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Sturbridge Times

Fear, Aggression and Marko


The two children were there to pick out a puppy.  It should have been a pleasant occasion, but the kids were terrified.  One 15 months old and the other two and a half, they were screaming and would not leave dad who was holding both.  The puppies were not even close to them.  This would require some assistance to overcome the youngsters’ fear.

Quietly, the therapist entered the room and went to the far end and lay down.  He stayed there several minutes.  He would move around the room and watch the reaction of the children, stop, observe and move closer.  His influence calming, the two would be put down, but still clung to dad’s legs. 

He continued to move around, backing off if the kids were anxious.  Closer and closer eventually brushing up to them.  Then he sat next to them.  Finally, the father asked if the children wanted to pet him.  Marko, the gifted therapist is a dog.  By the time they left, they were crawling all over him.  He would honor them as well, by offering them the toy that is usually carried in his mouth.

Marko is owned by Kathy Menard.  Of course with dogs, who owns whom is always in question.  An 11-year-old German shepherd, Kathy has used him to work with dogs having aggression or fear issues.  Treatment of humans is only a sideline.  Even if you doubt a dog can be a psychologist, one meeting with him and you know his personality can only be described as “simpatico.”

He works with all sizes.  Kathy related the case of a Chihuahua named Bean with a Napoleon complex.  You know the type.  The little guy who wants to take on the world.  This particular diminutive canine was notorious for clearing out his vet’s waiting room.  He would be no match for Marko.  Marko in a calm non-threatening way walked up to the lunging and barking Bean and looked down at him with tail wagging.  Bean, a bit nonplused, ran behind his owner.  Our hero trotted off and Bean ran out and tried to bite Marko’s legs.  Marko’s only reaction was to ignore the little dog.

Marko toured around the room, checking out Bean’s reaction and circled closer and closer.  After several laps, Marko sat so Bean could check him out.  A few more sessions and the next time at the vet’s, Bean near sends the waiting room into shock with his gentlemanly conduct.

We think of humans as “gifted” if they pursue an art with the brilliance of, say, Yo Yo Ma.  The ability of border collies to herd sheep we marvel at.   Though our own dogs are unique to us, we never see them as being gifted as individuals pursuing a craft.  Though the ability Marko has is not unknown, it is rare enough to make him, in the words of Monty Python, something completely different.  More so, in that his breed is known for the particular calling of police dog. 

Indeed, Marko might have been in law enforcement himself.  His litter was bred for working dogs.  He has numerous offspring who work as K9s.   More probably, he would have participated in Schutzhund, the competition for police dog traits.  Without Kathy, he might have been a completely different dog.  She relates that when young he showed signs he might have become difficult in the wrong hands.

Poor Marko would miss the boat.  Because of a family crisis due to a relative’s health, Kathy had to put dog training on hiatus.  He may have become a great competition dog, but of course, there are many of them.  Few, if any, can do what Marko does.

Kathy in her own right is an expert Schutzhund trainer, and known for gentling dogs.  Yet, she is in awe of Marko.  What he does and his dedication could not be taught.  

Whether or not it was her destiny to raise Marko, Kathy shares the same sympathetic nature.  Folks who have had her in class have loved her work.  She, also, can bond with people and dogs.  The feeling for dogs arose at a young age when she would make leashes for her stuffed animals and try to teach them tricks.  There is no record of any of those pets attaining best in show.

She did have a period of intense fear of dogs at seven years old culminating when she saw a barking schnauzer behind a fence and could not move.  Mom had to be called to save her.  Yet the next year, on her own, she climbed a fence to meet a cantankerous German shepherd and make friends, giving him presents and treats.  Kathy was now a dog person with an affinity for the breed.  She would study for 14 years under world-renowned trainers.

She has been training in our neck of the woods for decades.  At Merryfields and other local venues she became well known to folks who needed a class for their dogs.  Whether it was puppy kindergarten or the aforementioned Schutzhund, she could change your dog, always for the better.

In 2008, she started Compatible Canine in Fiskdale just up from where Routes 20 and 148 intersect.  This was an outgrowth of her interest in canine nutrition.  Kathy had been studying the effect of raw food on dogs and had been dealing with a company that produced it.  As she became involved in marketing it, it occurred to her, she might as well open a store.  It began originally in rented space in Ware.

In Fiskdale, there is retail space where Kathy is happy to talk about nutrition.  Of course, there is a room for her to train, or for Marko to treat your pet. 

This is not to take anything away from Kathy.  I can attest, our beloved      yellow lab was enthralled with her.   But another lab owner said it all about   Marko, “Oh, he fixes everything.”

Along with Compatible Canine there is KT’s Pet Stop in Palmer.

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