I often get asked to share tips on how to better a child and dog's relationship. People inquire Siena and Buddha's age when they first met and how they got to be so close. Here is how Cutie and the Beast came to be.
Siena's first best friend was a tiny 2lb Chihuahua named Rabbit. They only shared a year and a half of joy together before Rabbit was tragically killed in an accident by a fast moving jogger. Those 18 months were crucial in the growth of Siena's love for dogs.
Siena would learn that Rabbit would move away if she used sudden movements or pet her too roughly. She's always been a mellow, calm child but Rabbit taught her that slow, gentle movements were hugely rewarded with a soft and constantly entertaining little companion. Rabbit also realized that it wasn't too bad of an exchange now that Mom was too busy to cuddle as much as she used to. She had a new mini-Mom who smelled of warm milk, was always laying in the softest blankets, and never got up and walked away.
It became common for Rabbit to forgo the lap of mom in the car to cuddle with Siena in the carseat. I would hear giggles and see Rabbit's fluffy tail wagging frantically in the rearview mirror. I would place Rabbit in Siena's crib while she slept so that she would be woken up with tiny kisses and begin her day with laughter.
After the sudden and unexpected passing of Rabbit, we tried to replace the ache in our hearts with other Chihuahuas for trial periods. Finally we decided to go the opposite route of finding another "Rabbit" and went with getting an old dream of mine, a Doberman.
My parents adamantly refused to accept this. They believed the old stigma that Dobermans were dangerous and would eventually bite their sweet granddaughter, if not myself and my husband. They are also traditional Korean parents and did not believe that large dogs should live in the house, arguing that his dander would make their granddaughter sick. Although my parents don't live with us, they are a significant part of our lives. I didn't want to flat our disobey them, but I had to find a way to make this work for all of us.
I had to find a Doberman that would be perfect and change my parents' misconception of the breed. Thus began the arduous year of research before we found Buddha. I knew the temperament was most important, and I found that with Foxfire Dobermans. While waiting for Michelle Santana to match us with our perfect pup, I began to stockpile information and study training techniques. I did my homework daily, religiously.
Finally! Our long awaited pup was home! Training began from day one using positive methods and lots of treats. I kept Buddha leashed to me 24/7 for the first week which worked great. He was curious about Siena from the first day, being very inquisitive and gently playful. Siena however, seemed unsure of this big, gangly puppy who was so clumsy and strong. Being a fastidious girl, she tended to avoid him in the early weeks. This seemed to entice Buddha even more.
It was never our intention to make Siena and Buddha best friends. I was too busy trying to make Buddha the perfect dog to win my parents' approval, even though I had gone against their advice. I think perhaps Buddha could sense the constant intense concentration I always had with him, whether training or playing, I was scrutinizing his every move. I believe that Buddha appreciated the calm, relaxed, and nonchalant mood that Siena was always naturally in. He began to search for her companionship when he was ready for naps or just wanted someone to lean against while chewing his bones. Siena in turn learned that Buddha was actually not that much of a bother when he was near her because he was calm. Plus, he always gave her his undivided attention, the perfect audience for a three year old.
When Buddha is with Mom or Dad, he knows it's all serious training or serious play. When Buddha is with Siena, he knows its nothing but chill time. Buddha became Siena's heart dog and Siena became Buddha's addiction.
Back to the subject of my parents, they think Buddha is the best. Success!