My Pack: The Story of ZenaNov 17, 2021
The Story of Zena
Five years ago, at the age of three months old, Zena was abandoned in a box during a winter snowfall. Floppy eared, one blue eye and one brown eye, with her brindle coat. Who could resist the cuteness? The day I laid eye on her, I fell in love. She was beautiful and crazy. The Owner and Veterinarian took in Zena, previously known as "Ziva" from NCIS. I only changed it because Zena, would dive into mud pits. From then on out I started calling her "Zena The Mud Princess." She is my daughter so we already know she is a warrior but also a muddy one. Puppy Zena, spent most of her days terrorizing the front staff of the Vet clinic, I was working at. When she wasn't upfront at reception, she was in a kennel or with daycare dogs. Zena was only a few months at the time, she was still teething pretty severely. She loved to bite and nip at all of the staff's clothes, especially their scrub pants and pull downwards.
I knew Zena was going to be a challenge but I was up for it at that time. When I agreed to take Zena, I was already six months into working with my current dog Stark to work him through his aggression. Read Stark's story here. Zena was wild as a puppy with absolutely no "off" switch to relax, and a typical crazy puppy exploring the world through her mouth. She had pent-up energy from living at the Veterinarian and not getting the proper mental or physical exercise a puppy needs.
Zena needed structure, boundaries, and an outlet to be a silly high-energy puppy. Zena started being the first dog I ever "officially" trained close to five years ago. No matter how many walks we went on, if we did daycare or the dog park, Zena was always high-energy and ready to go. Zena became more reactive because of the training methods I used and overspecializing her. Yes, there is a thing of too much socialization for dogs. At the time, I did not know better. I was doing the best I could at that given time. When we know better, we do better.
Zena has taught me so much as a trainer and dog mom. She is a husky pit mix with the highest prey drive I have ever seen in a dog. Ever since she was a puppy, she has screamed at squirrels. I can not tell you how many objects have been a victim of Zena's puppyhood. She has had severe allergies since she was 1.5-2 years old. She can be a mouthy girl, literally will yell at me.
When I first began my dog training career, I was always told that a "tired dog is a good dog." That theory is problematic and can create other problems like over-arousal or inability to relax. The other problem with that mindset; is that it ignores the dogs needs more than just physical exercise. Mental exercise and enrichment are what little puppy Zena was missing in her life. Yes, is she still crazy at times? Absolutely. The problem was never Zena. The problem was me; I was not communicating with her properly or giving her species-appropriate activities. Once Zena's needs were met through enrichment and thinking more, there was little to zero trash digging.
(Yes, Zena had the privilege of walking me down the aisle.)
I say all of this to help you realize that no dog is perfect. Rarely are dogs born understanding our confusing worlds and being the ideal companion with no effort. Creating a 'perfect' dog takes time and patience, but it can be done. Every dog deserves to have an owner willing to grow and learn to become the best dog parent they can be.