by Carie Broecker
Dashing, masculine, athletic, edgy—Cantona, the Shepherd/Hound mix shares all these characteristics with the man he is named after—Eric “The King” Cantona, touted to be one of the greatest ever football (soccer) players in the United Kingdom.
Cantona the dog, has an eternal puppy look, with his one ear up and one ear down. It endears people to him and softens his otherwise intimidating image. He was on a long and winding road to his current home and barely escaped with his life. His story starts when he was found as a stray in Salinas in April 2010 and taken to Salinas Animal Services. He was a big, bouncy, under-socialized, reactive young dog. His chances of adoption were slim.
His future started to look brighter when a sneaky but well-meaning Animal Friends Rescue Project volunteer slipped him onto a van headed to the San Francisco SPCA, an organization known as the birthplace of the no-kill movement. The van had a number of dogs on board, who had been approved by the SF SPCA to come into their program. Cantona, however, was not one of the approved dogs.
As soon as he arrived, he won the hearts of the shelter staff and volunteers, and they took a chance on training and socializing him to make him adoptable. The dog runs at the SF SPCA adoption center are glass condos, and Cantona would stalk up to the front of his condo like a wildcat and bark like crazy at anyone who stopped by to view him. Not a great first impression!
Beccy Breeze was volunteering at the SF SPCA at the time. She had worked in the wine/hospitality industry for years, often putting in close to 80 hours a week. Her time with the dogs was a rewarding departure from her work life.
Beccy had no background in dog training when she started with the SF SPCA, but she was drawn to working with the big, leash-reactive, unruly, mouthy, jumpy, shy dogs. Cantona was the exact type of dog she loved to work with. At 90 pounds, with lots of puppy energy, Cantona would run full speed into other dogs as a way of playing. That didn’t go over well with most of them.
Beccy worked under the tutelage of world-renowned trainer, Kim Moeller; and Cantona graduated from Moeller’s Reactive Rover class and finally made a doggie friend. He learned to play nicely with a little Pit Bull mix, which helped him gain his confidence in social interaction with other dogs.
Over the several weeks that Beccy volunteered to train Cantona, she fell in love with him. She was planning a move to Monterey and decided to make Cantona a part of the family and bring him along. Beccy was so inspired by her work with Cantona that she made a career change. Once in Monterey, she started volunteering with the “Take the Lead” program at the SPCA for Monterey County. She was soon hired as a part-time employee and is now a full-time assistant pet trainer.
Cantona got a job at the SPCA for Monterey County as well! He works to socialize dogs who have a rough and tumble play style. He has played with hundreds of dogs and gently but effectively corrects them when they get too rough. Teaching a juvenile dog proper manners goes a long way in creating a stable, adoptable family member..
Cantona is also the SPCA’s demo dog for their “Take The Lead” program that matches at-risk youth with shelter dogs in need of training. On the first day of class, Cantona demonstrates all the commands the dogs and their young trainers will be striving to perfect.
This once under-socialized big dog has earned his Canine Good Citizen certificate, is a member of the doggie dance team, Dance-A-Bulls, and had a starring role in the Carmel Dog Friendly Harlem Shake video.
Cantona has come a long way, and he and Beccy have both been diligent about his training to get him to this point. Beccy likes to remind people that no dog is perfect. They are perfect in their imperfection. What you are willing to put into your dog in the way of time, training, and love will result in a cherished and lifelong family member.