Rachel, Brad, Alice

Alice had floppy ears, was covered with freckles, and wiggled her whole body every time she saw us. How could we not fall in love with her? We both had grown up with dogs, though this was our first foray into “dog ownership” and we thought everything was just swell. Sure, Alice didn’t know how to walk on a leash and pulled us willy-nilly around the neighborhood. Yes, she could be a bit mouthy like a puppy who hadn’t learned manners - after all, boxers are a handful, especially when they need training! And yes, it was kind of annoying that she’d jump on us in the middle of walks for what seemed like no reason, or pounce on us when we walked in the door, or when we tried to sit on the couch. We worked with a trainer and found fixes, but had no idea we weren’t addressing the underlying problems. Then Alice started acting funny – and we don’t mean “haha” funny.

Suddenly our bundle of wiggles was up in peoples’ faces barking at them from only inches away. My mom, out of town guests, neighbors – the situation went from odd to terrifying in a nanosecond. We didn’t know what to do and called our trainer. She saw how Alice’s behavior had changed and recommended we meet the man who trained her, Linn Boyke. By the time we were supposed to meet Linn, we’d made the heart-wrenching decision to give Alice back to the no-kill rescue group where we got her. Things were intensifying and we didn’t know how to handle the situation, let alone the dog. We were devastated.

We went to Zen4K9s the day we were going to say goodbye to Alice. We were in crisis mode and could hardly keep from crying. We reasoned we’d keep the appointment so we could, at least, figure out what had gone wrong so we could be better prepared for any dog – rescue, puppy, or otherwise - we would ever adopt in the future.
We spoke to Linn while Alice sat quietly for a few moments before she got up in Linn’s business. He stood up and it was like magical lasers radiated out of his eyeballs at her to let her know he was the boss and suddenly, everything was OK. Very rarely do you have the opportunity to see someone doing something at which they are truly gifted, but when Linn told us we’d be OK we believed him.

We spent the next several months reinventing ourselves both as dog-owners and pack members. This is not a process for the feint at heart and requires a tremendous amount of work, commitment, and honesty. At times, Linn seemed like the scariest man on the planet as he forced us to toughen up, address ourselves and our pack, and take charge of our situation.

The most important affirmation of Linn’s practice is the fact that his approach to rehabilitation has extended well beyond simply addressing the stated problem of pack leadership. Before we met Linn, we vastly underestimated the breadth of knowledge that awaited us. Linn illuminated so much about our dog’s emotions to us that now we joke that Linn is Alice’s English teacher! (He’d say that he taught us Elementary Dog language). Since we brought Alice home, the dynamic has changed in numerous positive ways.

The most important consequence of our work together has been us becoming acutely aware of how to communicate with our dog. It is a gift that we suspect very few dog owners in this country have the privilege of experiencing. We have joy that almost cannot be properly expressed in words thanks to the knowledge Linn imparted upon us.