The Sky can be a Scary Place


Second in a series

“Little Dog” had matted fur and a dangling leg but he was in otherwise good shape, for a 20# canine street urchin. The damage was long past any hope of improvement; only amputation could relieve this boy of his constant ache. With Marty already attached to him I remember thinking that all three of us were lucky to have met. Surgery was uneventful. Little Dog went on to live a long and playful 3-legged life.

Pretty soon a nice lady, Jan, began to accompany Marty to Little Dog’s veterinary appointments. It was clear from the start that this was no summer fling. They’ve raised an excellent family, their children learning compassion by example.

After their last dog passed on, and now empty nesters, Jan emailed me that she and Marty might be ready for a puppy. So I sent her a link to my puppy selection video (search “puppy selection” on my website, They headed straight for the nearest Labradoodle breeder. So far so good.

The dumbest thing anybody can do is let someone else pick their puppy. A knowledgeable and experienced dog breeder isn’t you. I lean hard on puppy stalkers to stand back and observe before diving heart first into a litter.

Jan and Marty noticed one of the puppies acting shy, another aggressive toward its siblings. They picked “Koko” because she seemed normal. After a few weeks she’d bonded to her human leaders but was acting shy. The real problem started on July 4th when the aerial assault freaked her out. Even after the bombardment ended Koko consistently scanned the sky before daring to set foot outside. Contrails, hot air balloons? Fugget about it.

Have you ever known someone who is afraid of almost everything? People and other dogs don’t scare “Koko” but if she doesn’t understand something she slams on the brakes. It got so bad that she refused to enter the backyard. I set about helping my loyal clients with their Koko conundrum. She’s turned into a great dog – with special needs.

Next week: Overwhelming fear – hard wired.


For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom ( Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Email pet behavior or physical questions to or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.