by Joe Ozier
Local author Joe Ozier shares about his dog Shep and the musical he wrote about him. This is a three part series. Enjoy part 2 and check out part 1 from November, and watch for Part 3 in January. Check out our interview with Joe about his children’s book Shea’s Lounge.
There I was, riding in the car with a new dog. My mother asked me what I wanted to do next, and I told her I wanted to take Shep to get cleaned up, and that there was a poodle parlor close to my house. Mom drove us straight there, and when I walked in, there was a lady who was just leaving with her newly washed and groomed poodle. The look of disgust on her face and the wide berth she gave us, told me what I might expect from the place. Sure enough, the woman behind the counter stopped me from proceeding any further with a gasp and a “Stop right there sir! We don’t allow walk-ins here and you must turn around and take that dog right back out that door.”
I was shocked at first, but when I attempted to tell her of my experience with getting Shep, she was having none of it. Just as I was turning to leave, another lady appeared from behind the curtain and said to the receptionist, “I’ll take it from here.” She was smiling. so I was pretty sure she wouldn’t call the police. Instead, she told me that she had heard what I told the receptionist about the condition Shep was in. To my amazement and joy, she told me, “Leave him here for about four hours, and I’ll see what I can do for him.” I was grateful and quickly handed the leash to her. She took Shep with her behind the curtain. He didn’t even look back…it was really weird because it was almost like I was letting go of him–feeling as the former owner might have felt, but much less intense.
I went back at the end of the day, and when that same kind lady re-appeared with Shep on a leash I couldn’t believe my eyes! He looked amazing; an incredible transformation had taken place. I stared at Shep in disbelief and then asked how much I owed her. She smiled as the two other ladies came out from behind the curtain, also smiling. I was then told that they had so much fun bathing, toe-nail trimming and shearing off all Shep’s matted fur, that they thought it warranted no charge at all. They showed me a grocery sack full of his matted hair. They were so happy to have helped him, that their only request was that I promise to bring Shep back in a year, to show them how much he had improved. I promised to do so (and did the following year), but the poodle parlor had become a lawn service. That poodle parlor story became several scenes in the developing musical.
Shep grew from only 43 pounds to just over 60, mostly due to muscle tone he acquired from daily walks and overnight trips to lakes and rivers in California. We also spent many days swimming in the Gulf of Mexico after we moved to Sarasota, Florida two years later in August of 1998. Shep was really my first “full scale” rehabilitation project. I had to do some very serious socialization with him. At first, he wouldn’t let anyone into my home without cornering them at the door, or catching them inside the living room, barking with his teeth bared and exhibiting a nasty snarl. My friends would back up, freeze and say, “Great dog you got there, Joe!” Eventually, by careful training and asserting my dominant position, Shep began to accept and trust people.
I took him to lots of dog parks on various Sundays–or as we called it in California, “Doggie Church.” This really helped socialize him; I discovered that any day at the dog park was a good day to help Shep learn that there are many other types, shapes, sexes, makes, and models of dogs out there. Some were friendly, some smelly, some slobbery, some pushy, and everything in between. He got himself into a few choice scuffles along the way and I was stunned by his courage. He wouldn’t back down from any dog, even those I knew could kill or injure him.
On a positive note, one of those fights actually led to a love affair with another dog’s owner. She was actually the one who gave him his new, permanent name: “Shep.” His original name, remember, was Leggo, given by the first owner’s baby. That event also made it into the show. Shep was three-and-a-half years old when I saved him on June 28, 1996. My birthday is December 28 (forget the year), so our birthdays are on the same date, a magical and wonderful coincidence, as though it was meant to be. An appropriate quote from Cesar Millan: “You don’t always get the dog that you want; you get the dog that you need.”
Shep was given the full run of my house, a dog door and a window to the outside world from the front seat of my 4-runner. I took him to work every day and I even threw a dog party on our first-month anniversary at which he was the guest of honor. My friends and neighbors brought their dogs and dog treats including doggie ice cream cones. It was a bit overwhelming for Shep, so he mostly hid under a bush in the backyard during the party. I had to coax him out of the bush more than once with a piece of steak or a doggie ice cream cone.
I finally realized that it was asking a lot of him to accept all these strange dogs and their owners all at once. It made me sad to think of him choosing to go with what he always knew instead of embracing his now. He had been alone and away from life, in his own solitary confinement for a very long time, but he finally learned and adapted, and accepted me along with his new life. He came out smelling like roses!
Watch for Part 3 next month, and you can purchase Joe’s children’s book Shea’s Lounge at the following: digital downloads at smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/470712 or print version on Ebay at http://www.ebay.com/itm/181539509351?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649http://www.ebay.com/itm/181539509351?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649
Check out more pet related short stories and articles in our pets section.