My ‘Heads Up’ alert

My “Head Up” alert

It’s five thirty on June 30, 2017, and I’ve spent most of the day worrying about the future.

My careful plans haven’t turn out well. It involves Chris. He doesn’t want to get into the Casita.

Here’s some history.

The entire Casita dream hinged on finding the correct Casita model that Bernie and Chris could fit… and still, allow me to move around. The solution is the Casita Freedom.

I found one and bought it. Katie, the current owner, will deliver it sometime in July.

My first step was to find a Casita owner who would allow me to see if the dogs would fit. John has a Casita and lives in the area. He towed it over. I told Bernie and Chris to get in the Casita. Bernie gathered himself and jumped in. Chris needed some encouragement.

Now, here is where I blew it. There is an old truism “Measure twice and cut once.” I didn’t measure twice.

The picture tells the story. dogs fit-300  Both dogs are sitting in the Casita doorway.  I told them to Sit-Stay. (that’s the good part). Bernie had entered the Casita and went to the back and then came forward.

Chris never ventured beyond the door. Because I didn’t ‘measure twice’ and check to see if Chris would actually go to the back…. I blew it big time.

I took the picture, thought everything was fine and all I needed to do (at the time) was find a Casita Freedom.

Here is MY history.

It is why I am very concerned. Back in 2012, I got Bernie. It was my first experience with a large dog. I am writing an eBook about my experiences with Bernie and Chris.

This is one of the stories. It provides some insight to my concerns regarding obtaining Chris’s cooperation when it comes to the Casita.



Getting Bernie into the car                                          

I love October in Arizona. It’s cool enough to take the dogs in the car. I hate to leave them home. I enjoy opening the SUV’s back door and having my dogs automatically jump into the back seat. No hassle.

It wasn’t always that way. In 2012, when I first received Bernie, he refused to get in the car.

I received Bernie from Cindy. I got him because she couldn’t control him. How Bernie came into my life is complicated. I’ll share the complete story in another chapter.

Bernie is a Golden Doodle, part Golden Retriever and part standard Poodle. When I got him, he was roughly two years old. He weighed 85 pounds. He was and continues to be, too heavy for me to lift.

I had a lot to learn about him. He was my first large dog. I’d always had small poodles.

My face ached with excitement as I prepared to visit Bernie for the second time.

Before I actually met Bernie, all I knew was he was a large dog. After almost four months searching, I was filled with joy to find him. Finally, I would have a dog to train as a service dog.

Because it was a three-way transfer, there were some legal papers to sign. Bernie’s owner, Cindy, was transferring dog ownership, more or less, to me. However, Sarah’s involvement complicated matters.

Cindy originally contacted Sarah, a dog trainer. Sarah agreed to train Bernie for service dog duty and had already selected a four-year-old child who would eventually receive Bernie.

Before that happened, Sarah heard I wanted a dog to train. She contacted me. She would help me train Bernie. I agreed, so we set up a meeting with Cindy. We met at Cindy’s home, and I got my first look at Bernie.  1st bernie-300

I recall being very surprised. I had a tremendous passion for training a service dog. For months, I’d driven myself to obtain a service dog. Now it had happened, I wasn’t prepared for Bernie.

I owned toy poodles for thirty years. I’d never trained them. They were pets. They weighed less than 15 pounds. Bathing and drying toy poodles was just a matter of bathing in the kitchen sink. I used a hair dryer and bath towel to dry them.

Meeting Bernie, I realized I had acquired a high-maintenance dog. He was too large to bathe and groom in my small home. He would require being professional bathing and grooming.

From the day I met Bernie, it would be a week before I could pick him up and bring him home. I spent the week getting my house prepared.

I bought a huge crate for him. I ordered a huge dog door. I bought and installed three four-foot-high portable exercise pens. My low concrete back patio wall and these high portable pens would be enough outdoor room for him.

Now, I waited. Mid-July arrived when I got the okay to pick up Bernie at Cindy’s house. Cindy had told me Bernie had been in her car a few times.

I led Bernie to my large Toyota SUV, opened the back door and said, “Inside.” Bernie just looked at the back seat. It was higher than his head.

He had no desire to jump up into the back seat. I couldn’t lift him, but I did try and push him. He shifted his bulk, but nothing happened. It was like trying to push a semi-soft, 85-pound bag of laundry from the ground up four feet to the back seat.

Cindy suggested a tag-team approach. She went around the car to the other side, reached in, and grabbed his leash. While she called his name, and pulled on the leash, I pushed him from the back.

Several minutes later and with a lot of grunting and groaning, we accomplished the task. Bernie finally settled himself in the back seat.

I thought about Bernie’s reaction to being taken from his owner. A strange car with a strange man and even stranger scents.

Bernie had no problem getting out of the back seat when I got home. I thought my problem was solved. Now that he learned he was supposed to jump into the back seat, it shouldn’t be a problem.

The next day I had to run an errand. I decided to take Bernie. Since we were still getting to know each other, I wanted us to be together 24/7. I led him to the car and opened the back door. I expected him to jump in.

He didn’t. Despite lots of vocal encouragement, Bernie didn’t budge. Pushing from the back didn’t work. I tried going to the other side like Cindy had and pulled on his leash.

I had to call my neighbor. It took both of us, using the tag-team approach. He pulled on the leash while I pushed Bernie. That worked.

It was embarrassing. For the next three days, the only way I could get Bernie into the back seat was with the neighbor’s help. On Wednesday, I called Jacqueline, my dog groomer, and shared my problem. If I couldn’t get Bernie into the car, I had to cancel my appointment.

I have an excellent relationship with Jacqueline. For the past several years, my wife and I had three toy poodles. We always took them to Jacqueline.

She laughed when I told her. She offered to come to my house and help get Bernie into the car. She daily handles large dogs.

The neighbor helped me one last time. We got Bernie into the car for the trip to the groomer. For the trip back home, I needed Jacqueline’s help to get Bernie in the car.

Once home I left Bernie there and took the car to PetSmart. It cost me more than a hundred dollars for the SUV dog ramp.  ramp-300

If Bernie didn’t jump into the back seat, I would position the ramp at the SUV’s large back door and lead Bernie up the ramp. He would sit in the back area of the SUV. With the split-back seat folded down, Bernie would be close to me.

  I still have that ramp. It sits in the carport gathering dust like dogs attract fleas. The $100 investment would be just one of several investments I made that didn’t work out.

I suppose I didn’t immediately return the dog ramp because I thought it might come in handy if Bernie reverted being stubborn. He never did.


Okay, that is My history when it comes to getting a dog to enter a space it hasn’t done before.

This morning we visited Larry. He lives about 67 miles from me. We left the house at 5:30 in the morning and arrived at seven. I bought a Garmin GPS and this is the only reason we found his place.

Larry had some neat modifications to his Casita Freedom I wanted to see. With his permission, I brought the dogs to the door. I said, “Inside” and Bernie immediately crouched down and jumped through the door.

Chris backed up, tenderly placed on paw on the lower step, paused and then shied away. His posture changed to a slinking away with a tucked tail. I recognized the signs he was not happy. I am familiar with his personality and knew I had a challenge.

It was going to take some time. I wouldn’t have the casita for another two weeks. Even then, I wasn’t allowed to leave it parked in front of my home. I had to store it in a commercial storage area about five miles away.

Multiple thoughts tumbled through my mind. Modifying dog behavior takes several short lessons, each less than a few minutes. If working with Bernie as my example… I need to have the Casita in front of my home for at least a week. Bernie has always been a cooperative student. Chris can be a challenge.

The sooner I have the casita in front of the home, the better.


2 thoughts on “My ‘Heads Up’ alert

  1. Reine in Plano (when not camping)

    I don’t have a dog and haven’t had one for over 20 years but your friend’s Casita definitely didn’t smell right and the steps to the door are different than anything at your house. My suggestion is once you get your Casita to put stuff in it that Chris is familiar with and see if that helps. Also would it help if YOU were inside the Casita asking him to come to you instead of outside asking him to go inside? I’m thinking he’ll figure it out. Good Luck,


  2. josephlacey12

    Is it because you are a woman and I don’t think like a woman? (I use any excuse so I don’t have to admit it might be that I’m not the sharpest tool in the box

    Yes, I will lead Chris in… and unfortunately he doesn’t care to play (or guard) any toys. Your super ideas are always helpful…


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