“Magoo” is a 5-year old terrier mix, his muzzle flecked with gray, his chest and paws a bright white. You’d swear he was part Schnauzer, but then there are the Chihuahua ears. The big, brown marble eyes are what really get your attention. Unlike his namesake — the bumbling, nearsighted old gentleman of cartoon fame — Magoo’s eyes follow your every move, anticipating the next treat or pat on the head.

Magoo came to the Irvine Animal Care Center as a transfer from another shelter. The Irvine staff soon figured out that he needed surgery for pulmonary artery stenosis. They sent him out for a medical consult, and six weeks later surgeons inserted a stent by way of his jugular vein, while shelter staff looked for someone to foster him during recovery. A volunteer at the shelter, Mary Lou Solid, tentatively said, “I may be able to do it.” She was already infatuated with Magoo from walking and helping to socialize him. Her main worry was, “Can I be tough enough to take him back for adoption when he’s better?”

By the end of Magoo’s 10-day recuperation at her home, Mary Lou was lost in love for 12-pound Magoo. Yet she mustered the courage to return him to the shelter, hoping he’d be adopted immediately. “For a week or more,” Mary Lou said, “Magoo was there, paws on the kennel, waiting for me.” She recalled, “I couldn’t stand it. He’s mine; I can’t leave him another day.”

When Magoo got to his forever home, he was a different dog. And not in a good way. Still affectionate and well behaved with his owner, Mary Lou reported, “When we walked, he lunged and barked at people and other dogs.” He even got his teeth into the pant leg of a workman who entered the house. But instead of returning Magoo to the shelter, Mary Lou turned to trainer Faith Boyle of “Instant Karma” dog training. Boyle realized that all the changes in this dog’s life — different shelters, different homes, surgery — had made Magoo fearful and confused. But not aggressive.

“Reactivity on the leash is one of the most common problems for any dog that hasn’t been trained or socialized,” says Boyle. “And part of the solution is always the handler.” So trainer Boyle gave Mary Lou some instruction on walking with a loose leash, making proper corrections, and learning how to switch the decision-making from the dog to the handler.

Mary Lou also started clicker training, which helped to reinforce what she had learned. On walks, she had clicker in hand. When she and Magoo encountered another dog, she clicked and gave Magoo a treat. She knew he’d do most anything for cheese. “It worked almost instantly. It changed by life, and Magoo’s life.”

For socialization, Mary Lou took him to a local pet care facility where the trainer introduced Magoo to his new “pack” of small dogs. “Oh boy, this could be trouble,” Mary Lou recalls thinking. But after some initial sniffing and checking out, Magoo was a member of the pack — in good standing.

Magoo now can walk with other dogs and encounter strangers without incident. “He’s the perfect dog,” reports Mary Lou. “From Day One he has never ‘gone’ in the house. He is always three feet from me, wherever I am in the house.” And when that same workman came back to the house recently, Magoo had no taste for his pant leg.

Mary Lou is convinced that if Magoo had been trained and socialized as a youngster, he would have been perfect from the start. She’s just glad she was there for his journey from “testy terrier to lovable lap dog.”

Fran Tardiff

Fran Tardiff is a freelance writer. She retired as a public relations writer after working 20 years for both UCLA and UC Irvine.She also has been a volunteer at the Irvine Animal Care Center for more than 15 years. She lives in Laguna Hills with her two dogs and husband.

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