Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast
My niece walking my 110 pound Rottweiler, Mickey, many years ago. Mickey would normally drag anyone walking her, but she just knew to be gentle with my niece.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Sleepless Night and a Dog Named Bear

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.
After a month Vicki asked me to review an application to adopt Bear from someone.  I had been learning enough about rescue to know that part of the adoption process involved an interview and home check so that is what I did.  The young lady was a professional barrel racer on the rodeo circuit and Bear would be with her where ever she went.  I approved the adoption and gave Bear a hug as he went onto his new life.  He was my first rescue and I learned more in those six weeks of working with him than with any other dog since. 

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.

For more information about rescue and Big Sky Rottweiler Rescue, go to and don’t forget to check out my novels, Stranger’s Dance and Lost Horse Park on Amazon.

Friday, November 13, 2015

These Aren't Normal Dogs

In early October 1994 a coworker told me that her sister had a female Rottweiler who was about to have puppies and she was going to buy one. Like a fool, I committed to purchasing one as well, though I had no idea why. Perhaps it was just another step to adulthood since I had a good job and was in the process of purchasing a home. Regardless of the reason I had made the commitment. Being a typical stupid twenty-something male I then told her to pick out a big aggressive one.  Looking back I shake my head at my ignorance.  Seriously, what was I thinking? I had never seen a Rottweiler in real life, and my only experience with dogs was our ranch dogs who were more like four legged free loaders who followed us around on the ranch during chores. My knowledge of dogs was so limited that the first thing I did was go out and purchase a book called Rottweilers: A Complete Pet Owner’s Guide.

With a newly read book and not much else, I waited expectantly for my dog to appear.  I had already decided that I would name my dog Taz regardless of the sex.  Being an avid fan of the Tasmanian Devil on the old Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons, the name seemed a logical choice. During that time I learned that my coworker couldn’t keep her dog where she lived so I agreed to keep her at my house, another fateful decision.  So here I was expecting two eight week old Rottweilers with not a clue as to what I was getting myself into. The weeks after my fateful decision flew by, and the pups were born October 28, 1994 with no males available so I knew I was getting a female.  The pups weren’t available until after Christmas so I arranged to visit my mom out in Portland for the holiday, figuring I would be limited on my travels once I became a puppy parent. After Christmas I flew back home on December 26th, the very day the dogs arrived. There before me were two black and tan balls of fur and curiosity. Taz and Mickey were my first experience with puppies, let alone Rottweilers, and the lessons I would learn from them would transform my life in ways never imagined. 

Over the next twelve months I went through the painful process of house training and learning of the destructive habits of puppies.  After a year my coworker realized she couldn’t keep her dog so I was now the proud owner of both of them.

It was while playing with them and simply watching them grow and explore that I realized there was something different about them from other dogs I had known.  They were thinking, scheming at times, they were, for lack of a better description, not normal dogs. It was then that I started down the path of researching more about the breed and their unique traits. They certainly were not like the mutts or cattle dogs from my ranch experience.

As Taz and Mickey grew older I found myself changing my lifestyle to accommodate them.  I quickly learned that if they were bored or not exhausted from exercise then they became destructive.  To this day I believe that there is no more destructive force on earth than two bored Rottweiler puppies. So, long walks and play sessions became the norm.  This grew the bond between us, so much so that I found myself wanting to get home from work to spend time with my dogs instead of going out with friends. The reason was simple enough, I was finding my time with dogs more enjoyable than humans, or at least humans who didn’t like dogs. 

My dad struggled with my new devotion to my dogs, not being a man that thought more of dogs than, well, just dogs.  I was starting to see these powerful, intelligent, exuberant pups as companions, even starting to refer to them as my kids, something I never thought I’d do. This disagreement came to a head one weekend when the dogs and I drove the two hours back to the family ranch west of Helena, Montana.  Taz and Mickey had accompanied me many times before and had always stayed with me in the house, but for whatever reason my dad said my dogs couldn’t stay inside anymore.  I told him that my dogs sleep indoors with me and dad made it clear again that they were not welcome in the house.  I said, ‘okay’, and didn’t discuss it again during the night.  Come bedtime, I went outside with my dogs and all three of us spent the night sleeping in my truck.  The next morning my dad saw the dogs and I exiting the truck and asked where I slept.  I told him in my truck and he asked, amazed, and why I would do that when there was a perfectly good bed in the house for me?  My response floored him.

“I told you, the dogs sleep where I sleep.”

I don’t recall the exact words my dad replied with but I’m sure ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’ were mixed in his tirade. My dad never grasped the connection that had formed between my dogs and me.  It was similar to the bond I shared as a youth with the ranch dogs, barn cats, and horses on the ranch.  Those I will detail in future blog posts. It wasn’t that I was adverse to my dogs sleeping outside, it was just that I had come to realize that my world was full of many things: family, friends, job, hobbies, and many other things, but for my dogs, their entire world was me.  I had never had a living thing so trusting, so dependent on me for its existence, and it wasn’t something I was willing to discard or treat in a cavalier fashion. For that I was willing to make sacrifices, including sleeping in my truck.

Months passed and during that time I heard all the rumors about how Rottweilers became aggressive and turned on their owners as they got older.  I couldn’t imagine those being true as I watched my now 18-month-old dogs play.  At nearly 90 pounds, though, they were starting to be intimidating even if still exhibiting some of the uncoordinated antics that puppies do.  Then one summer night my worst fears came to fruition. 

My dogs slept on the bed with me and while in a deep sleep I heard deep growls unlike anything I had heard before. I opened my eyes and in the darkness I could see and feel the shape of one of my dogs standing over me.  I heard the growl again.  Dear God, they are going to kill me!  I couldn’t believe that the rumors were true. I struggled to figure out a way to fend off this beast who was standing over me growling.  My arms were pinned under the covers; I truly felt helpless.  I heard the growl again: deep, throaty, and menacing.  Then I heard something else, voices outside my open window.  My condo was right next to Montana State University, so a steady stream of students passed at all hours of the day and night.  As my eyes, ears, and mind adjusted to consciousness I realized that Taz wasn’t growling at me but she was protecting me, giving that ominous growl that Rottweilers do oh so well. I finally freed a hand and patted her side, telling her it was okay.  Seeing I was awake, Taz went back to the playful, loving pup she always was.  Again, I realized my dogs were not what I had known dogs to be.  One minute sleeping, then the next a fearless protector, and then back to loving companion. 

I have never forgotten that night and the lesson learned about the loyalty of dogs.  Over the following years I learned a lot from Taz and Mickey.  I also made a lot of mistakes, which thankfully didn’t result in me having to put them down or losing my house in a lawsuit.  The biggest lessons were, first and foremost, the understanding of how a canine pack functions. It is critical that we interact with and communicate with dogs in ways they understand, as dogs, and stop trying to interact with them as if they are humans.  This was where the name of my consulting business, Think Dog Consulting, originated.  For me to have a healthy relationship with my dogs I had to think like a dog.  The second lesson was patience. Getting angry over deeds done hours before did nothing to help train the dog.  I learned to roll with the punches, so to speak, and remember that Taz and Mickey were learning as much as I was.

Taz died unexpectedly at age four, the cause never determined.  Mickey, the dog who was never supposed to be mine, ended up being a faithful companion and protector for ten years. I miss them both very much, as they taught me more about life than is possible to convey here. They also were the reason I expanded my interest in Rottweilers and eventually started Big Sky Rottweiler Rescue, that story I will detail in my next blog.

There are many other stories to tell of Taz and Mickey and I hope to address those in future blogs.  If you want to experience a wonderful story about the bond between humans and dogs, check out my novel, Stranger’s Dance, on Amazon or by order through any local book story.

The Beautiful Bond

Welcome to the inaugural entry of my new blog, The Beautiful Bond. Every week or so, will follow real life examples which detail the amazing bond that forms between animals and humans. Mind you, most of my stories will revolve around horses and dogs, and an occasional cat, not to take away from the companionship that people receive from other animals.

Growing up on a ranch in western Montana, I spent all of my childhood and into my college years, working with, and being around the ranch animals, especially our dogs and horses.  Growing older, I ventured into the dog ownership world myself, a subject for another blog post.  Little did I know that fateful decision would take me down a road that would lead to the founding of Big Sky Rottweiler Rescue, a 501c3 non-profit group that now covers five states. As a result I became very involved with the local animal shelter in Bozeman. I learned I had a gift for working with difficult dogs though, in all honesty, I had no idea what I was doing when I started.  With a career in engineering, I approached all the behavioral problems of the dogs I worked with in a methodical way.  That started with trying to understand how dogs thought and behaved, leading me to developing training material on dealing with aggressive dogs: teaching animal shelters, rescues, law enforcement and animal control officers all over the country through a company I started called, Think Dog Consulting.  I’ve had the pleasure of educating hundreds of people over the years and also the duty of being an expert witness in several court cases.  Over time I really started to become intrigued by canine-caused bite injuries.  That opened a whole new door of material to teach.   Though I have shut down Think Dog Consulting, I am occasionally requested to provide classes to various agencies around the region.  The reason I stepped back from that work was a simple one.  When I started I wanted to keep humans from being bitten and dogs from needlessly being killed. At the time there was a clear need for my material but now, thankfully, many others have started providing training like mine, much of it free. Once I saw that the need was being met, I gladly stepped back with no regrets.

My passion now is writing, with my first published book originating from my Think Dog Consulting work.  It was an educational handbook titled Management of Aggressive Canines for Law Enforcement.  The handbook is no longer in print, however it really set the groundwork for me to pursue deeper writing efforts.  In 2012 I started serious work on my first novel, Stranger’s Dance, which was published in June 2015.  This novel, and the next several future novels, involve the human struggles we all face, but in each story, an animal becomes the catalyst for change and healing, as I’ve seen hundreds of times in real life. 

The following blog posts will be memories of my life events and isn’t intended to be used for educational purposes.  Instead, this is to emphasize how animals enrich our lives, even saving us from ourselves and the darkness that the world throws at us.  Because many of the stories are from my own experience, I will do my best to be as accurate as I can, though I’m sure the fog of time will vary some details. Accept this as an advance apology for those times.  Along with my own experiences, I will tell of people I’ve known over the years who have influenced me through their experiences with animals.  When possible I will request that they write the stories themselves or at least provide me a summary to work from.  Again, the goal is to emphasize the beautiful bond between animals and humans. Overall this blog is meant to be fun, entertaining, and enlightening.