In January 1997 I had been a proud Rottweiler owner for just over two years. I can’t say I knew what I was doing when I first got them but to say I experienced a learning curve is an understatement. Learning cliff perhaps. Regardless of the efforts to learn how to be a dog owner, I was certainly infected with the Rottweiler bug. It is a nasty contagion, the Rottweiler Bug, one that makes you think that any canine that isn’t a Rottweiler is, well, just a dog. I know that other breeds cause this same illness but I still think they are mere colds compared to what I was infected with.
As part of that illness, I found myself gravitating toward fellow Rottweiler people. Think of it an alcoholic meeting up with other alcoholics but with no interest in breaking the addiction, in fact, more is encouraged. One such venue for that was a chat group called Rottie-L, best described as an electronic social center with almost one thousand members from all over the world, all of whom were addicted to Rottweilers. It was there that I had my first exposure to the world of Rottweiler Rescue. I kept seeing posts of dogs needing transports from one rescue to an adoptive home or from a shelter where it was at risk of being euthanized and needed help getting to a rescue. While following these posts in early March, I saw one post that encouraged people to go to a certain website to see who was doing rescue or transports in your state. I clicked the link for Montana and saw that there was no one listed for the entire state. I thought to myself, I got a truck with a topper, I can help transport if needed. So doing my good deed for the day I entered my name and contact information for providing transports for the state of Montana.
Going home that night I actually had a proud feeling, as though I had done something good for the world by just typing my name on a website. As my Rottweilers, Taz and Mickey, greeted me at the door, I proudly told them that I was now helping other Rottweilers as if they cared. They were only interested in getting pets from dad and dinner. Still I felt a little bit self-righteous as I went to bed only to find myself unable to sleep. Laying there I felt Taz and Mickey lying next to me, Mickey down by my legs snoring as always and Taz with her head across my shoulder breathing hot breath across my neck, a nightly ritual that I had learned to tolerate. One thought kept passing through my mind: If no one was doing transport in Montana, who is doing rescue? This really bothered me because I wondered if something happened to me then who would take care of my dogs.
The next morning I posted on Rottie-L asking about what was involved in starting a rescue. I was very blessed to have two amazing women, Grace Acosta of Gulfstream Rottweiler Rescue in Florida, and Jan Cooper in California, share their knowledge of rescue. After about a week of research I decided to go and talk to the local animal shelter.
Now it is important to understand that I had resided in Bozeman, Montana since 1990, so for seven years living there I had not gone to the animal shelter once. Even while residing in a trailer house right next door for four months, I still never saw its front door. So when I pulled into the parking lot I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into and felt a bit of trepidation. As I exited the car, the air was filled with barks of dozens of dogs somewhere beyond the cold concrete exterior. The entire setting was not exactly inviting but I reminded myself that I was just there to talk to them about Rottweilers. There was no intent on a commitment. Seriously, I was just there to talk.
Just as I reached the door it flew open and I nearly collided with a woman who was rushing out. She paused at nearly running into me, but wasn’t overly startled. She had salt and pepper hair, glasses and the distinct odors of caffeine and chocolate.
“May I help you?” She asked politely. I later learned her name was Vicki. Someone I would come to count as a dear friend over the years.
“Yes, my name is Troy Kechely and I’m thinking of starting a Rottweiler rescue.” It is very important to point out that I said ‘thinking of starting’ not that I was starting one. Vicki beamed a smile and grabbed my shoulders and I swear to you, I thought she was going to kiss me right on the lips. It was the first time I was scared in rescue. No, scared is not right, terrified, mortified, well you get the idea.
“Oh we are so glad you are here, we have this Rottweiler…” Vicki dragged me through the lobby and back through a labyrinth of narrow hallways to one of the kennels. All the while throwing out words at a thousand miles per hour. Words like ‘cage aggressive’, ‘growling’, ‘vicious’. Words that I certainly wasn’t ready for let alone equipped to handle. Stopping in front of a chain link kennel I was greeted by a one hundred pound male Rottweiler slamming his body against the gate, teeth flashing between barks that were so deep and terrifying that I was glad I had urinated prior to coming there.
“Bear acts all tough but he’s real friendly once he’s out of his kennel.” Vicki yelled over the baritone barrage as she reached to undo the kennel latch.
“You’re going to let him out!” I shrieked in a tone way to high for a tough Montana man to ever admit too. That was the second time that I was scared in rescue.
With the latch released, Bear bounded out, nub wiggling excitedly as he sniffed my legs and nudged my hand for affection. I was dumbfounded. Vicki went onto explain that when he was petted he would growl and the owners thought that Bear was being aggressive and would hit him to punish him. They surrendered him because they didn’t feel he was safe. She didn’t believe them though, insisting they were just typical stupid people. A common view of humans shared by Vicki and most people who get involved in rescue work.
As I petted him, sure enough, I heard a rumble, but having owned Rottweilers for a few years I knew that it was just the Rottie Rumble. Think of it as a cats purr. The males seem to do it the most but when a Rottweiler is happy they will give a rumble. You have to be around them a bit to know what is a happy rumble versus a not happy rumble but there was no doubt that Bear was giving the former.
For the next several weeks I took my lunch hours from work to visit the shelter and play with Bear. One day while out in the yard with him, Vicki came out and said,
“I don’t know what you are doing with him but keep it up.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“His cage aggression, it’s gone. No barking and growling when people go by now.”
I really didn’t know what I had done as I know I wasn’t doing any training, mainly because I didn’t know how to. All I was doing was playing with him. That was it: time, attention, exercise, consistency. All were the ingredients to taking a stir-crazy Rottweiler and making him into an adoptable dog.
|Bear, the first dog that BSRR helped save.|
Remember that addiction involving Rottweilers? Well there is a higher form of it. It’s called rescue, and I got nailed with it hard that fateful day back in March 1997 when I thought Vicki was going to kiss me just because I thought of starting a rescue. Little did I know that I would volunteer at that shelter for almost ten years, during that time I learned the art of handling aggressive dogs and behavior modification. Even developing course material for all the shelter staff and volunteers and eventually teaching around the nation. Oh, and that rescue I was thinking of starting, well it grew into Big Sky Rottweiler Rescue.
I’m not involved with the daily operations of BSRR any longer, focusing instead on my writing efforts, but thanks to amazing volunteers over the years it has saved over one thousand dogs since that first day and I owe it all to a sleepless night and a dog named Bear.