I knew I had to move on. I had to pick myself back up, and allow my heart to open up to a new companion, not only for myself, but also for my miniature American Shepherd. She had lost her brother, and I had lost my heart dog. Although still mourning my recent loss, I started on a quest to find another puppy as a new playmate for my dog, and for myself, a new furry friend to love. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was the one. Roly poly, pushing through the others to get to me as I sat on the ground, and as soon as that first lick of his moist tongue touched my cheek, I was in love. Leaving the breeders, my husband chuckled and said, “he’s going to be pretty big, did you see those feet.” We had always had small dogs, but I told myself, “he’s not going to get THAT big.” Three weeks later, when going back to the breeder to bring him home, I almost didn’t believe the puppy she brought out to me was the one I had chosen. He had almost doubled in size and yes, his feet were huge! With a twinkle in her eye, Lynn handed my Australian Shepherd puppy to me, and armed with a packet of paperwork, we were off. Once home, introductions were made to our other dog and our new addition Caiden became a part of our family.

The first 3 months went well; potty training went smoothly, sleeping through most of the night with only a few wake up calls, but as Caiden began to grow, so did his exuberance for life. There was no turn off button on this puppy! I had never had a puppy with quite this much energy and headstrong, good grief, he wanted to do things his way, and his way only! Australian Shepherds are herding dogs, and while he never nipped at my heels, jumping up and grabbing at my arms and back gave him great pleasure. In our house, trying to jump up and tear coats off of our coat rack was a great joy. Kitchen tables were meant to be explored and counters-Caiden realized these great flat surfaces held wonderful things like food! Needless to say, I was at my wits end at how to manage my little Tasmanian devil. During one of our vet visits, I noticed a flyer for Bella’s K9 Academy and I knew this was my sign from above telling me “here is the person who is going to help you.”

That first class was embarrassing. Caiden barked through most of it, lunging at the other dogs, and I wanted to hide under a rock. I figured we would probably get kicked out, but Bella was patient, didn’t point fingers or shout “hey you with the wild dog” and we survived that first hour. Given our lessons to work on for the next week, something inside of me said “we can do this.” We practiced at home, and went back week after week. Some days were better than others. When learning “down”, Caiden, wanted to do it “his” way. He would roll around, grab at my arms and hands and frustrate me to no end, but, little by little, small changes were happening. Caiden and I were learning to become a team and Bella was teaching me about the meaning of the word patience. I learned to breathe, shared my problems with newly made friends in the various classes we took, and realized Caiden wasn’t really a bad dog, a lot of it was me. I was trying to replace the heart dog I had lost, and I woke up one day to realize that my heart dog could never be replaced, and that I had never really given Caiden a chance.

We continued to take classes and I found a new passion in life. I looked forward to the classes we took, and Bella taught me something new every time we attended. There were still times when Caiden would misbehave, but his behavior had come a long way from that rebellious puppy who wanted his own way.

Then came the day when class was postponed due to an upcoming competition for Bella and her dog Bannock. I was really intrigued to find out what the competition world was about. At the competition, watching Bella and Bannock in the ring, a desire was born to see if it would be possible for Caiden and I to try our hand in this new exciting world. Bella helped me fill out the forms for our first competition, and with some hesitation, the forms were sent out. The time came for our first competition and Caiden and I were both a bundle of nerves, but we did it, we made it through the course! We didn’t do extremely well, but we weren’t disqualified either, and earned our first qualifying ribbon. My heart soared, I was so proud of Caiden and he had behaved beautifully around the other dogs. We then tried our second competition, (doubts were still there that we could do this) but we again earned a qualifying ribbon. The third competition didn’t fare as well. Only showing under female judges, we had a male judge and Caiden, (being reserved with some men) growled at the judge as we entered the ring. We disqualified that day, but I felt in my heart, it was still possible to get Caiden’s first title. The next competition we were ready. Going into the ring, things were moving smoothly until the dog in the next ring barked while jumping over a bar and Caiden, being Caiden, barked back. I figured we had lost points for Caiden’s mishap, and were probably disqualified again, but I was wrong. We had done it; Caiden had earned his third leg which gave us our first official title! Getting hugs from Bella and friends, the tears came, but they were tears of joy. My sometimes obnoxious, headstrong, yet very loveable dog, had earned his first title.

And how can you ever thank someone enough for believing in you? Bella always believed in us, as she does all of her students, when I had so many uncertainties. I can truly say without any hesitation, without Bella’s help and encouragement, neither Caiden nor I would be where we are today. Caiden is still Caiden, but the road we travel now is a much smoother path and I have Bella to thank for that. So, if you are searching for help with issues your pet may have or just need a refresher course, you cannot go wrong by taking classes at Bella’s.
And Bella, thank you – thank you for doing what you dearly love and just being you!