It’s not everyday a demo dog retires

Woofie, demonstration dog for Acme Canine

by Joshua Spiert

Some men and women measure themselves by the work they do.  This trait may apply to some of man’s best friends too.  Many people think dogs care only about food and fun, but those people have never met Woofie.  He has accomplished more in his decade of dog training than some people do in three or four decades of a career.  He sat and downed with me to talk about some of the best moments of his career and the years well spent as he prepares to ease into retirement.

Claude’s Woofgang Pakis is a 10-year-old Giant Schnauzer and, more importantly, a staple in the Lewis Center community.  He’s led parades down Franklin Street and he’s sat patiently to read with local school children.  Since he was 6 months old, he’s worked as the Demonstration Dog at Acme Canine alongside its owner and founder, Laura Pakis.  Before he even grew into his paws, he was teaching fellow dogs and their owners.

“It took Woofie several months to understand that I work with other dogs,” Laura said.  “He would intensely smell me and give me a confused look after each lesson.  Later, when we started taking in residencies, he was jealous that other dogs would spend time in our home.”  He eventually adjusted, though it’s obvious he still considers himself head honcho.

“Even as a young pup, I felt that this place was mine to keep in order,” Woofie said, keeping a watchful eye across the expansive Acme yard segmented by white picket fences. “After I got used to the idea of so many other dogs in my home, I saw the unique opportunity and responsibility it gave me.”

After realizing his position in the Acme pack, Woofie could have easily become the class bully.  Instead, he chose to be the peacekeeper, diffusing tense situations before they could get ugly.  He was often seen stepping between two snarling parties and making it clear they’d have to go through him first.  He basically functioned as another chaperone to watch over the boarding and daycare dogs.

Woofie is certified as a therapy dog and an AKC Canine Good Citizen.  He has been trained in basic and advanced obedience, search and rescue, and support work.  Readers may recognize him from his appearances on NBC4, ONN, and Acme Canine commercials.  He has turned up in Business First and Dog Magazine.  He has put on demonstrations and shows at Huntington Park, WagFest, FidoFest, the New Albany Classic, and many other events.  Of course, Acme regulars would recognize him from his business cards or the various paintings and photographs hanging around the facility.

“I never really understood why artists sent in so many pictures, but it’s flattering,” Woofie said. “Personally, I always kind of preferred when they sent holiday treats, but people seem to like the pictures.”

Woofie’s work took him through all types of precarious situations like sitting patiently alongside both school children and highly aggressive dogs (at different times) simply to help both groups improve.  At least, that’s what he tried to tell me.  In reality, it’s obvious his dedication is as much to Laura Pakis as to his work.

“It could sometimes get very stressful in certain types of lessons. I could just feel the tension in the air.  That’s when I would look to Laura and try to block out the stress and focus on her confidence.” Woofie said.

“He trusts and respects me at a very high level,” Laura said. “He understands that when I ask something of him I am telling him to bypass his instincts and follow through with what is being asked of him.”  This level of respect is what really sets Woofie apart.  He trusts her and is so eager to please that he is willing to risk downing next to an aggressive dog or letting rambunctious puppies climb all over him, if that’s what she is asking.

When Laura and Woofie first began Acme Canine in 2004, he would work alongside her seven long days a week.  He usually even traveled with her, acting as a distraction for excitable dogs.  Every once in a while, however, he was forced to wait patiently to inspect all the scents she brought back at the end of the day.

Despite Woofie’s dedication to both Laura and his work, every dog has their day.  He just rounded out his first decade and has begun to slow a bit.  Some ailments and close calls have made Laura realize it may be time for him to take it easy and just enjoy life as he sees fit.

“It takes a special dog to handle the demands of performing commands at a high level day in and day out,” Laura said.  “It’s not only physically demanding, but also mentally stressing.”

“I’ve had a couple health scares recently.  I feel fine now, but I do realize I’m not as spry as I once was,” Woofie said.  “I’m not a 2-year-old anymore, and that’s OK.  Personally, the older I get, the more exhausting it is to deal with the young pups.  I’d rather just grab my teddy bear and relax.”

With the end of this chapter of his life, Woofie will be starting his next.  He should have a lot more time to spend with his family (namely, Autumn, his sister, a Boxer mix, and his younger brother, Spike, a rowdy Dachshund-French Bulldog mix).

“Overall, I plan to take it easy,” he said. “I’ll still be around, but I’ll be watching those crazy dogs more from afar while snacking on Milkbones and practicing my woodworking.”

Woofie has spent years helping countless hundreds of dogs and their families build a healthier, happier life together. In return, he asked for nothing except the love and respect of Laura Pakis and the joy in the act itself.  Imagine if more people would live and work the way Woofie has.  Now that’s a dog’s life.

about Woofie :  Claude’s Woofgang (affectionately know as Woofie) is an AKC registered Giant Schnauzer.  He is certified as a TDI Therapy Dog, Acme Reading Dog, AKC Canine Good Citizen and AKC Community Canine.

Woofie has been trained in support work, search and rescue techniques as well as basic and advanced obedience.  He has appeared in several magazines and on ONN and NBC television.  He even has his own commercial.

Woofie has been a valuable member of the Acme Canine Resource Center.  For 10 years he served as a demonstration dog executing his many talents before children and adults while promoting dog etiquette.

About Joshua Spiert: Josh graduated from Ohio University with a degree in journalism and an environmental studies certificate. Among other things, he enjoys lots of music (with 3,000+ songs on his iPod), films, and long walks on the beach. Josh moved back to Columbus, his home town, after graduation and began working as Acme Canine’s co-editor of The Bark.  He is now a published author, having written a few articles for Acme’s blog, several dog magazines and for our newsletter.