When Allysa Kropp was thinking about getting a dog, she imagined having one of those big, goofy ones that always makes people smile when out on walks.
“I feel very lucky,” she says of her golden retriever, Banner, that she adopted last Fourth of July. “He has the perfect temperament. He will bring smiles to people’s faces.”
This is rather amazing given how Banner originally came to Alyssa.
Banner was found after having been tied up for a month outside of a home in South Carolina. His collar had grown into his neck and had to be surgically removed. Dog World Rescue, a group based out of Alexandria, picked him up from a shelter just hours before he was scheduled to be put down.
Breshkie Gardizi, the organizations executive director, says of Banner, “He came to us a wild bronco who had never stepped inside of a home.”
Meanwhile, Allysa visited PetSmart in Springfield, where Dog World Rescue is every Saturday, with the intent of “just going to look.” She saw a few dogs she liked and filled out an application including one for Banner (who was named “Tucson” at the time).
Allysa says she is very methodical about the decisions she makes and even after putting in the application expected she wouldn’t have to make a decision about owning a dog for several more weeks. Instead, just a few days later Breshkie was in Allysa’s living room with Banner conducting a home visit. Before the evening was over, Banner had officially found a new owner.
Due to his Independence Day adoption (the day that Allysa now recognizes as his birthday), Allysa wanted to give her dog a patriotic name. She eventually chose “Banner,” after the Star Spangled Banner.
Her first walk with Banner left blisters on her feet from having to hold him back. Allysa quickly signed him up for daycare and obedience training at on Jefferson Davis Highway. Later she switched to Olde Towne School for Dogs and was amazed at the different training styles between the two.
She describes Your Dog’s Best Friend as positive reinforcement training, while Olde Towne School for Dogs was “much more strict” (“These people aren’t kidding around,” she said). She liked both styles and was able to tailor her own training for Banner.
Within three months of adopting him, a once “wild bronco” was able to be certified as a therapy dog.
Now Banner is about 18 months old and has become Allysa’s best buddy.
He is very “ball-motivated,” which Allysa has learned to use as an incentive for training¸ even if he is not much of a retriever and prefers to play chase with the ball instead.
While Allysa is at work, Banner hangs out in the back room of her house and makes ample use of his dog door to chase the birds and squirrels and “say hi to all the neighbors.”
The two often go running together and Banner competed in his first competitive race in last year’s in Del Ray.
He also loves to swim, so Allysa takes him to Shirlington dog park which has access to water. “He is a completely muddy mess” afterward, she says, but also very warn out.
Both Allysa and Banner have a lot of fun at the dog park. In fact, Allysa thinks it is in everyone’s best interest to spend some time at a dog park, whether or not they have an animal to join them.
“Don’t wait to have a dog to go. Just get a ball, go to a dog park, throw it and play with the dogs.” She says it is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
And to Allysa, smiles are what dogs are all about.