Pablo is a big, black dog. His ears are black, his tail is black, his nose is black, his feet are black, his paw pads are black, his toenails are black, and even his tongue has black spots. But his soulful puppy-dog eyes are a striking shade of chestnut brown. His fur is a medium sort of length, with great water-repellent properties (which he probably gets from some Labrador Retriever in his ancestry). His tail is bushy, but not overly so, and is carried in a sort of half-curl over his back when he is excited. He has semi-erect ears; their tops flop over, sort of like Collie ears, when something has his attention. Pablo is a substantial pup, weighing in at around 65 pounds and standing 23 inches high at the shoulder.
We adopted Pablo on Friday April 13, 2001 from the Oakland SPCA. They said he was one to two years old at the time, so we made his birthday October 13, 1999, so he is probably just a little younger than Cammy. We weren't really looking to adopt a dog, since we lived in an apartment, but once I met Pablo, I knew he was the perfect sort of dog for us. I had just started doing some volunteer work for the Oakland SPCA and actually met Pablo for the first time while I was completing my required two dog-training classes before I could start training the shelter dogs on my own. I asked which dog I should take out for the class, and was told "Get Pablo. He's a good dog." And he was. Rather than remain sitting when we stopped heeling, he would sink into a down by sliding down my leg. And he didn't lunge at the other dogs, or run to the end of the leash. He was just taking it all in stride. It felt like a perfect match.
I brought Dave in to see Pablo a couple of weeks later, and he agreed that he was a good dog, so we adopted him on the spot. At that time we learned that his previous owner had taken him into the vet clinic on the SPCA premises to be euthanized (which the clinic will only do for health reasons). When the lady was asked what was the reason for his euthanization, she replied "Oh, he got out of the yard." And then, while the staff member went to get some paperwork, she just left him there, so they decided to put him up for adoption, and the rest is history.
Pablo is the world's most mellow dog - most of the time. He gets super-excited whenever food is involved, especially when it's dinner time. Then he gets wiggly and starts a little prancing dance as he drools all over the floor. At any other time, however, he's perfectly content to just lie around in whatever room we happen to be in at the time. Occasionally he'll get up and lick our elbows, or nuzzle us to be petted, and then go back to sleep.
Now the only other thing that gets Pablo excited at home is somebody ringing the doorbell (he looooves visitors) or somebody saying "kitty!" in a very excited voice. For the former, he runs to the door and whines and does his excited dance. We tell him to "get on the mat", which usually takes some doing because that's not nearly as interesting as meeting whoever is at the door. If somebody says "Oh look, a kitty!", Pablo will run to the nearest window or sliding glass door and look around frantically to see the mystical kitty of which you speak. Most of the time there is no kitty; it's just so funny to watch him looking.
When it comes to our kitties, Pablo now ignores them most of the time, just as they ignore him for the most part. If you say "kitty!" and point at, say, Cammy, Pablo just doesn't believe that she is, in fact, a kitty, and runs to the nearest window. He seems to think that there are "kitties", and then these small furry creatures he happens to live with, which are, definitely not the same thing. But it wasn't always this way. When we first brought Pablo home, the kitties hid in terror for several days under the bed. I felt so terrible. I cried. I brought them food and water under the bed. I think they used the litter box while we slept (and Pablo was in the crate) at night. Pablo was tethered to either one of us or a piece of heavy furniture for a couple of months before we felt we could trust him around the kitties (that and before we felt he was properly house-trained). Then he graduated to just dragging a leash around (in case we needed control in a hurry). Finally, he was free to roam the house, while we were home.
Cammy, by far the bolder kitty, was the first to make progress with Pablo. She became increasingly less frightened of him until finally, one day, she started batting at him if he came too close! "Now who's in charge?", she seemed to say. And it was obvious she was the ruler of the household. We get Pablo to help us out once in a while when she's being naughty (jumping on counters, stealing Kirby's food) by telling him to "get Cammy!", which means "chase Cammy around the house until she jumps up somewhere you can't reach, then whine about it". It's fun to watch him go over and stick his nose in her, causing her to take off, with him right on her heels. Kirby came to accept Pablo much more slowly and gradually, but now will walk right by him while he is standing without any problem at all. So harmony reigns again. They have even (on occasion) all been found lying in the same sunbeam, one of Pablo's favorite pastimes. (What kind of strange black dog likes laying in hot sunbeams anyway??)
Away from home, Pablo is still fairly mellow, but he is always excited to go for a walk. He is somewhat less enthusiastic about car trips, although he is always excited at the destination. He came to us with a terrible fear of cars, particularly large, rumbly trucks and buses that pass us by when we walk on the sidewalk next to a busy street. He always cowers while the vehicle goes by, then he is fine. We think he was probably hit by a car before he was surrendered to the SPCA, since he also has some scars on the front of one of his back legs. This makes him somewhat less than enthusiastic to get into the car, even though we almost always go someplace fun (the park, PetCo, dog park, training class, trials, etc.).
We got Pablo a doggie backpack which means he can actually be useful when we go for a hike. If nothing else, he can carry his own water, treats, bowl, etc. Usually, he will carry our lunch too, and if we're not going too far, our water. It hardly seems to phase him at all. He always has energy left over, even when we're about to die of exhaustion.
Pablo also has a little dog cart that he pulls. The cart itself is just a converted tricycle trailer to which I added some soldered copper plumbing pipe to make the shafts (yes I learned to solder pipe for the occasion!). He took to pulling the cart quite naturally and was not afraid of it at all (it is somewhat noisy), even backing up, which can be somewhat difficult to teach (it probably helped that he already knew the cue before he was ever even in a harness). I always thought it would be cool to have a dog that could pull a cart, even since I was a kid. I didn't know it was a reality until a few years ago, when I discovered Bernese Mountain Dogs are routinely trained for draft work. Dave and I went to a draft competition in Alameda one day, and I knew I would have to teach any dog I owned to do that. So I did. Now I just need to figure out a practical application for it, although it's come in handy in a couple of parades.
Pablo excels at clicker training. He loves to work for his dinner. It's so much fun to "see the light bulb go on", as they say, when he finally understands what I am trying to get him to do. At the SPCA, he was trained with the choke-chain method (aka "jerk and praise") to do a few of the basics. When we brought him home, I started over with the clicker. It was a learning experience for both of us, as I had virtually no practical experience using the clicker to teach a dog anything. It was challenging at first, until I got the idea to reward him with his dinner (which he always was crazy for, right from the start). I started clicking and then treating with a few kibbles from his food bowl. Then he seemed to "get it". He became very excited when I got the clicker out, and much, much more eager to work and please. It was the beginning of a very good thing.
From there I started taking his breakfast or dinner out on our walks (depending on when), to teach him attention and heeling. On our walks, Pablo came to have great attention, unless he saw/smelled kitties (or squirrels or bunnies or deer or dogs or.. you get the picture). Then he sort of falls apart. At least now he doesn't try to take off after them. On one of our first walks around the neighborhood, he nearly ripped my shoulder out of the socket when he took off full speed after a distant kitty. But fortunately (especially for my arm), I think he learned after he hit the end of the leash at full speed. Now the worst he will do is either freeze (ala a pointer) or stare at the kitty (or whatever) as we walk by. I'll take that. Much better for my arm and his poor neck. As he got older, and especially as we worked towards obedience and rally titles, his attention improved quite a lot.
Pablo now knows a number of tricks. Click on the name to see a picture and find out what it means.
Although I have to admit, he definitely know some better than others. It's my fault for not practicing them all equally.
Pablo earned a number of titles during his life. He got up to a MB-UD and MB-RAE (from the MBDCA), including a 198 in Novice; RL3, and RLV (from WCRL, formerly APDT, Rally); MB-Ch (from the MBDCA); and MB-VM3 (from the MBDCA). Sadly, he did not have nearly as many options as we have now for mixed breed dogs. By the time AKC finally opened up performance events to mixed breeds, he was too old to really take advantage of them (and, also sadly, we don't have the diversity of titling options that some other areas of the country have). But Pablo was my first dog, my first dog sport partner, and we were going it alone with positive reinforcement training in an era and area where virtually nobody was doing it (at least, not for obedience). I'm very proud of all we did accomplish together, and that I never resorted to using "corrections" even when we were struggling and that was all other people could advise us to do. Here's a list of all the titles he earned and when:
And here are some of his title certificates; I'll put more up when I manage to dig them up:
Here are some home-made movies of Pablo in action:
Pablo has a few nicknames, including Moo, Muppy, Muppy-Moo, Pables, Pablito, Pababolo, Pabolo, McMoo, Shmoo (sometimes he just looks like a cow), Mr. Stinky, and Muppy-Butt. But mostly when we didn't call him "Pablo", we called him "Moo".
We think that Pablo is probably part Chow Chow because of his purple-spotted tongue. Chow Chows have completely purple/black tongues, although I have since learned that numerous other dog breeds can have purple/black spots on their tongues, including German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers. It looks funny. Imagine a Holstein Cow coat pattern applied to a tongue. But instead of white with black splotches, it's pink with purple-black splotches. When we first saw his tongue, we thought there was something wrong with him, but we were informed that he was just likely part Chow Chow.
We said goodbye to Pablo on January 14, 2016. He was just over 16 years old, which is tremendous for a large, black dog of unknown parentage. He never really lost his vision or hearing, or even his mental capacities. It was just his body gradually started to fail him. First, in 2012(?), he was hit with a really bad case of vestibular disease. It happened within days after we went to visit the snow, so our theory is that the high altitude somehow triggered it. But the worst part was that it happened during or right after he ate dinner, and the nausea and vomiting meant he associated his dinner with feeling bad. It took some time and a lot of trial and error to find a food he was willing to eat after that. That was the beginning of our problems with eating.
Then, one day we went for a family hike in a regional park, and about two thirds of the way through the hike, his back legs just completely gave out, on a high, narrow trail. He just could not stand. I had to improvise and make a harness out of a leash to support his rear and help him the rest of the way back to the car. His back end had been getting gradually weaker for a while, but nothing ever this bad. Sadly, this was the end of long hikes for Pablo.
As time continued its inevitable march on, his body just continued to gradually decline. He began to have more and more trouble with the stairs, particularly up, and started needing to wear a "helper harness" (as we called it) all the time so we could help him with his rear legs. He became more and more incontinent, first with poop, then with pee, even while he was sleeping. And food continued to be a problem, as his appetite decreased more and more, just with time and also with repeated (although less severe) episodes of vestibular disease. We took him to the vet, but there wasn't anything they could do. We switched to wet food after his first vestibular episode, and he ate that well for a while. But then he was just done with it, so we switched to freeze-dried raw food (which smelled amazing when the warm water was added to it!), and that worked for a while. After a while, he just had enough of that too. But, surprisingly, he was willing to switch back to dry food! That was tremendous, and revealed how much his diarrhea problems were directly related to his food! When I mentioned how much better his stool was on the dry food to the clerk at Pet Food Express, he said that was very common - I wish I'd known that earlier. But, it did mean we had to make some serious trade-offs when he started not liking dry food again, as any other type of food would bring the diarrhea back.
So, it was with tremendous sadness that we made the incredibly difficult decision to say goodbye to a very good dog whose body had just had enough. We'll always miss you, good boy Pablo.