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Monday, May 13, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi turned 6 months old while we were in the desert. To celebrate, we bought him a vanilla milkshake on a resupply day in a town. He thought that it was pretty amazing!
He seems to grow from one minute to the next these days. He's up to 38.5 lbs. When we first got him, he was so underweight that the puppy growth charts predicted that he'd reach only 28 lbs as his adult weight.

That gives you an idea of what a rough start he had. Living on the streets must have been incredibly stressful for his mom and her puppies. His mom probably had a lot of trouble getting enough food, and thus the puppies probably had to fight among themselves to get enough nutrition to survive. No wonder he values food and will guard it more than any other dog we've had in our family.

I'm so glad that Hachi can be silly now! No worries for him now.

In the desert, we camped in quiet places. At one site, we rarely even caught sight of another person. So, Hachi was in heaven, perhaps the most relaxed that I've ever seen him. But, very small things would upset him greatly. For example, at night, we could sometimes see headlights in the distance. That made him incredibly worried, which he expressed by barking insanely at the lights.

At another campsite, cars or bikes would occasionally appear on the horizon a half mile away, be visible for about 30 seconds, then drop out of sight for a minute, and then reappear fairly close to the LabMobile. On the first day that we were there, we considered moving because Hachi became completely irrationally upset by the cars/bikes.

Here is a photo from near that campsite. I was playing with Hachi on a mesa, and he spotted a car. You can see by his facial expression that he was upset. After I snapped this photo, I went over and gave him treats for as long as he could see the car. That's called "classical conditioning" where we try to change his emotions about seeing a car by pairing it with something that he loves (treats).

In these situations, he relaxed incredibly fast after the car was gone. He'd go back to being a goofball within seconds. That's a great trait! Here, he tried to shake while galloping!

To our utter surprise, Hachi was ignoring cars/bikes by the third day in that campsite. If he was relaxing in the sun, he didn't move when a car went by. If he was playing, he kept on playing. It was almost unbelievable to us how much classical conditioning had helped him (and how fast it helped him in those specific situations).

During our time in the desert, I really began to believe that we'd be able to rehabilitate Hachi. He may never be the most laid back dog on the planet but I think that he'll be able to function happily in our world with little fear of people someday. There's a lot of work for us between now and then but the Runner and I feel completely committed to doing it.


  1. It is so interesting - Phod was found at about 1.5 years old starving and he has no food issues. My girl who always had food (although was taken from her mom at 3 weeks does). I am so glad Hachi is learning the world is a safe place.

  2. happy 6-month-o-versary ...we are so happy that you have sucha fab life now after a rough start... hugs to you little boy, we LOVE YA!!!!

  3. each story you tell of Hachi, it is a description of our Jake, the problem stayed with him until the day he died. I wish I had known you and been reading what you write when we got Jake at 4 months out of the streets. we did not know any of the training thing you are doing. he only got worse, because we just kept him home and for 13 years we did not go on a vacation because of him.... so glad Hachi is doing so well.

  4. Such a handsome 6 month guy you are Hachi and I'm glad you are coping so well!

  5. Great advice here.
    Mitzie has similar traits, regarding food and people.

    Happy 6 months anniversary.

    xo Astro and Mitzie

  6. Hachi is growing and learning so much. We're glad to hear your vacation was a good experience for him.

  7. I love these pictures so much :) And it's great to hear how well the classical conditioning worked - sometimes the simplest method is a miracle!

  8. I'm smiling Hachi has surpassed weight expectations, WTG, he is solid joyful muscle!!
    Oh Hachi a man after my own heart. I've never met a milkshake I didn't love. I can tell by your eyes
    that it was love at first lick
    Hugs Cecilia

  9. Happy 6 month birthday, Hachi! Ice cream is good stuffs, isn't it! Love your white paws!

  10. He's come a long way and you capture some of the greatest action shots. Wow.

    I linked this post to Awww Mondays.

    Have a woof woof day, Hachi. My best to your siblings and your peeps. ♥

  11. We are glad you are committed to him. He will learn not to be so scared, it just takes work and patience. Overall, he is a happy guy.

  12. Your TLC and so much more shows with each day. We had a cat who was terrified of newspaper, the vacuum cleaner and strangers who visited.We think she must have been smacked with a rolled up paper sometime.It took years to manage to get her not so scared when we crunched up the paper to light the fire . Your training and patience is surely giving huge rewards to you all.

  13. Don't suppose he sees much traffic at home. He is such a goofball, we smile when we see him in still photos.

  14. Hachi is so lucky to have found a family like yours. He clearly needs more nurturing than many dogs but you have been so successful with Shyla, you have the experience to manage his anxiety. Way to go!

  15. OH boy, we bet he loved that milk shake!!! Great work with the treats. We wish that technique would work with Lightning. We have tried it often but he just doesn't feel comfortable around bikes, roller bladers, skateboards, strollers, etc. But with his current predicament he doesn't get to go far enough for them to be a problem now. Happy Six Months, Hachi!!!

  16. You are doing so wonderfully with Hachi. A quick recovery is so important to me much as Luke gets upset about things, as soon as all is back to normal he is fine. It does make things easier, knowing his stress doesn't continue afterwards. ♥
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  17. Oh, I just LOOOOVES that story!!! Good job Hachi! Ma trained me to be totally calm during fireworks that way! She didn't knows what it was called, butts he just knew that feeding me treaties while outside with the fireworks would distract me. it worked great, and I don't gets freaked by loud noises, unless they surprise me, of course. ☺
    Loooves seeing those romping pics!
    Ruby ♥

  18. With wonderful care, your boy is coming along beautifully
    Happy 6 month birthday, Hachi!

  19. When our agility training center moved from a quiet industrial park with small, high windows to a shopping center next to a popular restaurant and a full front wall of windows, Barley really struggled with headlights, too. When it started getting dark before class was over and a car would pull into the parking lot, she'd quit doing the course and charge at the windows. Our trainer said that wasn't uncommon for dogs that had been on the streets. Like Hachi, though, she responded really well to lots of treats! I'm so glad that he's got you to help him learn to navigate the world!


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