I was judging a retriever competition in Mississippi when a three- legged dog appeared. It was a tough event over very difficult terrain totally unsuited to a dog with such an obvious handicap.
“John Heath , number Seven, “ announced his handler. “Dog’s name’s Scrap.
John and Scrap scanned the horizon; a shot rang out as a rubber duck hit the far shore of a huge lake. It was a 400-yard swim against the current but I had no choice but send the dog.
Scrap hit the water and swam for his life. Three-hundred yards out it was obvious he was tiring.
“Go back,” yelled his handler and Scrap obeyed. Fighting his way through weed and submerged timber finally reaching his duck.
John and Scrap battled their way through eight gruelling rounds that day defeating more than thirty dogs to take second place in the greatest display of canine courage I had ever seen.
I was intrigued to know how John had trained Scrap to such a high level given his obvious handicap.
“I treat Scrap same way as all my other dawgs,” John told me without emotion. “Ole’ Scrap don’t know he’s only got three legs and if he don’t know I ain’t gonna tell him.”
And there it was, the answer to rehabilitating any troubled dog: leadership. John realised that Scrap lived only in the moment; the traffic accident that lost him his hind leg was history. All Scrap cared about was today. John’s matter of fact attitude gave Scrap all the confidence he needed to overcome his problems.