Staff member: Margo (General Manager)
I brought Armando home when he was nine weeks old (I was living with my parents at the time, in my second year of college, and definitely did NOT ask permission first). He was "just a foster" that I finally adopted a little over a year later on my 21st birthday.
Armando was such a good puppy. A silly little doofus who loved my older dog, Wilson, and was very sweet, calm, and loving. I took him to adoption events every weekend, where, over the next several months, he grew increasingly anxious. Overall, though, he seemed "normal." Although he had been bitten in the face by an older dog before he came to me, he went to a neighborhood dog play group and even to work at a dog daycare with me. He met a ton of new people. We felt like we were "doing everything right."
At about four months old, we started to notice some odd things. He was often quite nervous and spooked easily. As he grew into adolescence and then adulthood, we began to see reactivity towards other dogs - barking, lunging, snapping. Twice, this resulted in a redirected bite - first to me, then to my mom. After the second incident, we realized that we needed some serious help. A friend had recently taken a reactive class with K9 Turbo and suggested that we do the same. It truly changed our lives - not only because we were given the skills we needed to manage Armando's reactivity, but because it opened our eyes to force-free training and introduced us to a community of people who "got it."
By this time, Armando was also experiencing extreme fear. He spent almost every moment of his life uncomfortable. He and I had moved out when he was around nine months old, and we bounced around to a few different places over the years. He made some dog friends as I fostered, but it took a lot of time and patience. He had absolutely zero interest in making friends with new people. As we took our first reactive class, we also made a visit to Dr. Hawker, beginning our journey to finding the right combination of medication for Armando to get through his daily life (hint: it takes a whole lot of drugs). He was never as happy as when he got to visit my parents for a few days, and in August of 2018, we decided that it would be best for him to move back in with my parents indefinitely - a difficult decision, but one that has proved to be the absolute best thing I could have ever done for him.
I give Armando almost complete credit for where I am today. He opened my eyes to the struggles that so many dog guardians face. Fear, anxiety, reactivity, aggression, questioning whether this world is just too much for him. He gave me a soft spot for all dogs who struggle with reactivity, fear, and aggression. He inspired me want to do better for the dogs in our shelter and rescue system. He made me want to help people who are going through similar struggles with their dogs, making accurate information more easily accessible to them and helping them avoid making the same mistakes that I made over the years. When I was given the opportunity to join K9 Turbo as a dog walker, I jumped on it. Soon, I had the opportunity to be on the other side of those same reactive classes that I had taken a few years before, teaching others the skills I had learned. I eventually stepped into a management position, allowing me to help my team develop more programs to help the dogs and people in our community. I consider myself so incredibly fortunate to work alongside such passionate, determined people.
If I could do it all over again, there is so much I would change for Armando's sake, but I'm grateful for what we've been through together. He gave me a purpose that I may not have found otherwise. He'll always be my heart dog, the love of my life, and the very best thing that ever happened to me.