Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lala: The Latest Addition

Lala was adopted three months ago. I was flushed with the rescue-mom success that I had had with Daisy and Sam, and after a year I decided to add to the family. Like Daisy before her, she managed to melt my bleeding heart upon first sight at Petco.

She was both lovely and elegant with her glistening black fur and quiet gaze. I had to beg the Man to let her join our ranks with all the usual promises of, “I’llfeedherandloveherandwalkherandplaywithherandhelphergetbetter.”
I was NOT prepared for our first real interaction.

I had been given glowing reports over the character and behavior, so I was an easy sell. The words “great with kids,” “obedient,” “quiet” and “playful” rang happily in my head as I drove to pick her up from her foster parents. She was nowhere to be found. After the recent babysitters dragged her out into the open sunlight, she trembled and crouched toward the safety of the shrubbery. Her latest foster parent threw in the consoling word of advice, “Well, just make sure that she gets some training. She seems like she’ll need it.”

So with that I loaded her up in the car and headed home. Give or take the 45-minutes that she killed by acting as a 50 pound, fur-covered cozy for my gas and brake pedals. She refused to eat for the first three days, ignoring the food bowl and only lapping sporadically at the open water bowl. Then she made messes in the house for two weeks after that, although she was classified as house-trained.

After rapid crate-retraining invervention, she's become the model dog: quiet, obedient, docile. Apparently, I can now be labeled a maschochist, because I don't know how to deal with a "good dog" who doesn't require constant, minute-by-minute attention. My father, a dog man, complained about her obligatory "invisible" nature; "If I can't complain about her, then she's not really there. If she's not really there, then how can I like her?"

She's a radical, going against the grain. Thankfully, she's got the patience to re-train her two humans into understanding that all dogs are not created equal. Some are better ... you just have to be patient enough to find it out.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sam, the Aussie

Lord help me. I am frustrated.

The fore-mentioned Man of the Sky has assigned me to a dog that requires mere 1/100ths nano-millimeters of personal space or time. Sam the Aussie is up in my grill 24/7, 365 days in a year. We completed a year last March, and it’s been a long road since the first time I saw him, a happy-go-lucky pound puppy under an adoption deadline.

The problems started right away; he was too large for the apartment(but so cuddly!), unused to a structured lifestyle since he had been spoiled by a former owner who could no longer take care of him (I am pretty strict on diet/snacks/behavior) and untrained.

Thankfully, we’ve gotten to where we can take disturbance-free walks, live in a larger (pet-friendly) apartment, and gotten some serious training and structure down to smooth flow. But it is never truly over. I just got married, and Sammers has been pretty tolerant of the man who shares his Mom, but their power struggle has erupted to new heights. Sam has dragged the Man around on the leash, refused to give up a bone and added some physical protests, and has been pretty disobedient on a regular basis. When Mom is around he behaves, but gets away with murder whenever the lenient Man babysits.

It probably doesn't help that he now shares us with his new sister, Lala. Who, I would like to mention, is pretty well behaved, non-destructive and quiet.

Whew. Wish us luck.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Rescue Dog that Saved My Life

I am a convert. At least, I became one about four years ago. I was unemployed, living with my parents, and mourning what then seemed to be the death of a young, budding career. I stumbled across her at a Petco, a curled little patch of fur that trembled at every sound. Somehow, I saw her clearly through the fog of my own self-pity. I cannot even describe the feeling. It seemed to be fate.

Two weeks later, I took her home with me. We did everything together. Played, slept, ate. She waited at the front door all day to welcome my return from job-hunting, eager to erase rejections with a generous wash of her tongue.
She was abused. As was I. As I worked to pry away her defense mechanisms, I felt my own bitterness and self-loathing melt under her shy gaze.

We had our spats. Once our bond had cemented, she took my long disappearances personally. I would find a carefully-placed (fresh) deposit of poo on my bed. Or a hidden leak in a corner. Or – worst of all – the silent-treatment-refusal-to-eat combo. Mom did not always take these “surprises” well, but they supplied a wealth of experience in dog behavior that has come in handy down the road.

When she ran away (a chink the fence, a few loud vehicles led to her disappearance), I was devastated. My family and I searched high and low for her; I posted Facebook/Twitter/Blogger alerts as well as pictures, contacted rescue groups, the local newspaper and the pound, as well as the local no-kill shelters and the Humane Society. To no avail.

I still feel sad when I think of my life without her, but I am grateful to have experienced unconditional love and acceptance that I so desperately needed.