You are probably asking yourself “who in the world is Sissy-Biskit?” We renamed Sissy to Biskit as she was so shy when we first got her we didn’t want to tag her with the “Sissy” name. But then everyone already knew her as Sissy and she answers to both names. Hence, the name Sissy-Biskit. I have a lot of fun joking with people about her name. “You can call her Sissy if you want, or you can call her Biskit, or you can call her Sissy-Bisket”. I used to follow that phrase with “or you can call her Rambo” in hopes that would help Sissy with her shyness. But then my friend Margaret mentioned that it should be Rambette since Sissy is a lady. Margaret has a large Rottweiler named Jake so we both agreed that a fun name for Jake would be “Fuzzy”. Can’t you just picture Fuzzy and Rambette crusing the halls of a hospital? Yikes! There is a picture for a wild imagination.
The good news is Sissy has really crawled out of her shell. If you recall, she came from Houston, Texas and belonged to an elderly lady who passed. The family didn’t want Sissy and took her to the animal shelter……..which happened to be a Kill Shelter. Thank
goodness for good communications with the Colorado Dalmatian Rescue as they found Sissy and brought her to Colorado. I found Sissy on-line and we adopted her on October 25, 2011 immediately after visiting with her. Sissy was so shy (still is sometimes) that I couldn’t even walk with her outside. She kept looking at the sky and lowering her head like she was afraid it was going to fall on her. I was told she spent 60 days in the shelter waiting for her ride to Colorado. I think that time severely affected little Sissy, caused her to be very sensitive of other dogs and caused her to not trust much of anything or anyone. Our first walk outside on a leash was exactly 55 feet. Actually, it totaled 110 feet if you want to count the return trip of Sissy dragging me back to the front door like a runaway horse pulling a plow. So the patience and training began. Day by day, event by event, it sometimes appeared hopeless, yet sometimes there was a slight glimmer of her true personality which I was sure deep inside her somewhere. The characteristic that kept giving me hope is she loved meeting new people. She met Donna and I very well the first 30 seconds we visited with her. She has met hundreds of people since then with similar intensity. Sometimes she is hesitant, most times very loving. She seems to size people up very quickly and has a good sense of what is going on with the person she is visiting. To me, that was the end result I was looking for. A meaningful dog does not have to like everyone, but it has to be willing to give it a try.
I had a very difficult time getting started with training Sissy-Biskit as she would not eat
treats, dog biscuits, not even people food. She wasn’t interested in that stuff at all. I thought to myself……. “this is going to be difficult to begin training a dog without rewards”. But then one day I was nibbling on some peanuts and I dropped one on the floor. Sissy ran and cobbled it up before I could even move. I offered her another and she snapped it right up. Bingo! We found a treat she wanted and would work for. Some people tell me that peanuts aren’t good for a dog. In researching it, most vets say it is not a problem when used in moderation……..so I wasn’t too worried. Besides, my Vet said she was about 5 pounds too light so we needed to gain a bit of weight anyway. I trained Sissy all the way out of her shell of shyness (for the most part) using dry roasted peanuts (of all things). Who would of thought, but it worked. Later, she learned to like Cheerios. So now we switch back and forth between peanuts and Cheerios. She has nearly gained the 5 pounds the Vet wanted and is in perfect condition according to him. So now we will just try to maintain that weight.
Sissy has gone through the therapy dog classes, has her certificate and is now completely signed up and visiting all 4 Boulder County hospitals. She also passed her Therapy Dogs, Inc. test and observations and is now officially a registered therapy dog. Sissy-Biskit and her dad are a registered team together and we are having a great time following some of Tilda’s old routes and meeting her friends of the past while introducing Sissy to a wonderful new life for her. Most people that knew Tilda remark how much Sissy is like Tilda in her manner, her calmness and her demeanor. I certainly agree with that and will take it one step farther. I think Tilda picked out Sissy for sure and probably has imprinted some things on Sissy in ways that are certainly mysterious to me, but am convinced it is true. More on that later.
Sissy-Biskit is visiting the these hospitals on the following days:
Avista Hospital, Louisville, 2nd & 4th Thursdays
Boulder Community Hospital, Boulder, 1st, 3rd & 5th Wednesdays
Exempla Hospital, Lafayette, 1st, 3rd & 5th Thursdays
Longmont United Hospital, 2nd & 4th Tuesdays
So we visit two days per week which is about Sissy’s limit for getting started. She is doing very well and I am so proud of how far she has come. One thing for sure, from here on it will get better and better as she gets to know the buildings and some familiar faces. Her transition from “fear of going outdoors” to a dog that is coming into her true personality is an amazing story in itself. Every week I took her to the antique stores I visit in Fort Collins and there she would walk with me through the stores, meet the owners each week and just mingle. Week by week it got better and better, but a very slow process. Then one day, our good friend Franny gave Sissy a squeaky toy. At first she didn’t quite know what to do with it. After a few days, it became Sissy’s “property” and I noticed she acted like she was trying to herd the toy as if it were a sheep. Her being part Border Collie, I understood that natural
instinct so I bought her a dozen squeaky toys over a few weeks. THAT WAS IT!!! She started playing with those toys……..ever so tenderly. She treats them as her babies that she rounds up and stacks them in a pile, then she claims them as her own. Then I found a flea market with some good used stuff toys and got Sissy a bunch more. She doesn’t need squeaky toys, just stuffed toys will suffice as all she wants to do is herd them and carry them home. She handles them so carefully that she still has her very first toy from Franny in perfect condition. She does not tear at them, just mouths them and carries them around, but they have to be in a pile. The most fun thing with Sissy is to sit on the floor and toss them all over the house and she will round them all up and build the pile again. Pretty cute.
The side benefit of this stuffed-toy-herding was something I didn’t expect. Doing this herding gave her confidence that she could put things in order and satisfy her stronginstincts at the same time. Week after week, I could see her confidence level greatly increase. At the same time, I did the same thing with Sissy that I did with Tilda. I kept her with me all the time, 24 hours a day. She goes everywhere with me, never is left alone at home. She is either at home with me laying on her rug by the computer, or she is in the truck with me in Tilda’s back seat bed, or she is walking with me somewhere and doing
something. That created a bond which in turn created some trust. Then she began to look at me for guidance when venturing to new areas she normally would have been in a panic over. Sissy-Biskit has come a very long ways and continues to get better with each new day. Her true personality is now coming forth and she is a fun-loving dog who is very quick and smart. It looks to me like Sissy’s life has finally started and she is now nearly 6 years old. But that is okay, at least we have a start and she is absolutely the greatest dog this old man could ever hope for. She has no bad habits and is the true meaning of a “loyal sidekick dog” and a true friend. She never gets tired of going places and now is really into that excitement. When it is time for her walk, she stands up alongside my chair and takes her leg and pounds me on the shoulder repeatedly until I give in and put her leash on. This dog now walks with the leash wrapped around her neck while walking along side of me. We can walk a mile or two without difficulty of any kind……….she loves it. She does tricks along the way and is so happy, it brings tears to my eyes some days. Let me tell you, it is a long way from the first day of our 55 feet walk of torture for both of us.
I will always believe sweet Tilda brought me Sissy. Tilda knew me better than anyone and she picked a new dog that fits every need I have. I am also convinced, as I said earlier, that somehow Tilda did some imprinting on this new dog. How all that works I am not sure of at all, but I see the results of it and they are unmistakeable. As times goes by, Sissy’s attitude and demeanor is more like Tilda all the time. There were certain traits which were unique Tilda traits that Sissy now does and without any initializing or encouragement from me. It is just the way things are. Over time, I have learned to simply accept it and not question it. Much more fun that way! Sissy is not Tilda, Tilda is not Sissy. They are uniquely individual dogs with lots of overlap and similarities that will make ones jaw drop during some moments of the day. Rather than bore you will all the details of it, I will simply share one example with you:
Tilda used to lay by my side while I worked at the computer (so does Sissy). Over the years of us walking together up the steps to the upper level of the house, I trained Tilda to lay down across the very top step of the last flight of stairs. There I would give Tilda a body
massage and she just loved it while groaning and grunting the whole time. After several dozen times of doing this maneuver, Tilda began doing it most every time we walked up those stairs…….especially at dinner time as that is when she knew I would stop and take the time to give her a body massage. Now Tilda died on August 24 last year and am sure you all remember that time very well. 61 days later we met Sissy, which was rather fast, but I knew Sissy was the dog I wanted immediately when I saw her. It was not only because of her looks or demeanor, it was mainly because of what I felt inside. It about 3 weeks after we brought Sissy home that a very strange thing happened. I was walking upstairs for dinner and Sissy was hopping up the stairs in front of me when at the SAME TOP STEP, Sissy did a quick left turn and
plopped down sideways on the top step and laid in the exact same position that I had trained Tilda to do. I did not touch Sissy previous to this……….never showed her anything. Sissy did all this on her own at nearly the same time of day, same step, laying in the same position. This is far from a coincidence and it was actually a bit frightening to me the first few seconds as Sissy just laid there and looked at me deep into my eyes. I then came to my senses and called Donna over to look at what Sissy was doing and we both cried happy tears as we felt the love of Tilda like it was coming from a blast furnance. This event was less than 3 months after Tilda died so you can imagine how powerful it was to witness Sissy doing that procedure all on her own.
The great news is Sissy and I still do that top step procedure and I get to hear the same grunts and groans that Tilda always gave. I thought I had remembered taking a picture of Tilda in that position on the top step and using that picture in a Tilda Dog Blog one time. The reason I took the original Tilda top step picture is that it took me a while to train her to do this and thought is was unique and quite an accomplishment. I found the picture and it is posted here. The wonderful thing is I had the camera near that top step as I was taking some other pics of Sissy the night before so I snapped a picture of Sissy laying on the top step. Look at the two pictures for yourself and see what you think. Keep in mind that it took Tilda quite some time to learn that trick. Sissy did it on her own as a total surprise to me. Look at the position of the legs of both pictures and other similarities. This is only one example of what has been going on. Very fun stuff for sure and no complaints from this fellow.
All I can think to say is Thank You, Tilda…………Thank You, Sissy-Biskit!
‘Til Next Time………………..