Meet Roscoe – Why I Trained This Dog and Photographed Him

Posted on May 7th, 2020 by FetchMasters in Uncategorized

In the first years of my dog training career, I was very experimental — whereas nowadays I stick to a pretty tight niche. But back then, it seemed more important to take a scatter-gun approach, learn all I could, and get as good as I could. For whatever reason, I developed the urge to train a bed bug detection dog. Yes, that is a thing; google it.

During my search for an appropriate dog, I found Roscoe, a coonhound mixed with an unknown midnight lover. He was owned by the Bel Rea Institute in Denver, where they used him to train veterinary technicians to handle and restrain dogs. Because of the constant handling and restraint, Roscoe had some mental scars; he could not stand to be petted or cuddled, and he sure as heck would not come when he was called.

A friend of mine who was attending Bel Rea at that time informed me that Roscoe (Alfie was his name back then) was about to be phased out of Bel Rea and was in need of a home. My friend thought a dog trainer would be the best match. Plus, with his coonhound heritage, Roscoe likely would have the nose for the job.

Bel Rea wanted to interview me to make sure I’d be a good fit for Roscoe before adopting him to me. At the interview, they turned him loose in a big fenced-in area so that the dog and I could become acquainted without Roscoe feeling cornered.

Once released into the fenced-in area, Roscoe started running as fast as he could around the perimeter, maintaining as much distance as he could from me and the interviewer. He had zero intention of being caught by anyone — ever again. When the interview had ended (which seemed useless, as I was unable to interact with the fleeing coonhound mix), Roscoe refused to be rounded up.

Fortunately the interviewer had left a leash attached to Roscoe’s collar before releasing him into the fenced-in area. And as fortunately, I had brought Alie — my gun dog and constant companion — with me to the interview.

I brought Alie into the fenced-in area, pointed at the running coonhound and told her to fetch him. She ran him down, grabbed the leash he was dragging, and towed Roscoe back to me.

The interviewer had never seen such a thing. He looked at Roscoe (with the end of his leash still in Alie’s mouth), and then he looked at me and said: He’s yours.

Turns out Roscoe was also prone to car sickness. He could practically look at a car and vomit. It was a rough ride back home. But we made it, and over the next few months I trained him to be a fantastic bed bug detection dog, got him over his motion sickness, and fixed the not-coming-when-called issue. My dog training improved drastically by working with such a non-cooperative dog.

Roscoe and I then worked a bunch of bed bug detection jobs together: mountain resorts, residential bedrooms, hotel rooms. And then I decided that I did not want to continue pursuing that line of work. By this time, Roscoe had bonded tightly with my daughter, Julia. So I gave Roscoe to her. They are the best of friends.

Why did I take this picture of Roscoe? Easy, I never want to forget all the memories this dog helped me to make: the skills I learned while working with him, the transformation I made in his life, the gift he has been to my life, and what he continues to mean to my family.

Thanks to dogs like Alie, Roscoe and Rooster (who is fodder for another story), my career is built around two things. First, I help people train their dogs so that they can accumulate many good memories together; after all, an untrained dog is likely to generate many bad memories. And second, I help people preserve those memories by applying my understanding of the camera to my understanding of their dogs.

Thanks for the memories, Roscoe. I love you, buddy.