The Real Lewis & Clark

The Adventures of Lewis & Clark

Lewis & Clark are the name-sakes of this company, Lewis & Clark Collar Co.  My husband takes full credit for the naming of both of our dogs.  So what are the adventures of the real Lewis & Clark? Read on.

Lewis was adopted as a puppy, from a town famous for making cheese.  In this tiny town, we picked up a tiny black puppy.  We should have named him Feta, but the name Lewis seemed quite fitting. One of my earliest memories of Lewis is when he pooped on the Christmas tree skirt.

Lewis enjoyed life as a lone wolf for five years.  During this time, he consumed many inappropriate objects from the garbage. He ate a tin-foil wrapped roast, and had sparkly poops (and an expensive vet visit) for a few days. His hobbies (though not necessarily strengths) included chasing deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, and rabbits.  He has yet to capture any of these enemies. Lewis was kept company by his beloved squeaky rooster, which he still has to this day.  He insists on sleeping in his tiny bed that he got as a puppy, even though he now barely fits.

Our quest to own a Great Dane had really been my quest, for the past 7 years at that time, until the very recent past where I had convinced my husband we needed a Dane. After being declined on one application, I really nerded out and wrote a cover letter to try to seal the deal to bring a different rescued Great Dane -  Boomer -  home.  Well, the nerdiness paid off, and we arranged to go to meet Boomer - sight unseen - and drove all the way out to Yorkton, Saskatchewan (another tiny town.)

Boomer was an 18 month old Merle Great Dane.  We knew he had been born in a puppy mill in Saskatchewan, and saw the horrible pictures from the many times this puppy mill had been investigated (but not shut down).  We suspect he had been bred there, but we'll never know.  He was sold to a lady, who I think had good intentions, but ended up kenneling him 18 hours a day. She surrendered him to rescue, and I am so thankful for that decision.  The photos, below, are the first photos we ever saw of Boomer. He looks so sad, and so skinny.

When we met Boomer, he weighed less than 100 pounds . His coat was dull, his eyes were lackluster. His nails were overgrown, and his ears were both infected. He seemed to be seeing the world for the first time, and everything was scary. Boomer was renamed Clark, there on out. We loaded Clark into my Mazda sedan, and drove all the way back to Winnipeg.

On the way back to Winnipeg, we stopped in at the home of the head of the Great Dane Rescue. Her name is Elaine, and she has a beautiful heart. Clark enjoyed meeting her Danes, and drinking from their raised water dishes.  Elaine and I went upstairs, and Clark followed. He wouldn't let me out of his sight.  When Elaine and I had finished, we began going back downstairs. Poor Clark couldn't understand these strange tiny boards that move you between levels, and got so upset he pooped on her carpet upstairs. Elaine, of course, had seen her fair share of poop, and was unphased by the event.  She told me, "I need you to promise me one thing - that you'll love this dog." This photo is one of the first photos of Clark and I, taken in Elaine's front yard. 

Lewis met his big, little brother that night. Lewis wasn't quite sure what to make of him, but Clark was very gentle and respectful of tiny Lewis. We settled both dogs in, and went upstairs (strange tiny boards leading to another level). I awoke in the middle of the night to a strong odour of feces. When I came downstairs, Clark was already up, pacing. There was diarrhea everywhere. I tacked this up to Clark having a huge and busy day, and to the struggles of adjusting to a new home. The photo, below, is Clark's first night at home. Look at all those ribs - he weighs less than 100 pounds here. 

I took a couple days off work to help get the pups adjusted.  All was well, but each night, Clark would urinate and defecate. I continued to believe this was understandable anxiety related to his new home.  I soon had to return to work.  When I came home from work, the first day leaving them, I came home to more diarrhea and urine than you can imagine. He had shredded things, anything he could get his mouth on (which, when you're a Great Dane, is a lot). Every day when we were away at work, and every evening when we came home, there was destruction, urine, and feces. 

I began to get the sense that this was more than just a tough adjustment. I began to film Clark while we were away, to see what he was doing and if his anxiety had a pattern or trigger.  Nope, he was anxious all day. Wrecked things all day.  And urinated and defecated throughout the day. I then began to investigate options to try to help us. I took Clark to a local doggy-daycare, Woofs n' Wags. I immediately felt comfortable around the staff, and in their facility.  Clark began to go to daycare once a week.  I met with a force free trainer, Lisa, from The Noble Hound. She immediately seemed to understand Clark. We began private training sessions with Lisa, who helped us tremendously.

Clark, in being scared of the world, consistently attempted to be scarier than anything around him. Barking, growling and lunging were the main behaviours in his repertoire.  He walked with a stiff body, with an intensity that made it difficult to re-focus his attention. He was easily frightened by things I had not noticed (but began to, as part of my learning). At home, we continued to film Clark.  We tried different strategies - pheromones, lots of exercise, brain games, trying to increase his confidence, kennelling, and not kenneling.  Vet visits, which we had a lot of due to his multiple physical health concerns, were a nightmare.  Nothing even touched his anxiety.  At this point, it had been nine months of urine and diarrhea every morning, and every evening. I hated seeing Clark be so anxious, and was running out of ideas to try to help him.  Lisa suggested we talk to our vet about Prozac, a tool that she had seen help dogs with severe anxiety. I wrote a list of everything we had tried, and everything that had not worked. I booked a consult in with our vet to discuss prozac.

That same week, while awaiting our consult, I came downstairs to let Clark out of his kennel. After leaving the room for a moment, I returned to find blood all over the living room. Upon investigation, I realised this was coming from Clark's mouth, and noticed that he had broken two canine teeth. We suspect - though we will never know - that he did this trying to break out of his kennel. 

The prozac consult was now coupled with an urgent surgery to have two of Clark's canine teeth removed. I was determined that I was not going to leave the vet's office without a prescription in hand. I am so thankful for the conversation we had with our vet that day, and Clark started on prozac as soon as his medications from the oral surgery had cleared his system.

The marvel of finding tiny prozac pills in my living room was overshadowed by my marvel in the change we began to see in Clark.  Within two days of starting prozac, the peeing and pooping stopped. We no longer kenneled Clark (my vow after the broken teeth), but he no longer destroyed everything in sight. On our walks, I noticed - for the first time - he was sniffing his environment. It became a little easier to get his attention on walks. He began to hang his head out of the car window.  Our vet visits (which were still numerous) began to get a little easier. I remember the first time that Clark LAY DOWN at the vet, and remained laying down for the whole exam. At about six months after prozac, he began to wag his tail a little bit when he saw me.  He still had no idea how to play,  and still did not enjoy the presence of humans (minus my husband and I, and all of the staff at Woofs n' Wags who he adores).

We continued to participate in private training. We attended force-free, positive reinforcement group training classes with The Noble Hound and Paws Dog Solutions. I still filmed Clark occasionally. We trialled 98 723 different kinds of food to try to figure out Clark's numerous food allergies. I began rubbing anti-fungal lotion into his paws when we learned he was allergic to grass. My husband was shown how to give injections of a heavy-duty medication to help with Clark's arthritis (which he got at 3 years old thanks to terrible breeding). He's on a joint supplement, and we have a running prescription for anti-fungal lotion. He gets his nails cut every 3 weeks. He still takes prozac. I am often asked: "Isn't he like a zombie?" - No, but he is a Great Dane, and so quite lazy. "I can't imagine putting my dog on meds." - I can't imagine NOT having Clark on meds. Why would I deny him the chance to live a life where he is not constantly in fear, a fear so severe that he can't control his bowel and bladder? A medication that allows him to sniff the grass, feast on snow, and hang his head out of the car window? Medications have helped to change Clark's life. Our work in training Clark will never be finished. We can never become complacent while out walking him, or while exposing him to new situations.  But, I know we've changed his life. 

When I got Clark, I didn't have his trust. I hadn't earned it. He trusts me now. He needs to have his paw or his head on me, whenever he can. He squishes his giant head into my chest and releases the biggest sighs. He smiles sometimes. He dances with me, and demands many scratches.  I know that Clark isn't an easy dog, and I know that he isn't an inexpensive dog. I also know that rescue saved his life. Clark challenges me and teaches me new things about himself, and about myself. 

So, what have I learned from all this? I've learned to trust, even when I'm scared. I've learned to be mindful & present, and notice everything in my environment, just like Clark does. I've learned that broken things can be healed, and that trust comes through patience and perseverance. He has taught me about joy. I've learned a love like no other, for a dog like no other. You may hear my refer to Clark as "Special Clark" - because he truly is.

The left photo was taken the day we drove him home. The photo on the right was taken in Fall of 2017.

These days, Lewis and Clark continue to adventure together. They enjoy rolling in and eating snow, respectively.  They have a secret language where Lewis convinces Clark to obtain things he can't reach himself. They don't cuddle, but they've started sleeping close together. Neither of them like when the other one is away (even though Lewis does still enjoy the feeling of being King of the Castle). We recently discovered that Clark enjoys prancing in the yard with a stick, and even more recently discovered he's sort of learned what to do with a tennis ball. Lewis has figured out that if he stands on his hind legs, he can eat out of Clark's food dish. Lewis is the boss of Clark, which he takes great delight in. Lewis will try to steal anything of Clark's (toys, treats, couch spots), and Clark patiently obliges. 

This company exists because of Lewis & Clark. This company began out of my desire to make things for my two little adventurers, with their adventurous spirits and brave souls.  Collars that are functional, washable, and durable, without being ugly.  Leashes that won't give your hand rug-burn with tough nylon handles. and that support the training required for reactive dogs.  I make everything, and everything I make are items that I use on my own dogs, and I think that says a lot. 

Thank you for joining the adventures of Lewis & Clark.