Buddy, Sadie, Penny and P.J. have a bright future now. But the youngsters were destined for the death house a couple of months ago.
The four orphaned dogs at the Clay County pound were not considered good adoption candidates, mainly because of their size and hyperactivity, and almost certainly would have been euthanized.
However, an innovative program has given them a new lease on life and a whole new attitude.
Animal Control Director Connie Goon and Wallace A. Scheurman, a professional dog trainer, are working together to improve the behavior characteristics of canines at the pound in hopes of making them more desirable household pets.
So far, three have completed an eight-week training course: Buddy, a border collie mix; Sadie, a German shepherd; and P.J., a golden retriever. Penny, a young Doberman pinscher, just completed her second week and is making good grades so far.
All had traits previously that would have made them difficult to place in new homes, such as being highly excitable and wanting to jump up on people all the time. But the training has calmed them down considerably.
"We have people interested in adopting all of them now," Goon said Wednesday. "I expect to place Sadie this week [in a new home], Buddy probably next week and P.J. in the next week or two."
Scheurman, owner of Scheurman's K9 Academy in Clay County and in Mandarin, arrives at 9 a.m. each Wednesday to conduct a two-hour free training class at the county animal shelter on Florida 16 near Penney Farms. Standing in front of his pupils and their handlers, he issues commands in a moderate tone of voice:
"Forward." "Left turn." "Stop." "Forward." "About turn." "Left turn." "Stop." "Sit." "Down." "Free your dog."
The dogs obeyed the commands even when tempted to break from the ranks by a cat that continuously sauntered in front of them Wednesday morning. Cue Tip, aptly named because of a white tip on the end of its tail, has lived at the shelter for 10 years and enjoys taunting the dogs, Goon said.
"Sadie would love to go after him, but she won't," Goon said, as Sadie sat beside her while anxiously eyeing Cue Tip the whole time.
The purebred German shepherd, who weighs about 70 pounds, was brought to the shelter about three months ago by a woman who "didn't want her anymore," Goon said.
"Sadie would jump all over you when we first got her," she said.
After eight weeks of training, the dog no longer jumps on people and responds to gentle voice commands, Goon said. …