Merlin’s been with me for almost four months. He’s changed so much in such a short time – he’s more confident, happier, feeling secure enough to start asserting himself.

When we first started training, Merlin wouldn’t take any food. I used a ball or a frisbee as a reward – which wasn’t very effective, since the urge to play overrode his ability to learn. Now Merlin will work for treats, and is relaxed enough to try new things. I can use food to lure him into wrapping around a traffic cone, which is a great exercise for increasing flexibility. He’ll go over a jump and through a tunnel. He’s learning to offer behaviors, and is beginning to be willing to take some risks.

Merlin spent his first five years in a kennel run. In many ways, he’s a puppy in a six-year-old body. It’s a joy to watch his life expanding. He’s going on ‘park adventures’ with my friend the dog walker, months before I thought he’d be able to.

We’ve had our first battle of wills. Merlin’s started refusing to come inside from the yard, instead insisting that I come outside and throw the ball for him. I simply close the door, let him ‘kangaroo’ in front of it (he can jump really high), then open it and give him the opportunity to come in. So far he won’t give in; I have to get his collar and meet him in the middle of the yard, calling him to me. He does come to me at that point, and I can get his collar on him. I keep it lighthearted and fun, and we go inside with his tail wagging, until the next time.

A friend of mine came over the other day, her two wonderfully dog-savvy children with her. Merlin chose to stay in the living room with us; he was nervous, but wanted to engage with everyone. After we’d done some agility in the yard with Seelie and Gryphon, Merlin played with the kids. They’d throw a ball, he chase it down, bring it most of the way back, and wait eagerly for them to throw again, his entire focus on them. Watching my big puppy play with them was a bittersweet moment; I was so happy for him but at the same time wished for his sake his life had been different.

If his life had been different, he likely wouldn’t be part of mine. I hope we have many years of enriching experiences ahead for us.


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