March 7, 2013

The Patient Tutor

Giacomo and Slick

Giacomo & Slick

This was originally posted on Jackie Burris’ blog, Housewife Blues and Chihuahua Stories. It was part of the Paws With a Cause bloggers fundraiser. And it’s been fun. If you’re fond of animal stories, stop by and check them out.

When Jackie asked me to write something about one of my animals, I thought…sure, that’ll be easy. After all, we have 46 of them now, and over the years we’ve had lots of others come through our sanctuary. Some stayed a short while, most stayed until they passed.

But when faced with picking just one of the many wonderful animals to write about, I was lost. I jumped back and forth between so many fine examples. When I asked my wife, though, she knew immediately who to select. So, here’s my story. It’s about…


Kelly, The Patient Tutor

Kelly was an Australian Shepherd, a breed of dogs known for their high energy levels and demanding personalities. Kelly was unique. I know what you’re thinking—all dogs are unique. And you’re right. But Kelly broke the mold for her breed. She didn’t fit the “norm” for the Australian Shepherds. She didn’t even fit the norm for a dog. I think Kelly thought she was one of us. She certainly acted like it.

Kelly regal


She had a…regal attitude, as you can probably tell from the picture. And she treated the other dogs as if they were beneath her.

Enjoying Life—on Kelly’s Terms

I have had a lot of dogs in my life, but I don’t know if I’ve had another one that enjoyed life like Kelly. She loved playing ball, as long as it was on her terms. She would accept lobs or high pops only—if you threw line drives or ground balls to her, she refused to fetch the ball.


She also loved swimming and taking the young dogs into the pond. But…if they dared to get in front of her, she would dunk them as a lesson. They didn’t do it again.

When it came time to get treats, Kelly would sit patiently while my wife gathered the goodies. If any of the other dogs tried to get a treat before Kelly, she nipped them in the face—gently, but a firm warning.

Kelly teaching Slick

Kelly teaching Slick

And if the puppies got too rambunctious, Kelly would reprimand them. This picture shows her “teaching” our new dog, Slick, that he needed to calm down.

Of all the lessons Kelly gave though, the one she was “known” for the most was her traps. When she wanted to teach the other dogs patience and respect, she would set traps using food. Her most famous traps were baited with pieces of steak.


At this time, we had about fifteen dogs. Whenever we cooked steak, my wife would trim the fat and cook it for the dogs. After the meal, when my wife handed out the trimmings, Kelly wouldn’t eat hers. She would take her piece of steak and set it on the floor next to the doorway, between the kitchen and the family room. Then, she would “hide” behind the wall and wait.


Kelly, with Slick & Mollie

Kelly, with Slick & Mollie

As soon as one of the other dogs came to get her steak, Kelly snapped at them viciously. Sometimes this went on for half an hour, until all the dogs learned that was her steak and was off limits. She continued this behavior right up until a few days before she passed. This picture with Slick and Mollie was one of her traps. You can’t see it, but there was a piece of meat on the floor that she was using as bait.

A New Leader

After Kelly was gone, Bear took over the Alpha Dog role. He was a completely different dog than Kelly, and he was as tough as nails, but imagine our surprise when, on the first night we had steak, Bear set a trap—exactly like Kelly used to do. In the same spot, and in the same manner.



Bear & Luigi

Bear & Luigi

Bear continued to set traps with other things. The picture shown is a trap just being set for our young Great Dane pup, Luigi, using a chew strip. Just after the pic was taken, Bear set the strip down in front of Luigi, and waited. You can see the warning in Bear’s eyes.

Bear now lives with our grandchildren, but his daughter, Mollie, has taken over the Alpha role, and to our surprise, she is teaching the young ones the exact same way that Kelly taught.

It hurts to lose a loved one, especially one like Kelly. But it brings happiness back when I see her memory living on in some of her “students.”





Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of MURDER TAKES TIME, MURDER HAS CONSEQUENCES, and A BULLET FOR CARLOS. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

2 Responses to “The Patient Tutor”

  1. The King (or Queen) dogs are always amusing…the things they come up with to demonstrate their super status!

    But how is it decided who is King or Queen? They seem to crown themselves. ha ha!

  2. Yes, they crown themselves and then dare the others to take the crown.

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