When Scruffy goes savage, it’s time for rehab

BennieBennie was on death row.

One on one, he’s fine, cute even. But he doesn’t get along with others.

In a recent altercation, he bit right through an ear.

“It’s the little fluffy ones that everyone thinks are cute when they act up, so no one corrects the behavior,” said Pamela Gorman, whose TV show “For Pet’s Sake” airs on Nevada County Television.

Bennie is a 5-year-old white Maltese who Gorman said was an hour from being euthanized at Sacramento’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals because of a history of attacking other dogs.

But then doggie-friendly organizations Rescue For Pets Sake and Scooters Pals helped to bring him to Nevada County.

Now he’s in a foster home, awaiting adoption.

“He needs to be placed in a home without another dog,” Gorman said.

Bennie needs rehabilitation. He needs to learn how to socialize with other dogs, which is where Beverley Mercier Ward steps in. As the operator of the Canine Academy, she is something of a dog psychologist, who helps correctively train the animals until they are ready for adoption.

“She’s an amazing lady” Gorman said. “She’s our ‘dog whisperer.’”

Mercier Ward takes dogs like Bennie and gets them to a point where they can socialize with other dogs, Gorman said.

“You know what I hear all the time? I hear, ‘Oh he’s a wonderful dog, but … He lunges at people. He tears up everything in the house.’ That’s not a wonderful dog. Everybody has issues with their dog. More often than not, it is a lack of socialization,” Mercier Ward said. “That dog needs to know that its food, air and water comes from you, otherwise you will never get any respect.”

Originally from Africa, after three decades in the corporate world, Mercier Ward said started volunteering at the Nevada County Animal Shelter — now operated by Sammie’s Friends. When the recession left her without a job because of the recession, Mercier Ward said she dove in head-first training animals.

Now she’s building a new center for animal rehabilitation. Thanks to a donation from Sammie’s Friends owner Cheryl Wicks, Mercier Ward hopes to have her 18 kennels open by the end of the year.

“My biggest focus will be the whole socialization process,” Mercier Ward said.

Mercier Ward and Wicks haven’t settled on a name yet. Wicks is leaning toward something along the lines of “Sammie’s Pit Stop.”

“A lot of it is not being socialized properly as a puppy, when a dog is taken away from its mother too soon,” Mercier Ward said. “That is when they learn to play. Play is huge; it teaches a dog a lot.”

Rates vary, but Mercier Ward asks $100 for an initial consultation. After that, the price varies depending on Mercier Ward’s prognosis. But on average, she said she can help most people with their canines for around $250.

“My challenges aren’t with the dogs … My biggest challenges are with clients’ patience,” Mercier Ward said. “It can take anywhere from six months to several years to get a dog to where they are properly socialized. But (some owners) want me to sprinkle fairy dust and fix it in two days.”

Once the rehabilitation center is up and running, Mercier Ward said she can help more dogs like Bennie.

Until then, Bennie still needs a home.


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