading up on the breed.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I have coffee every day. Love the stuff. Al likes to hang out in the house in the morning while I sip my brew.

What's brewing?

I am confined to decaf coffee. Sometimes I have a Columbian, but currently I’m using Community Coffee medium-dark roast. I grind it fresh every morning and love it hot.

Any treats for you or Albert on this occasion?

Albert loves pancakes. So does my husband. So Ken makes some extra pancakes to share with Albert. This morning, I even ate a few pancakes, although I don’t do that so often.

How were you and Albert united?

I went to National Mill Dog Rescue to pick up Al's cage-mate, a Poodle. The Poodle was a very severe biter, and therefore deemed unadoptable. I wanted to see if I could reform him. They asked me to also take Albert who also had biting issues. I’m happy to say that although my husband and I were both causalities in the beginning, both dogs have reformed.

How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

Al is my favorite nickname for him. On his paperwork, his first name at the rescue was Abigail. He was so defensive when he first arrived that the rescue people couldn’t get near enough to him to do anything but toss food in the cage. However, when it came time to spay him, they ended up neutering him and renaming him Albert.

Please tell us about your new book.

My dog training book is called Training the Hard-to-Train Dog. The book was inspired a lot of problematic Jack Russell Terriers-- think every thing from submissive peeing to stubborn and take charge attitudes-- as well as other dogs I’d reformed, including one who attacked another dog in the household.

Does Albert have a favorite place to go for walk?

He loves walks, but when I took him to the Farmer’s Market, he wasn’t so sure of the larger dogs or the small children. But then, if you think about living your life in a cage for the first three years of life, only taken out for breeding purposes, and your captors are abusive....

Albert hasn’t learned to play with regular toys yet, but he will with time. What he does do is play with a dog biscuit. If you toss him one and it doesn’t tempt his nose taste buds, he begins to play with the treat.

What is Albert's best quality?

His capacity to love and to forgive.

If Albert could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Sometimes as we grow older, we can become touched with cynicism; we lose hope that things will change for the better. Albert inspires me and reminds me never to give up that things can change.

When you think about how abusive his first three years were, and that in a few months of opportunity he has changed so much, it gives you hope about a lot of things.

What is Albert's greatest need from whomever might adopt him? What would be his greatest gift?

Albert needs his new owner to take things at his pace. He still has some changes to do to fit in and to learn that “at ease about things” attitude we take for granted in other dogs.

But this little dog bubbles over with love and he really wants his own person, or persons, to hang out with.

Read more about Training the Hard-to-Train Dog at Peggy Swager's website.

--Marshal Zeringue