This week we interview Alison Dowsett about her dog Rookie, a beloved golden retriever. Alison has always grown up with golden retrievers, her parents and sisters all own one and Alison felt like she knew and understood them inside out. This all changed one day when Rookie had an accident that would crush Alison’s trust in him forever. Here is her story.
1. Firstly, how would you describe Rookie?
When we went to pick Rookie from his litter of brothers and sisters, the breeder told us that Rookie would be a very calm and submissive dog… how wrong he was! If I could choose 3 words to describe Rookie it would be cheeky, stubborn and affectionate. If I had to add a fourth it would be sooky! When he is at home in his usual environment, Rookie is calm and extrememly affectionate. He still climbs into our laps for TV time, and lies in the sun on the deck during the day. As soon as Rookie is anywhere else he is a different dog! It is like his senses are working on over drive! He is extremely excitable and energetic but always friendly. He enjoys the company of people far more than dogs and will often ignore the dogs in the park but interact with everyone’s owner!
2. When Rookie was nearly 1 years old he was hit by a car, can you tell us what happened?
As a puppy, Rookie was extremely well behaved off the lead. Strangers would comment on his obedience and the simple command “come” would have him immediately by my side. I felt like I had full control over him and had no fears in letting him be off the leash at our local park. The park is fenced all the way around, however it has gaps in the place of gates, meaning dogs can still run in and out of the area. I walk Rookie every morning before going to work. On this particular morning I was the only one at the park, it was still very early and only just becoming light. It was very windy and Rookie seemed unsettled. Someone had left a white jacket tied to the fence and it was flapping in the wind. I remember Rookie stopped and growled at it and backed away, but we kept on walking. We made it all the way around the park and we were about to go for our second lap when a big gust of wind blew the jacket on the fence. Rookie became completely spooked and began to sprint in the opposite direction. I tried calling him and saying “come” but he didn’t even slow down. I remembered back to puppy school when the trainers told me always to remain calm, never run after the dog, but all I could see was Rookie running towards the open gap in the fence towards the road, and one silver car turning at the roundabout onto the street Rookie was getting close to. My calls to him were useless and he was so fast and so far away that I had no chance of preventing what I could see unfolding, but by this stage I was running towards the gate myself. It was like it was all in slow motion. The car was traveling along the quiet road and Rookie simply ran straight out in front of it. I remember screaming but then seeing Rookie looking very scared and running around the car. This was a plus, he wasn’t lying on the road. Luckily the car was not traveling at a high speed and saw Rookie with a couple of seconds to slow down even further. The driver asked if Rookie was OK, but seemed annoyed that he had run onto the road. I remember grabbing Rookie by the collar as he was a bit disorientated. I put him into the car and burst into tears and began to shake uncontrollably. Rookie was completely fine, not even a limp, but I was in complete shock about what had just happened. When I got home we took him to the vet but Rookie had got away with only a big fright.
3. How has Rookie’s accident affected the way you treat him?
I no longer have total trust in him. I feel that no matter how well trained your animal is, they are still animals and can behave in unpredictable ways. I was extremely traumatised and too scared to take Rookie back to that park for a good 6 months. Instead we drove every morning to a fully fenced park a little further from our house and I did more training with him. After that, my fiance and I trialed Rookie back at the park but walked him together. Soon I realised that Rookie wasn’t going to run out of the park for no reason. He had been spooked that day which made him behave unpredictably. I still don’t like walking Rookie there if we are the only ones, he needs other dogs and owners to keep him occupied. I have noticed he is a nervy dog now with regards to wind. He hates it and jumps at anything flapping in it!
4. Do you think you would be a different dog owner if Rookie hadn’t had the accident?
No not really. Perhaps I would just be a bit more trusting of him. He’s probably just made me act on the err of caution!