Being There For Byron

Training Program: In-Patient Program
Program Start Date:  March 11, 2016
Hometown:  Charlestown, RI

This is a Cinderella Story for those who love their dog or dogs so please read on even though it appears long. Byron is a 7 yr. old Australian Cattle Dog that was rescued from the ACDRA (American Cattle Dog Rescue Agency).

The ACDRA is a noble organization to place Cattle dogs, who were owned by people who shouldn’t have owned them to begin with. Cattle dogs are made up of Kelpie, Dalmatian, Dingo and Bull Terrier. They can run next to a horse long distances in high heat, and make a 1000 lb. Bull with an attitude go where it tells it to. This is the breed that Brian was tasked with, but a screwed up, frightened version.

I received a phone call from Melonie Lainey, from Stafford Springs, Maine who is affiliated with ACDRA informing me of a Cattle Dog named Byron who was in need of a home. “Send me a picture” I said as I quietly groaned inside. Byron, apparently the unwitting victim of a divorce between owners who just didn’t care enough, was to be sentenced to be euthanized by a less than tolerant town Pound in New Hampshire. The picture sent showed a handsome Red Healer.

With very little thought to any possible repercussions, I said, “OK, I’ll take him”. The process started. I was checked out, very thoroughly I might add, to see if I was worthy to own such a fine animal, and before I knew it, Byron was dropped off at my home in late January. Not ten minutes down the road I knew this was not going to be an easy adjustment when the first dog fight broke out between Byron and my older male Cattle Dog, Jax.

A later inspection of Byron, who had immediately trusted me and smothered me with kisses and affection, revealed that his upper right canine tooth was missing, the back of his left top canine tooth was cracked and some lower case teeth were missing as well. This seemed quite suspicious. I also noticed that he would flinch every time your hand passed by his head to pet him and he had to be muzzled around strangers, which at this point was everyone he came in contact with

It was VERY clear that Byron exhibited very aggressive behavior towards humans and could not be trusted. It also became clear that, although Byron is very smart, he suffers from separation anxiety, or what appeared to be from my perspective. This was even more evident as Byron was my shadow to be tripped over at every turn of the corner, desperately needing to be by my side. Byron’s aggression continued with the pack for about a month until he finally yielded to my 12 yr. old big red Cattle Dog, Jax.

It was about that time that I started to search for a trainer who could help me out with Byron…so to the internet I went. The search was demoralizing and seemingly futile. No one returned phone calls, especially when I left a message after describing the issues that I was experiencing with Byron. So, I went to my local Veterinarians to seek advice and hopefully a referral. One office gave me 3 different phone numbers of trainers with “advice” to stay away from Canine Behavioral Services. None of the staff had worked with Brian or his company but they felt the need nonetheless to steer me away from based on hear-say and blind speculation, I guess.

I called the numbers they provided and once again no returned phone calls. Maybe they were all afraid of a difficult job? I realize this is speculation on my part but I was honest with my messages about Byron’s plight. I said, “this is probably not a job if you want your track record to remain untarnished”, I would tell them in my message. Byron was not a simple case of sit, stay and come.

It’s now the middle to late March and I’m becoming more and more anxious that Byron’s going to eventually bite someone. The one day, Byron slipped out of my grasp and went after the UPS lady. I was able to yell out “SHUT THE DOOR!” as she screamed and slammed the door, of that big brown truck, just in the nick of time. She laughed about it and told me she has been bit 7 times in her job and not to worry…. but I did. Byron left no doubt in my mind that we needed help.

The next morning Byron and I took a ride alone. That would turn out to be the morning that the good things started to happen. I pulled into Brian Manning’s home/ business and there was Brian in his driveway loading his truck. Our meeting started off as though I had just met an “alpha wolf”. As I stepped out of my vehicle with Byron, muzzled and on a leash, I began to explain my dilemma of Byron’s aggression. Before I could finish my story, Brian directed me to let go of my leash. I said “he’ll bite you”. “LET GO OF THE LEASH! – trust me”. I did and Brian proceeded to turn his back to Byron, Byron walked up and sniffed him and then totally ignored him. I knew I had found my trainer if he would only agree to take it on. My intuition was telling me failure does not bode well with this man.

That is when Bryon and I started on what I can only refer to as an “Awakening”. Enos, a famous philosopher said, “The hardest part about learning is unlearning everything that you learned or had misconceptions of”. Byron and I had just started our journey of unlearning and discovery.

Brian gave me my options on how it can be dealt with. Home “schooling” with Sessions at my home or intensive “rehabilitation” at his location with a specialized Board & Train Program. Between my limited finances because of a recent retirement and a swelled ego, I opted for the private In-Home Training for Byron and I.

Brian showed up at my home in very early April. It was a spot on spring day so we sat outside. For two hours I was filled with so much information about dogs I was ready to burst. All good stuff that I just didn’t know and I have been the guardian of dogs pretty much my whole life. We then took the “class” inside where he met the other dogs in my care. He carefully explained his drills to me that I was to conduct over the next three weeks. “EXACTLY as I show you!”, he said vehemently. I had a feeling he would know if I wasn’t doing it right.

Three weeks went by. I thought the training was going OK from my view. The dogs were becoming somewhat disciplined at the door and at feeding time. In an email, I explained how things were going and it was clear that Brian thought I hadn’t been conducting the exercises as well as he’d anticipated. I have to admit, I was a bit bummed out. Brian said, “Phil, it’s tough to do it exactly as I told you without me there to correct and guide you”. Jeez I really was trying. I was working with him for about 2 hours a day spread out in 3 different sessions.

I guess Brian knew more than I did at that point because it was then that I received an email recommending a 3-Day Evaluation at Brian’s facility for a fee to be applied to a Board & Train Program if the Evaluation deemed that necessary. I agreed and I dropped him off in Late April. 3 days later I get the news that my In-Home training is not going to anywhere near comprehensive enough of a process. Byron needs consistent everyday training. I chewed on what Brian said for a while and talked money. Brian was more than fair, actually down right generous applying all at home training fee’s that I had already paid – towards the final bill.

Well I was hit hard by Uncle Sam this year and I squired a bit but what the heck! IN FOR A PENNY IN FOR A POUND! This isn’t about me anyway; this is about second chances in life. The funds were provided and this is where Byron and Brian’s story begins.

I was informed I couldn’t disrupt training to see my buddy at any point for the next 6 weeks. It’s bad to break his focus and attention during training. I was told that pictures, videos and reports would come regularly.

Brian informed me he thought he could help Byron, but he also made me understand that there are no promises and that Byron could come back a much better dog but that the aggression could still be a problem. To me honesty is a very important virtue in a person. I was OK with knowing that the outcome might not be what I expected. [I hoped for the best and was preparing for the worst] If I had to build a kennel and let Byron live a good portion of his life behind bars…I was prepared to do so.

Now starts a long stream of emails. Brian is extremely good about getting back to you with answers to any questions or concerns. His communication with you as an owner is excellent!

Day1: “I still have 10 fingers and 10 toes. That’s a pretty good start.” was my first email from Brian Day 5: “Byron nearly got one of the staff.” NOT good, I thought. I followed the pictures and videos of Byron and I would comment to Brian and his staff with words of encouragement. I couldn’t ever, ever see Brian doing anything but his best and if any member of his staff wasn’t giving 110% they wouldn’t be working for him – that was all VERY clear to me. I believe Brian loves what he does and so does his staff so giving 110% comes easy to them from where I sit. In return, they made me feel from the beginning that the outcome would be positive.

The days rolled into weeks and low and behold, the reports on Byron’s progress start to become more positive and upbeat. The tone and tenor of Brian’s emails became more positive. Often times, this required some “reading in between the lines” as Brian is NOT one to “sugar-coat” anything.

We got to a point where Brian contacted me to schedule Byron’s Re-Home Session which was, at that point, scheduled for June 27th. But then, a day or two before he’s scheduled to come home – I receive an email requesting that Brian would like to keep Byron longer. Once again the dollar sign flashes in my head. I knew I was on a very tight budget until years’ end. So I ask, “How much extra is this going to be Brian?”. Honestly though – it didn’t matter really remember…. In for a penny, in for a pound! Brian replied, “Phil, this isn’t about the money, it is about success and I believe I’m at a very good place with Byron right now and he is improving rapidly”. I told you failure doesn’t bode well with this man. It’s also another sign that he does what he does because he likes what he does. So Byron was now to stay on with Brian and his team without any extra costs.

It’s now early July and I receive another email from Brian. This one requesting a consult with Brian’s Vet to discuss the potential benefits of medication for Byron…namely, he wanted to look into putting Byron on an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitor). I agreed. After all, I totally trust Brian and his judgment.

The better part of 2 weeks passes and I receive a very excited, somewhat emotional (for Brian) and happy email from Brian. It appears that Byron has hit a major breakthrough. The videos of Byron now show a confident, much happier, more confident dog…it looks as if Byron is no longer scared and at this point, almost 4 months in, it’s nearly time for Byron to say goodbye to camp.

Byron came home on Tuesday. I was thoroughly briefed by Brian and told no matter what – I am his LEADER and not just his “friend” for some time to come. Byron is not “fixed” he is healing and he needs a strong leader.

I have done much to prepare myself for this moment. I have read several books on animal behavior that Brian recommended (more like mandated!). After all, I have to understand what Brian is telling me as well as what Byron expects of me as his Leader. If Byron fails now it is because I failed him and the buck stops here.

Jax, tested Byron straight out of the shoot. As soon as they met once Byron returned, Jax got right up into his face and was barking. Where there would have been a serious dog fight 5 months ago there was a very calm Byron exhibiting incredible self-control. I encouraged Byron’s good behavior from watching the way Laura (Brian’s #1 Assistant) did it on all those great video’s. Thank you Laura!

I’ve had people walk by my vehicle while I stand around the corner out of sight to see how he will react. Byron remains in control of his newfound balanced behaviors. I’ve been taught to “control” Byron’s space to make him feel safe. All this was taught by Brian beforehand and I’ll tell you what – It works!

This isn’t the end of Byron’s story but the start of a new life for him and I promise to work hard to help him forget the habits of the past. There are going to be set backs along the way no doubt about it. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Byron will undoubtedly not be able to be trusted completely for some time, if ever, but he is a happier, mentally healthier dog.

Thank you Brian and everyone who worked so hard at making this all come to pass. Thank you for giving me the tools and the awareness needed to help Byron heal.

For those who don’t quite comprehend the gravity of this situation and the difficulty of what Brian and Byron faced – on a scale of one to ten, ten being the most difficult. Byron was an eleven. The “bulb” is not fully lit yet, but certain things that I saw in your videos or read in the books you referred me to, are really starting to catch and I’m starting to see that I CAN be the Leader that Byron needs to not only survive, but actually thrive for the remainder of his time here on earth. It’s simply amazing the wealth of knowledge you have worked to pass on to me – making sure that I’m not only going through the motions…but that I actually understand what it is that I am doing!

The incredible dedication to what these guys do here at Canine Behavioral Services Inc. should be highly praised. Their work is meticulous and anyone that has more than one dog knows how difficult it is to keep a home clean. With that said, Brian’s home/facility is cleaner than some public town or state buildings.

Whether you’re considering sending your four-legged friends for training or just to spend some time playing and learning from the Pack – your family members will receive the highest quality of care. So, no worries…you can go about your life without worry while they are at the “SPA” for Canines.

If you have finished this thank you for reading Byron’s Story. Listen to what Brian tells you and educate yourself for the benefit of your dogs. If you listen to, and follow, what Brian tells you – you will have enriched your life as well as the life and future of your dogs.

Once again and I can’t say it enough THANK YOU for helping when no one else would. Sincerely

Phil Holmes
Charlestown, RI

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