• Lilly, Elizabeth and Eddy with Letty.

Elizabeth & Letty

My Dog & Me with Elizabeth Caunter

In association with our good friends a DogHQ each month we meet Shore people who's four-legged family members add a great deal of joy to their lives. Our very own dog-lover Aidan Bennett (he has two doggies of his own he spoils – Olive a Cocker Spaniel and Maisie a French Bulldog) loves the task of putting this monthly feature together. This month he talks with Elizabeth Caunter of Mairangi Bay about Letty, their very special family rescue dog.

AIDAN BENNETT: How long has Letty been part of your life?
Letty has been part of our lives since September 2015.

AB: What made you decide to get a rescue dog?
Letty came to us through the fantastic Auckland Puppy Rescue, who rescued Letty and her littermates from squalid conditions. They were working with Chained Dog Rehabilitation & Rehoming NZ who managed to get the mother dog spayed so she wouldn't have more unwanted litters.
When Letty arrived, she was so malnourished and small that the rescue thought she was part Chihuahua! Now she's medium-sized and we have no idea of her breed. Two of her rescued brothers were fully tan, and the other looked like a Rottie! We do think she has herding dog heritage because of the white tip on her tail ("Shepherd's lantern") and her incredible ball focus.

AB: Is she your first dog, if not tell us about your other dogs?
Eddy and I both had dogs growing up, but our first dog as a family was a cute Corgi mix puppy, Rascal. Sadly, Rascal passed away from complications during surgery to correct a fatal heart condition. We were devastated, but we knew we wanted to adopt again and give another dog the chance at a loving home.

AB: Do you have any other pets?
We have a feisty long-haired Tortie called Candycane (a gift from Santa!)

AB: What do you love about Letty?
Letty is whip-smart, with all the infectious energy and joy of a young dog, as well as gentle and loving. She's so fun to play with and great at intuiting new commands.

AB: Does she have any bad habits?
Letty unfortunately developed severe anxiety after being attacked by another dog at nine months old, but she's come a long way thanks to positive reinforcement (we all trained ourselves to stop saying "No!" and instead direct her to what we wanted her to do) and through working with vet behaviourist Jess Beer.

AB: What are her favourite things to do?
Letty lives for her soccer ball; she is incredibly fast, athletic and agile. She also loves a fierce game of tug and curling up with Lily on her special spot on the couch.

AB: How long has she been going to DogHQ and does she love it?
Letty has been attending DogHQ since she was four months old. Because she was already settled there before she was attacked, DogHQ became the only place she felt comfortable hanging out with other dogs. It's a treasure seeing her play with her doggy friends in the photos, and hopefully one day she'll be just as confident outside of DogHQ.

AB: Does she love the beach and swimming?
The first time Letty saw the water washing onto the sand, she was terrified! But now she's as confident as anything and splashes right out there just because she can. Plus, she loves to dig through the sand like a maniac!

AB: Any words of wisdom for other dog owners or prospective dog owners?
We highly recommend adopting from a rescue, as they will carefully match you to a dog suited to your lifestyle and family. Especially an adult or young adult dog – they'll already have established personalities, so you know exactly how well they'll fit into your family.
Also, try ditching the word "no" (what does it teach your dog, anyway, besides "Uh-oh, I'm in trouble!") and adopting positive reinforcement and redirection – it's made such a difference in our lives to stop "growling" and start teaching. We have a close, loving bond with Letty, and Lily has learned so much about dog body language and respectful boundaries, which is so essential for kids and their safety around dogs.