If you look up transformation in a dictionary, one definition you will find is “a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal”. We all go through changes in life, but specifically, what we are talking about is metamorphosis. A drastic and complete “change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one.”
Act One - Hugo the Service Dog
Hugo is a German Shepherd that was trained as a Service Dog to assist his boy, Tyler. Hugo was surrendered by a family who had a newborn baby and found themselves with little time for the antics of a rambunctious puppy. He was soon trained as a service dog to help Tyler mitigate his autism in addition to alerting him to the smell of dangerous gases. Tyler and Hugo spend lots of time together in school, at work and running within the community. Hugo participates in Cross Country as well as High School marching band. Tyler and Hugo have made remarkable strides together since being paired a few years ago. These two have lots ahead of them, including a special goal.
Act Two - Star the Police Dog
Star’s life started off by being chained to a tree. The Belgian Malinois mix was rescued by a local group and later trained as a police dog to locate drugs and people. After her training, three law enforcement agencies turned her down after seeing her picture. She was paired with Ryan Millbern and spent her career at the police department in Vail Colorado and the two had considerable success during their time there. Vail needed a very special type of police dog and Star fit the bill. For Ryan, it was a dream job that changed his career path considerably. For Star, it was a brand new life.
Act Three - Sully the Dock Diving Dog
Sully, a 23 pound Cockapoo, had a rocky start with his first family. He was growling, snapping and biting, in addition to jumping on furniture and the kitchen counters. His family sought the help of a professional dog trainer, Kress Walters, who ultimately adopted him. Kress has helped Sully go on to do some pretty amazing things, particularly for a dog his size. Sully is a four-time World Competitor in Dock Diving and he also climbs trees, rides horses, does parkour and bed bug detection.
Click ‘Show transcript’ below to read the transcript from this episode of A Life of Dogs.
A Life of Dogs Podcast – Season One, Episode One (S1 E1)
Episode Name: One Man’s Trash
Kelly and Tyler Gertz; Ryan Milburn; Danielle; Kress Walters
Chris: A Life of Dogs is brought to you through support from Highland Canine Training, offering professional dog training solutions and premier canine education. Learn more at www.highlandcanine.com.
Jason: Welcome to our show, A Life of Dogs. I’m Jason Purgason and this episode is about transformations. If you look up transformation in a dictionary, one definition you’ll find is a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal. We all go through changes in life, but specifically what we’re talking about is metamorphosis – a drastic and complete change of the former nature of a thing or person into a completely different one. The subjects in this story, they made a choice to create a connection with a dog, all for different reasons. These weren’t ordinary dogs, though. Each of these dogs had a story to tell and a lesson to teach. This is our inaugural episode, a story we call One Man’s Trash. Chris Anderson tells what happened, which begins with a high school graduation.
Woman: Every person here today has accomplished something important. They made it here today to graduate from high school. I am truly honoured to stand before you today at this wonderful accomplishment, one of many these students will achieve in the future. I would also like to take a moment…
Chris: That’s the commencement for Davenport West High School, Class of 2017. Hundreds of kids are walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, much like what happens in every city across the country in early summer. This particular commencement is quite different though. It includes the boy named Tyler and his service dog, Hugo.
Announcer: Tyler James Gertz
[Applause and cheering]
Kelly: You know what? I honestly don’t know that 10 years prior to that happening that I did envision it. It was so day-to-day with everything and we weren’t really sure what Tyler’s future held. So Tyler did things at graduation time. Tyler did things in high school and Tyler has done things since graduation that we…not that we had low expectations for Tyler, but we weren’t sure what his capabilities would be. We weren’t sure how much he would grow. And so when we got to the time for graduation and we watched him walk across the stage and he had Hugo with him, it was pretty amazing because a lot of people had hopes and dreams for their kids and they want their kids to be a doctor or they want certain occupations or certain college experiences and that sort of thing for their kid, and we just weren’t sure what to expect or what would be reasonable for us to expect.
So when they walked across that stage together, that was probably one of the most overwhelming feelings that I felt in my life. And then we talked about college and Tyler tried college and we never thought that college would even be a possibility, let alone something that we would think he could be successful at. Your thoughts and your feelings and your expectations change over the years, but I think ours changed a lot more than we expected them to, just because Tyler seems to always go way above and beyond what we think he’s capable of and he proves us wrong a lot.
Chris: That’s Kelly, Tyler’s mom. Even though Hugo is Tyler’s dog, Kelly loves being around Hugo and telling his story.
Kelly: Yeah. My understanding is that, as a puppy Hugo was with a family who had a new baby and that just wasn’t a good situation for them having a new baby and a dog at the same time. Seems to me like maybe they didn’t have enough time to train Hugo as he probably needed to be trained, and so obviously choosing between a new baby and a dog, they’re going to choose the baby. So they decided that Hugo needed to go somewhere else and serve another purpose.
Chris: Kelly has stayed in touch with Hugo’s original owners through the years and they followed Hugo’s journey throughout his life. At about four months of age, Hugo was given up to be trained to help someone. He was evaluated and found to be outgoing, active, and had an incredible work ethic. At around seven months of age, it was determined that Hugo may be a good match for Tyler. So the decision was made for the two to meet.
Kelly: That was kind of a magical moment. When we came to Highland to meet Hugo, before that, we still had a little bit of doubt left in our minds with Tyler even having a dog because when he was much younger, he was really scared of dogs and he had really come around, and we talked to him a lot about what a service dog would do and so he got mentally prepared for it, but we were a little nervous as how it would be when he actually was face to face with the dog. So when we came to Highland, Hugo came charging in the door and was running around in circles, very excited to meet Tyler. And I don’t know, it was just a strange thing. When they first met, Tyler had always struggled with eye contact and that sort of thing. And I noticed right away as soon as Hugo jumped up on his lap, there was that instant eye contact and that kind of struck me because that was something that Tyler struggled with. So right off the bat and even before we knew if Hugo was going to be a match for Tyler, he was already seeming to help him and make a difference.
Chris: Tyler is an 18 year old that has autism, a brain injury and his olfactory senses are non-existent. This has resulted in 16 surgeries during his lifetime. Tyler needed a service dog to help him in a number of ways. Hugo was trained to perform a variety of tasks to mitigate Tyler’s autism and was also taught to alert to dangerous smells such as propane and natural gas. Here’s Tyler.
Tyler: He’d go lay on me when I’m upset. He watches me and makes me feel better. He also will use his paws to touch me and distract me from making it stop.
Chris: In addition to all of his training. Hugo also offers some unexpected fringe benefits.
Tyler: My favorite thing about Hugo is that he’s my best friend. He goes to work, school and all my activities with me and all my people friends love him.
Kelly: That made Tyler a pretty popular kid, to be honest with you. Again, it was a situation where a lot of kids knew Tyler and they knew Tyler was a good kid, but they really just didn’t have any reason to talk to him. They didn’t have anything in common with him necessarily and probably was a little socially awkward. So I think they felt a little bit uncomfortable approaching him and even attempting to strike a conversation with him. So with Hugo there, again it comes back to that everybody loves dog situation, and people were curious about him and wanted to know about him. And so people felt more comfortable approaching Tyler, and having a conversation with him because they didn’t feel like they were being artificial and they felt like it was a more natural conversation and they really did have a genuine purpose for talking to him.
And it gave kids a huge opportunity to really get to know Tyler, so it wasn’t just that Hugo was the only thing that they had in common, but it was a starting point for them to get to know Tyler better and to understand him and to even ask questions about his situation and having autism and everything, because you know that he has autism. But what did you say about that? How do you ask about that? So when you ask about the service dog, you can talk about the things that Hugo does for Tyler, and then that gives an understanding to the people talking to him about what his disability is and what his limitations are and what extra supports he needs. The connection between Tyler and Hugo is pretty cool because it’s very nonverbal, which is very ironic because Tyler really struggled with nonverbal communication, with the body language, with different things like that.
There’s obviously the commands that Tyler uses to have Hugo heel and walk next to him and to stay and to be in a certain place when he wants him to be in a certain place while he maybe is doing work at work or something like that. But especially I noticed that when they’re running, they just kind of get into this rhythm together and they are constantly checking each other’s proximity and making a little bit of eye contact here and there. Tyler has some clicking noises that he uses that they’ve just kind of come to know of each other. Hugo won’t respond when I do them or anybody else does them, but when Tyler does, he knows Tyler’s my person and when he clicks his mouth a certain way, that means I need to come over and be closer to him or that sort of thing.
So the connection between them, it’s pretty amazing. Like I said, because with Tyler not being able to really look at another human being and understand what a scowl on their face might mean or when they may need to back up because Tyler’s too much in their personal space, Tyler and Hugo seem to get that between each other and Tyler can really connect with Hugo and kind of tell him what he means without verbalizing it. And obviously Hugo doesn’t verbalize, so he understands what Tyler’s needs are when Hugo give him those cues.
Chris: In a short period of time. Tyler and Hugo have developed an incredible connection. Tyler has always loved running and having Hugo join him at his cross- country competitions made their connection even stronger.
Crowd: [Applause and cheering]
Tyler: Running with Hugo is one of my most favorite things to do. When we run together, we get in a really cool rhythm together.
Kelly: Tyler and Hugo were the first high school athlete-and-dog duo to participate in high school athletics in the state of Iowa. They were the second in the country and once everybody found out about that, it became pretty big news,
Chris: It was definitely pretty big news. Tyler and Hugo were inducted into the Iowa Hall of Pride and featured in Runner’s World Magazine and People Magazine, just to name a few.
Kelly: I think it was just kind of a situation where it made people realize that there isn’t a lot of things that can limit people. You just have to do it. You have to go out and you have to talk about what your situation is and make accommodations, especially for people with disabilities. You know, we never imagined that Hugo and Tyler would be separated, or that they wouldn’t do something together. Then when the topic came up for participating in cross-country running, it had never been done in the state of Iowa. So we had to work closely with the high school, with the School District, with the Iowa High School Athletic Association, to establish kind of a new protocol for that just because it hadn’t been done before. So that was kind of a good opportunity for us. It was important to us that it happened, that they did run together and that they did have that opportunity to participate together, and also to make sure that the groundwork was laid right for that so that if anybody in the future does that, they’re not going to have a lot of red tape to try to get through in order to be able to do that.
Chris: Tyler and Hugo’s story isn’t over. There is still plenty of their book together that remains to be written. Tyler has a goal and that’s important for somebody his age. Tyler’s goal is to run a 5K in all 50 States.
Kelly: They’re training, they’re still working on it. They have got two States down, so Iowa and Illinois, but they still run, they still train and Tyler’s working now, so he’s going to be able to provide a little bit of financial support to make that goal happen. But I don’t know if we’ll get to do it in every state or not, but we’re definitely watching them continue to run, which is a really cool thing because there’s not a lot of high school sports that you can take to your adult life and running is one of those things that you don’t need anything but a pair of shoes, you know? They probably run 15, 20 miles a week still and they train and they probably run a 5K in our neighbourhood at least twice a week. Sometimes it’s at the YMCA on a treadmill, but they’re going to keep working towards that goal. They definitely trained up to do it and I think next year he’s going to try for the half marathon. This past year, he got sick and wasn’t feeling real healthy right before so he decided not to do the half marathon this year, but they may try to do that next year, and just having that goal out there keeps them active and keeps them training and keeps them having something to look forward to.
Chris: What was once a rambunctious and wild German shepherd puppy transformed into a highly trained service dog that has become a major factor in the life of a boy with autism. Tyler has also changed from being a tall, awkward kid that no one knew how to interact with, to becoming a popular kid in school who is now easily recognized as he is seen running through his community with Hugo.
Chris: Police dogs have been used in the United States for decades. They are trained to find drugs and explosives, locate suspects, and even apprehend criminals. Police dogs are dedicated and loyal partners to the human counterparts, able to perform tasks that are otherwise impossible. These dogs are invaluable assets to the agencies they serve. Only a small percentage of the canine population is capable of performing the job. Most police canine stories don’t start off with a dog that is chained to a tree. However, this story is quite different.
Ryan: Well, I know a lot about Star’s history prior to her time with me. Unfortunately, she was horribly abused as were the other dogs at the property where she was found. She was abused very heavily, both physically and as far as having to fight each other and fight with other dogs to get food. She was chained to a tree out in the elements there in Iredell County, North Carolina, and thankfully, someone called in to the Humane Society of Iredell County who came to Star’s rescue as well as some of the other dogs at that particular property and rescue her.
After Iredell County got her, they tried their best to train her to just be a pet dog, to just kinda trust humans again, because obviously she wasn’t very trustful of humans after being abused so horribly and Iredell County did everything they could with her, but she’s just still was not able to be adopted to a family in a pet dog scenario. So thankfully they reached out to Highland Canine and they were able to take her on and just absolutely worked a miracle with her. Turned her around completely from a very fearful, aggressive dog into not only a dog that was great in a home setting, but they also were able to develop in her, that internal drive to be a top notch police dog.
Chris: That’s Ryan Milburn, a police officer and dog handler who has worked with police and detection dogs in the US and abroad. Early on, he had a dream of becoming a police dog handler and he worked pretty hard to make that dream come true.
Ryan: Well, for years and years in police work, I always, from the very beginning wanted to be a canine officer. I was hired with the Vail Police Department in the Colorado and from essentially from day 1, I was doing everything I could to bring a canine to our department. Our department had never had one. We were right on I-70, in that high intensity, drug trafficking corridor, and so I thought it would be a great thing for the department, but to be honest, I thought it would be a great thing for me as well because that’s what I always wanted to do. So, again, essentially from day 1, I started scouring the internet, magazines, everywhere that I could to find out more about canine work and where we might be able to obtain a canine for our department.
Being that it was a very unique part of the country and a unique part of our state, just a stereotypical canine wasn’t really going to work in our jurisdiction, and our chief was extremely concerned about the public perception of a canine in our department. So in doing that, I definitely had some requirements from the Chief of what he would accept and what he wouldn’t, and a bit dog was definitely not going to be something that he would sign off on. He also essentially told me that there would zero funding for it, so I would have to find my own funding and get it essentially completely on my own. So in my searches, I came across the Paul LeBlanc Scholarship that Highland Canine offered, and so I saw a picture of at that time Star, who is a Belgian-Malinois mix, was on Highland canine’s website under the Paul LeBlanc Memorial dog donation page. So I personally, I instantly fell in love with her. It was a very cute picture of a very young female Malinois that had a little patch of white and one floppy ear. So to me, I thought that our community and our chief would buy off on that because she was such a sweet looking dog.
Chris: Ryan worked in the most popular ski town in the United States. It’s a quaint village that is quite affluent and even the home to a number of celebrities. As such, they needed a special dog for the police department. Just any dog wouldn’t fit the bill.
Ryan: Vail was a very unique community in that we had extremely wealthy folks that lived in town. We have the ski company there as our main economy, and part of what runs the ski economy are international workers that come and work the ski lifts and work in all the restaurants and what not. And for us, obviously winter was the key for that, but those workers come back and forth. So for us in the Northern Hemisphere, they would come and work our winter and then immediately go back down to the Southern Hemisphere and continue their ski employment at ski resorts in the Southern Hemisphere. So we would get a lot of folks internationally from all over the world that would come and work, but also to come and travel. So we did have a lot of connections with international drug trafficking and what not. And so with Star, my chief was extremely concerned about how our community in general would take a police dog, especially in having a single purpose or just a dope detection dog, as opposed to an attack dog or a dual purpose dog. So that was one of the things that chief had put as a No-Go was if we got a dual purpose dog. So that’s where Star came in so handy.
Not only was she great at finding drugs and be at interdiction stops on the highway or even in town with some of our international folks coming and going, she was just a sweet dog and looking at her, she was not intimidating at all and I think most people have an idea of what a Belgium Malinois looks like and she’s got some Belgian Malinois in her, but with the floppy ear, the white notch on her chest and just her silly personality, there was nothing intimidating about her at all. But when it was time to work, she went to work and she found all kinds of of drugs, did some great trails and tracks on both suspects as well as lost kids. Just really, she was absolutely perfect for our inclusion in our police department.
Chris: Even though Star’s life started off pretty rocky, she was a rather successful police dog in Vail.
Ryan: In Vail, we were very fortunate. We enjoyed a lot of successes. We had over a hundred deployments. We had over almost 40 canine narcotics-specific arrests, and we seized over $10,000 in cash in a very short time, once she hit the street. We also able to gain some very key evidence in a home invasion in our jurisdiction that ended up with the suspects fleeing and leaving key evidence behind, and so star was able to do evidence recovery as well as tracking or trailing in order to locate that evidence that we ended up getting a successful prosecution based really solely on Star’s ability to catch that evidence or to find that evidence.
Chris: Ryan connected with a dog that drastically changed his life and career path. His teaming up with Starr came under pretty unusual circumstances. Star was made available through the Paul LeBlanc Memorial police dog donation program. This program offers trained dogs and handlers courses to agencies in need. It is awarded on a lottery system by simply drawing an agency name from a hat. The Vail police department wasn’t the first name drawn in the 2007 lottery. Three agencies turned down Star after seeing her picture. Ryan Milburn was fourth to be called.
Ryan: Well, my time with Star not only affected me personally, but it also affected my career. Of course being paired up with Star, that was a dream come true for me in my career and in my personal life as well. That’s all I ever wanted to do. and that opened up the doors to many other opportunities for me, but I always brought with me the things that I learned as far as integrity and training hard and really pulling the best out of the dog that you’re paired with, and so my time with Star opened up the career path for me to go ahead and do canine contracting in Iraq and had Star not come along, that opportunity would’ve never been there for me
Chris: After serving at the Vail Police Department, Star is retired from duty now
Ryan: Star and I definitely enjoy a very unique connection, and I think every canine officer that you’re going to speak with is going to tell you about the connection they have with their dogs and I think that’s very true. However, Star and I have a special connection because of her early past because people were so mean to her, you know, other humans abused her. Besides Jason Purgason and I, we were essentially the only people that showed her any love, showed her any kindness, and so she definitely was looking for that, and her and I connected very well when she figured out that I was there to help her and to essentially be her dad. So her and I enjoy that connection today. She’s definitely a lot older and a little grayer and a little chubbier. I can say probably the same for me, but she’s enjoying her retired time here on the couch and she is an absolutely loved member of my family here in the Milburn household.
Chris: Highland Canine Training is one of the largest and most respected professional dog training companies in the South-eastern United States. Founded in 2006, Highland Canine Training offers quality working dogs to meet the increasingly demanding requirements of today’s military and law enforcement agencies. They also offer first-class canine education programs at their school for dog trainers. So far they’ve hosted students from over 30 different countries. The school for dog trainers offers affordable financing and accepts GI bill and VA benefits. The service dog training division at Highland canine training develops and trains some of the best service dogs in the industry and offers worldwide delivery. Their commitment to customer service and support continues to set them apart from the competition, and makes them a leader in the industry. Visit www.highlandcanine.com or call (866) 200-2207 to learn more and see the difference.
Trainer: You ready boy? You hear that buddy? Let’s go for it. Let’s come on. Let’s come on. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go, boy. Oh, let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go buddy. Right here. We did it. Boy. Sit. Yes sir. Let’s do it. Let’s do it buddy. Let’s go. Oh boy. Let’s go. Nice work, boy. Nice work. Boy.
Chris: That is the sound of the crowd going wild at the GoPro mountain games in Vail, Colorado. You can also hear the dog’s handler getting him ready for his jump. Everyone is excited about this dog in particular. A four-time world championship competitor in dock diving, he’s kind of a big deal. When you envision a world championship dock diving competitor, a 23-pound cockapoo is not likely the first dog that comes to mind. You probably wouldn’t envision a cockapoo also climbing trees, doing agility and parcore, in addition to being an incredible detection dog. That cockapoo is named Sully.
Danielle: I had a couple friends who had cockapoos and they were a really good fit for their family and they were smaller. I didn’t want a huge dog in the house and they’re cute. We got it from a breeder and he was just a baby. He must have been nine weeks. We started seeing issues when he was about four months old and he snapped at me. I remember the first time I had given him a bone treat or whatever and it had fallen out of his bed and I went to pick it up and he snapped at my finger and I was surprised. I gave it back to him and that was it. But then he started doing it more, just snapping when he had anything in his mouth and you came near him that he thought you were gonna try to take it away.
Then it became crazy around here. Anytime anything fell on the ground, I was like, everyone freeze. Nobody touch it in case Sully wants it, because I didn’t want anybody getting hurt and I was nervous when people were over. Was he going to bite someone? Which he did. So we wanted to try to fix the problems so we could keep him in our family. He bit me a couple times. He bit a friend of ours that we had visiting. I think he snapped at the rest of my family, but I don’t think he officially bit anyone. Oh, he bit my brother, but I told my brother not to grab things from him and he didn’t listen and he bit my brother pretty good.
Chris: Sully didn’t always start off as a champ. His early life got him into a lot of trouble. That’s Danielle, his first owner talking about some of his early problems. She knew Sully was going to need professional help, so she contacted a local dog trainer named Kress Walters.
Kress W.: I brought him in for a three week training. We were basing it on three weeks. After the first day, I could tell he was a very smart dog, and that’s kind of, for lack of a better term, that’s what his problem was as he was getting his way by being smart and kind of running the family. So I kept working with him. After three days, I had him almost fully trained on remote collar, which is pretty darn good to have it done in three days. So we went from there, talked to the family and told them where we were at. They were still a little apprehensive because he was so driven over toys, that they still had concerns about him biting, with the young kids in the house, so we went back and forth. It was a very tough decision for them, but we finally concluded that it would be best for him to stay with me, or for the two of us to work together and find him another home.
Danielle: It was a really hard decision because we loved him and we wanted to make it work, but at the end of the day, I was too nervous. Even with Kress telling me he did really well with training, we have kids in and out. We have visitors in and out, and my gut told me he wasn’t a good fit for our family. I didn’t know where he was going to go because who was going to take a dog that had a history of biting, but, and I wasn’t going to take him to the Humane Society. Like I said, I mean it’s really hard to re-home a dog with a history of issues, so it was a hard decision.
Kress W.: Me and my wife had a friend who was going to take him. She was out of town for the weekend. She had already bought a bunch of toys, a bed, crate. She was fully prepared to take him. She was out of town for the weekend. She was going to pick him up on Monday. She called us on Sunday and said she rethought and it’s better off that she didn’t take him. At that point I was happy because I knew I wanted to keep the dog. It’s just a matter of me talking to my wife into keeping him, which I did, and so he’s been there ever since.
Danielle: I came home one day and he was laying on my kitchen counter and I mean he’s not a huge dog and this is a pretty high counter and he could just jump from the floor to the counter and he was just laying there, Hey, what’s up? And he would jump on everything. He jumped on the table, on the counters and it came to be like, I couldn’t even trust him at all. We had him tied to the kitchen table for a while because if I turned my back, he was either biting somebody or jumping up on something.
Trainer: Let’s do it. Sit, let’s go. Let’s go, boy, let’s go. Nice. Good job. Boy.
Chris: Kress recognized that Sully needed a better way to channel his energy and his love for jumping.
Kress W.: We started dock diving in 2014 I want to say. He was good at agility. He had a high ball drive and he liked the water and I just happened to see – I don’t even remember how; I just got lucky – and saw that there was a dock diving event, Carolina Dock Dogs event, in Charlotte, literally three miles from my house. So I went one Friday after work. I jumped, he jumped. I want to say his first jump was like nine feet. I was actually using a tennis ball that had a hole in it, so the tennis ball sunk. So I had to overcome that issue and by the end of the event, we had made the finals and I want to say his best jump of the weekend was 14 feet. So we went from 9 feet, 14 feet and a first place in the junior division, all in one weekend, and I still have his tennis ball that we won the finals with. I had to borrow it from somebody there. The President of Dock Dogs, Jace asked me if I’d done it before and where I was at and like I said, it was our first event, so he said, well, you need to start jumping. He’s a good dog. He’s got talent.
Chris: So Sully just kept on jumping.
Kress W.: Later, I guess it was 2015 maybe or late ’14, another guy with Dock Dogs told me how the route to get to the worlds. He said I need to try and get to the world finals. So I went to the event, qualified as a lap dog because he is shorter than 17 inches at the withers, which considers him a lap dog. So that’s the division we compete in the worlds. We’ve done a bunch of events, local events – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Colorado – and then we’ve gone to the world finals in Iowa a couple of years, and this past year was in Knoxville. Best we’ve placed with the worlds was 3rd one year, and now we’ve had a 4th and two 6th places. The best event or most exciting event for me has been the GoPro mountain games in Vail. First year we went, we’ve been twice,. The first year we went, he did everything almost perfect on our class, qualified for the finals. And then in the finals he ended up jumping and winning and competing against labs, Malinois, shepherds. and then you got a little cockapoo going out and winning, and so that was a big deal.
Chris: Sully has a lot of trophies and he can jump really far for such a little dog.
Kress W.: Sully’s personal best is 20 feet,11. We got that at an event in Atlanta in probably 2016, if I’m not mistaken.
Chris: Dock diving isn’t Sully’s only talent. He also climbs trees and walls, excels at bedbug detection does agility, and is also a bit of a cowboy with Pete, his friend – the miniature pony,
Kress W.: Sully will ride on his back. If I tell Sully to mount up, he’ll jump right up on his back and then I can walk Pete with Sully on his back. He likes it. Pete’s a pretty good pony. He’s happy to be around all dogs at this point, but he especially likes Sully, and they’re happy to be around each other and happy to see each other every day. Going through the woods one day, there was a tree at an angle, so I would see if he would climb up on it or jump up on it. He went right up. So since then, if a tree has the right angle, I’ll get him to climb up and he will go straight up, assuming it has the right bark on it.
There’s been two instances that were a little hairy. If the tree, like I say, it doesn’t have the right angle, he’ll keep on going up because I see you go up instead of coming back down. If he doesn’t turn around, if he doesn’t have a good space to turn around. So I’ve learned what trees he can climb and which ones to not get him on, because like I say, he’ll keep going straight up and then it just takes a little while for him to get tired. If he can go, he usually goes up about 20 feet and then he’ll realize, all right, I’m going to go ahead and turn around, but he’ll keep going. He likes climbing trees, loves agility, loves jumping. It’s kind of funny. He’s actually named after Sully Sullenberger, Captain Sully Sullenberger so it’s pretty good he does like to jump. A lot of people say he flies when he’s competing, so that worked out well. It’s kind of ironic that that’s who he was named after and he likes to jump and fly through the air. I wanted to do some kind of detection work with him, so we figured that would be an easy one. Not easy, but a good one to do. I had no interest in drugs or bomb detection, so next on the list would have been bedbugs, which he is very good at. If I tell him you ready to work, let’s go to work. He knows exactly what that means.
Chris: Although Sully wasn’t a good fit for Danielle and her family, she still follows his adventures on social media pages of Superfly Sully.
Danielle: I follow him on Instagram and I’ll text Kress every once in a while to see how he’s doing. And I mean my friends and I, we all follow him on Instagram and we laugh at some of the crazy stuff he’s doing, like climbing trees and jumping on walls and it just makes me really happy to see that he is where he should be and living a really good life.
Chris: These are only a few stories of how dogs have dramatically changed the lives of people, and how people have also changed the lives of dogs. At times, it is difficult to see the potential in a dog, particularly dogs with a difficult beginning. For those dogs and people who are willing to take a chance, these types of transformations take place all over the world and every day.
Jason: Thank you for tuning in to our flagship episode. We will return next month with more stories about A Life of Dogs. We want to extend a special thanks to our guests and to you, the listener. Our podcast is available on iTunes and Google Play, and you can also download or stream it from our website at www.alifeofdogs.com. Be sure to rate our podcast on iTunes and join us on Facebook and Instagram.