She was the first puppy out of the whelping box, honing the skills of a natural born explorer and busy body. I met her and her four sisters when they were about six weeks old while I was supposed to be helping my husband and a friend shingle the roof. Hey, nobody's perfect! What would you rather do, play with five fuzzy, white Samoyed babies or nail shingles down on a hot, nasty roof? Tough choice, for me anyway!
My husband, Bob, soft hearted sap that he is, told me( while I was lying on my back in the yard with five real live teddy bears crawling on me, nipping my nose, untying my shoes, and giving me puppy kisses) that I could have my pick of the litter, even though we had decided that we would not have any pets.
"Dear, we decided we weren't going to have a dog," I reminded him as I sat up and wiped Samoyed spit off my cheek, grabbing a little plump body as it zipped by, hugging it to my chest.
"I said pick a puppy," he reiterated.
Well, what's a girl to do?
Thus began a friendship with someone whom I will always call my best girl friend, Cassie Jane. I loved her hard and with all my heart, and she did the same for me. It is said that a dog will pick their "alpha" person, and, like it or not (I did!), she picked me. Actually, she probably just recognized who the biggest sucker in the family was, although I did catch Bob cuddling up and talking baby talk to her, too, on more than several occasions!
Cassie's intelligence never ceased to amaze me. It seemed she knew everything I said to her, and she could recognize every mood. She would cock her head and listen intently while I was talking to her, and she'd be there at the right time with her classic "cassie jane kisses."
When she was a "teenager," she also developed the infamous adolescent smart aleck mouth and always wanted to get the last bark in. If we went bye bye, she never wanted to sit in the back seat, even though it would have been more comfortable than the bucket seat up front.
Going bye bye was always fun. She was especially interested in the big machinery that is sometimes on the road, i.e., tree spades and back hoes. At Christmas time, she'd look at all the decorations lit up in people's yards. While waiting in line once for a take out order, she suddenly looked behind us and started raising hell. At first, when I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw nothing and couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then I saw it: Across the street was a huge statue of a Paul Bunyan type character holding a couple car tires. She barked and growled at him even as we drove away.
And there were always treats at the bank's drive up window! Cassie would practically trample me and stick her head out the window so that the tellers knew she was in the car. Even when she wasn't there with me, the tellers always gave me treats to take home for her.
She was our armchair foreman when we remodeled the house; every evening, she'd venture into every room, every closet, sniffing and inspecting. I'll never forget when she saw the new overhead kitchen light! She strode into the room, looked up, stopped dead in her tracks, and barked at it! "What's this!? It's new! I liked the old cobweb covered light bulb hanging askew much better!"
It is said that dogs can't see certain things like the television or reflections or pictures of themselves. This is not true. Cassie would often watch TV and could see herself in the mirror. I found this out by accident one day when we were moving our bedroom furniture. I had leaned the dresser mirror against the kitchen table. Cassie, in her armchair foreman mode, sauntered over to it, sniffed the other doggy in the mirror, and went around behind it to see if that other doggy was back there to give it a piece of her mind! The facial expressions that dog had were unbelievable, and most of them were cute, even the ones where she knew she'd been caught doing "bad dog" stuff.
And then there was our famous canoe trip. She truly loved going bye bye, whether by car, boat, canoe or even wheelbarrow, but the canoe trip wins first prize hands down...We had stopped by a good set of rapids so the kids and I could use our boat cushions to float down them.
After being in the hot sun for several hours, the water was, shall we say, rather "invigorating," and I let out a yell when I jumped in. Cassie, who was sitting with Bob at the canoes begging for some beer, immediately thought her Bethy was in trouble. She jumped up and ran down the bank alongside me, looking very worried. At that point, the look on her face changed, and I knew she was going to jump in to save me. (And this was a dog who absolutely hated getting wet!) Since the water was only two feet deep, I stood up and showed her everything was okay, and she started barking furiously, as if to admonish me never to scare her like that again.
She also had her own version of "fetch." I can almost hear her thinking, "Those dumb, 'inferior' dogs would actually waste energy running after the ballcan you imagine!? And then, running BACK with it! Well, not me, by golly! I'll do it the way the people do it, and just toss the ball back! Why burn precious calories?"
I had to call my husband into the room so as not to be accused of "giving my dog human characteristics" as we silly humans are often wont to do...I'd toss her the ball while she was playing Sofa Samoyed, she'd catch it in midair and, with a gleam in her deep brown eyes, toss it right back to me with a flick of the snout, giving me one of those famous Samoyed smiles in the process.
If you looked up "chow hound" in the dictionary, three guesses as to whose picture would be there as an example? The dog whose ancestors came from the deep freeze of Siberia (and maybe snacked on caribou fat?), loved cantaloupe, strawberries, apples, grapesjust about anything that the people eat. One of her favorite road trips was to go and get soft serve at Dairy Queen. She'd also be a good helper whenever any kind of cookie was being baked, and would stand directly below them as they cooled on the counter, sniffing hungrily. Even after they were put away in an air tight container, all you had to do was ask, "Where are the cookies, Cassie Jane?" and she'd walk over to them and do her "hungry hound" dance routine.
Boomer came to live with us when Cassie was a year old; technically, he was her nephew, but she was not too pleased to have competition, even from relatives. The first six months of Boomer's life was spent as Cassie's chew toy or roly poly out in the yard. She would never hurt him, but she did want him to know exactly who was queen of the hill.
We often laughed at Booms good naturedlyhe was the nerd of the dog kingdom. Seemingly unused to his body, he'd go careening into walls and furniture. I often teased him that, if he were a human, he'd be in therapy. He was a tremendous good spirit, though, and was perfect yang for Cassie's yin.
A classic example of how different they were was when it came to food choices. Boomer could have been considered a health nut; some of his favorite things to eat were the stalks and cores of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, things Cassie Jane would spit out in disgust. If you handed him a leftover piece of breakfast sausage, he'd sniff at it, take it tentatively in his teeth, then immediately take it over to the carpet and drop it. There it would be meticulously examined for botulism or fleas or something and only then would it be consumed daintily in small bites. Cassie Jane would have torn through a whole side of beef in the time Boomer took to savor one piece. Cassie enjoyed her beer; Boomer was a milk and cookies boy.
They both became best buddies. If one went to a dog show or the vet's, the other would mope around the house, piling all their toys in one spot and going often to look sadly out the window. Good buddies or not, though, Boomer was always worried about whether Cassie was getting ahead of him. We could give them identical servings of food, or cook up identical soup bones, and he would always look over at hers to see if it was bigger or better.
Boomer thought of himself as the great white hunter, rooting around the yard for chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits. There was one squirrel who'd tease him unmercifully, staying just out of reach outside the fence. They'd squabble there endlessly, until one of us went out and scared the squirrel away. Cassie would always watch these goings on from a shady spot on the deck, and then look at me as if to say, "what a half-wit that animal is!".
He also loved to play hide and seek with his people and would have been an excellent rescue dog. When he found who he was looking for, he'd jump for doggie joy, barking happily and giving sloppy kisses, bounding around the house in pure ecstacy.
About that time, Bob went to work in Chicago for awhile. (Booms had picked him as his "alpha" person.) His buddy Boomer didn't understand what happened and probably thought his Mr. Bob was gone and never coming back.
Then came the day when Bethy said, "Let's go bye bye and see Mr. Bob, Booms!" That was a huge mistake on my part....not thinking that Boomer had never been on such a long bye bye, and never thinking about how much the dog missed his Mr. Bob...
Boomer sat in the back seat and immediately set about crying and whining. Cassie sat in front, of course, and kept looking over her shoulder at him. Then she'd look at me as if to say, "Can you shut him up already?"
At first I assumed that he had to go potty, so the first rest stop we came to, we all piled out to no avail. Back on the road, Booms started up again, and it was then I realized what you realize when traveling with small children: You never tell them ANYTHING until the very last minute, or else you pay for it the entire trip!
This was Boomer's version of "Are We There Yet?!" I was ready to throw him in the trunk!
Needless to say, when we reached our destination and Booms laid eyes on his hero, Mr. Bob almost ended up on the sidewalk on his butt with eighty pounds of dog licking him to pieces! Even still at bedtime that night at the hotel, Boomer laid on Bob's chest staring adoringly into Bob's face, drooling unceremoniously onto the blankets, until Bob had to kick him out of bed.
Ah, yes, you know absolutely nothing about love and devotion until you have a canine friend. The fact that their times on earth are so short makes those times so much more bittersweet and valuable. It's hard to cram a lifetime into twelve short years, but somehow, they both managed to do it.
I won't go into all the gory details, except to say that my sweet girl had to leave us February 13, 2000, and Boomer on Thanksgiving Eve 2000. They deserved to have someone with them until their last breath was drawn, whispering about old secrets and fun times and how deeply and completely they were loved, how deeply and completely they would be missed. What good friends they were and will always be, what a life we had!
It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but the very best thing also.
I refused to tell them good bye. They are still here, ghost dogs in the house. Every once in awhile, I'll come across a white hair ball or one of their toys, and I won't pick them up. I think of Cassie when I make Christmas cookies or pop open a beer, and cutting up broccoli always makes me listen for the click click of doggy toenails on the kitchen floor....I still expect to see Booms coming in for a healthy snack and doing his "woowoowoo" Samoyed song.
Yes, you two silly animals are permanent fixtures forever in my heart. I still love you so much! It will always be so, for it was you who taught me how to do that! I was beyond lucky to be able to love you in this life, and maybe, if I'm a "good doggy," you'll meet me at Rainbow Bridge, and we can continue where we left off...I can only hope that it is so. I will bring the cookies and beer! Until then, muttleys, you are in my heart of hearts!
A Day in the Life of a Shelter Volunteer
One thing I have always wanted to do but had limited amounts of time was to volunteer at our local no-kill animal shelter. I have always been an animal person, and when my two babies, Cassie and Boomer, had to go to the Rainbow Bridge last year, the void in my life without them was a vast abyss indeed. I missed their Samoyed smiles, doggie kisses, and our talk and snuggle time every day. I could have been the one, by the way, who made up that bumper sticker, "The more I know people, the more I like my dog!" I have always loved dogs with all my heart, and they could always sense a big softie in their midst.
When I got laid off in November, I suddenly had several blocks of time available to go and help out and to get my "doggie fix" since my husband and I decided to wait awhile before picking another furry family member.
What a place to go for unconditional love! It didn't take me long to get hooked and to volunteer every Tuesday morning until I got called back to work! Following are some of the characters that I met while there.
Shadow and Johnny Boy were the oldsters of the group, both sporting the gray whiskers of senior doggiedom.
Shadow had belonged to an elderly woman who was stricken with Alzheimer's and forgot that she had a dog. When Shadow first arrived at the shelter, she was a bag of bones and had no hair on her butt from a bad case of fleas. Having a very sweet disposition, she was often the foster mom to all the puppies who came to the shelter. You could usually enter the kennel to find Shadow's young charges using her as a jungle gym, and she would look up and happily slap her hairless tail on the concrete floor.
Johnny Boy was a beagle mix, and a friendly old soul. He loved his treats and to be brushed. I had a scare one day when I arrived and found his kennel run empty. Assuming the worst, I heaved a sigh of relief when I discovered he had found a family with which to spend the rest of his days.
Sadie was the shelter's celebrity dog. Laws had finally been changed so that people could call the shelter if they saw cases of abuse; the shelter in turn could send out an investigator along with the police and actually take a dog out of a bad situation. Sadie made the local news when her owner was charged with and convicted of animal abuse when he choked her into unconsciousness.
Meeting Sadie, one would never guess that this dog had been a victim. Indeed, as soon as you went into her run, you were greeted with oversized puppy paws planted square on your shoulders, along with many sloppy dog smooches and an eagerness to please that brought tears to my eyes. Who on earth could hurt a dog like this?
Sadie had some troubles getting adopted. When I showed up one Tuesday morning, she was gone; the next she was back. It seems she bit the husband of the couple who adopted her, so they brought her back. Her second adoption attempt met with success, though, and as far as I know, she is happily licking several kids in her new family.
Chunky looked a lot like my Cassie Jane, only she was a jet black part Chow. She also listened to me like Cassie Jane had, cocking her head and looking into my eyes just as if she understood exactly what I was saying. We had many talks on our morning hikes, and this one I would have latched onto and never let go, had someone not adopted her right away!
Biscuit stole my heart, too. She was a Sammie, named for the "biscuit" color of her fur. She reminded me immensely of Cassie Jane in many ways, toothe deep brown eyes with a twinkle of mischief in them, the "smart aleck" bark she used when she thought someone should give her another treat, and her excellent ability to be a big beggar for anything edible.
Then there was Radar, a little rascal named for his oversized ears. Radar didn't realize he was just a little dog and strutted around like the king of the hill. He was at the shelter because his former owner had trouble with the potty training aspects of dog companionship. While on my watch, however, never once did I have to do a clean up detail in his run, even though he hadn't been outside since the night before!
Sassy was another story! She was an excellent "pooper" and seemed to do it on purpose if she thought people were ignoring her. She was a part Collie mix, and her intelligence got her into a lot of trouble when she first arrived at the shelter. She became an accomplished escape artist until we put a clasp in the handle of her kennel gate and could frequently be caught in the store room nosing about for errant treats. Also, if she didn't get enough attention, she'd become bored and tear up the newspaper, blankets and toys in her run, along with making a big mess of her food. She was definitely a high maintenance dog, requiring a lot of affection and structured time. It took her several attempts to get adopted strictly for that reason.
Joni's kennel door sported a huge sign: VOLUNTEERS DO NOT WALK! NOT AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION! Indeed, the first few times I dared to walk past her kennel, she snarled and growled as if she wanted to tear my fool head off. Ignoring all the noise, I'd toss a treat to her and continue on my way. Then we progressed to talking, and finally, to her listening warily.
I felt immensely sorry for her; she was definitely not a "pretty" or "cute" dog. She was at least part Pit Bull, coal black, and very squat looking. I wondered sadly if her only "sin" had been being born a Pit Bull....Diligently I kept after her, progressing slowly to handing her treats through the fencing on the gate.
My efforts paid off eventually! The dog who was the shelter's longest resident (six years) greeted me one morning acting very un-Joni-like, complete with puppy sounding yips and a few doggie dance steps when she saw me. I would almost swear she was grinning!
The time was ripe for ignoring the sign on her door. Armed to the teeth with treats, I went in and sat down. Immediately, she came over to me and pretended to be a lap dog! And Joni, the unadoptable Pit Bull, was also quite adept at licking the tears off my cheeks that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
"Yes, I can see what a mean girl you are!" I said to her, rubbing her ears and belly as she licked my chin. "I am so glad you're allowing me to be your friend!" She closed her eyes contentedly while I gave her a neck rub.
She was another one that I was tempted to take home with me; actually, I take that back! I would have taken them all if I could, but Joni was one I knew I could have a special friendship with. The only thing holding me back was the fact that the dog would be stuck in the basement when I went back to work. (Author's Note: Joni finally got to go home with a new friend in March 2002, a person who had previously worked at the shelter. I was sad for me, but very glad for her!)
That's what happened with Cassie and Boomer. At our new house, fences were not allowed. It wasn't too bad when both of them were alive; but alas, Cassie had to leave us first, and poor Booms didn't like the basement at all when he was by himself. When it was time for us to go to work, he could sense it, and would run and hide in our bed. I'd always find him there, and he would look so darn sad and forlorn, it would almost kill me to force him to the catacombs. Therefore, we decided no more dogs until we had a better place for them or retired from work.
Most of the other dogs would eagerly wait by their gates when they heard their human friends enter the kennel. There they'd dance around for treats and a kind word....everyone except for Bones. I never found out where poor Bones came from, but the mere sound of a human voice sent him scurrying as far back into his run as he could get. There he would stand, shaking miserably. I tried to spend a little extra time with Bones, hoping to get through his quaking shell.
Bones was never mean, nor did anything resembling a growl come from his mouth. He "put up with" his petting as if he had no idea how to respond. No matter how much time I spent with him, talking softly and rubbing his ears, he never quit shaking or let go of his uneasy attitude. Bones went to a foster home while I was there, and as far as I know, he is still with his new family.
Then came the day when the shelter was swamped with dogs from a woman who had "hoarded" them and kept them outside in a pen in the winter. They had no shelter, and the water in their bowls would freeze. Some of them had frostbite on their ears and tails. They had also had no human interaction or socialization whatsoever. While all the other dogs started yapping happily when a visitor approached, these "hoarded" dogs would just sit and stare at the wall or the floor. One in particular, would lay in the corner all day and never move a muscle until no one was in the kennel; only then would he get up and eat or potty in the front part of his run.
These dogs were real heartbreakers. They acted as if they had no doggie personality at all. A few of them started coming around with the extra TLC given by the shelter volunteers and the regular help, but some had made no progress by the time I got a call to go back to work.
The puppies would sneak into your heart, too, with very little assistance. Smoky was a little black puppy who was rescued from a house fire. Her people were unable to take her back, since they had lost everything in the fire and were in a temporary residence. She was a spunky little devil, but would also climb into my lap and go to sleep contentedly.
Suzy had some kind of fungus infection that had rendered one eye useless. By the time she'd arrived at the shelter, she was going blind in her other eye, too, with no chance of fixing the problem. This didn't seem to deter her in the least. She and another puppy spent time with Shadow, and you could often hear puppy growling and squealing as they played together. When you'd look into the run, Suzy certainly never appeared to be almost totally blind--she'd be the one doing all the talking! She always knew where the other puppy was, and Shadow, too!
Helen (after Helen Keller) was a deaf part greyhound puppy who was actually learning sign language! When I met her, she already knew "down," "sit," and "stay." Not bad for a youngster! Many of the dogs (and cats, too) that ended up at the shelter had some kind of other handicap like that aside from the abuse or neglect that had been inflicted upon them. It was always heartening to the point of tears to see the renewal of their spirits which always took place at the shelter. They, along with the puppies, were also the easiest to place in adoptive homes, which was also heartening to the point of tears...
When the day came that I got a call back to work, I didn't want to leave all my new friends. I also didn't know how much time I'd be able to volunteer after eight-hour days on a construction site. I had come to love this place and its inhabitants, canine and human alike.
What an experience it was! You saw human behavior at its best and worst and the results of it, too. Yet, through it all, the dogs never gave up the ship. They always awaited eagerly at the kennel gates, wagging their tails and doing different versions of the Happy Dog Dance. Every day they continued to hope that this would be their day the day they would find someone on whom to bestow their unconditional love. The day they would find a friend.
That's just about all any of us, dogs or people, can do after all.
Another cartoon from "Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul:"
BRINGING HOME JAKE THE WONDER DOG
"Tomorrow we have a mission," my husband told me as he hopped in bed one evening in late November.
Since we were both taking some much needed time off from work, I was a little leery of asking what that mission might be - cleaning out the garage? Or worse, sorting through junk in the basement?
"And what might that mission be?" I finally mustered up the courage to ask albeit meekly.
"We are going to the pound to get YOU a dog," he stated firmly as he flipped on the television, like I was the only person within a five-mile radius who wanted to jump into dogdom again.
Who was I to argue about that? We had had to take our two Sammies to see the canine version of Dr. Kevorkian in the year 2000, and their absence had left a gaping hole in the fabric of my days, for I am what I call a Dog Person, truly and with all my soul. Since that time, I had been volunteering Tuesday mornings while laid off at the local no-kill shelter, and there had been more than one companion there that I would have gladly let adopt me, but the time just wasn't ripe. Not to mention the fact that there were still tumbleweeds of Samoyed hair in the basement that I just couldn't force myself to suck up with the shop vac. Their water bucket was still down there, too, the liquid having long since evaporated, leaving nothing but hard water stains.
I'll be the first to tell you that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am the kind of nutty individual who actually believes dogs have souls and personalities, and that my two Sammies were two of my best friends in the world. In fact, the female WAS my best girlfriend, so take that as you may! I wasn't too sure, though, that it was time for another dog.
The animal shelter was, unfortunately, a busy place, and every kennel run was full. Gathering my courage, I pushed through the door and told the woman behind the counter we wanted to see the short-timers, of which there were about fifty. At first, she directed us to the puppy area, which I think should really be called the Heartbreak Hotel. As soon as the little ones saw us looking at them through the glass, they started doing the doggie dance, accompanied by much tail wagging and happy yapping.
"I'd take every one of them," I told my husband, "but let's go look at the grown ups....These puppies will have no problem being adopted." As a veteran of shelter volunteering, I knew this to be a fact: The adults were the ones last to go, while the pups were snapped up daily.
There were five rooms of individual kennel runs. As soon as you venture into one, the action (and the noise) starts up. You can't hear yourself think, but that certainly doesn't stop you from doing so....Look at all the Rottweilers in here! And the Pit Bulls! I could almost hear the pieces of my heart tinkling to the floor when I saw a mama black Lab with about eight puppies looking at me sadly from a makeshift bed. She wagged her tail when I called her "pretty girl." Why do people let this go on?
My husband, whom I fondly call "Mr. Macho," walked quietly and quickly down the aisles, giving each dog a cursory glance. I, on the other hand, had to stop and talk to each one. A few of them growled and showed me their incisors, and I wondered if these individuals had ever had a kind word or pat on the head. If not, then MY kind word might be the last and only one they would hear. "Mr. Macho" understands this about me and didn't tell me to hurry up, but he would tease me later. (I talk to my birds and squirrels, too.)
We found "Jake" in Room C. Amidst the uproarious barking, there he sat, looking at us with sad brown doggie eyes, wagging a pretty plume of a tail. When we talked to him, he looked down at the concrete floor, but the tail didn't stop. He reeled me in, then, when he put his paw up on the gate, as if to say "I am really ready to get the hell out of here!"
"You're such a good boy," I told him, petting what little of him I could reach through the chain link. He licked my fingers with a tie-dyed, part-Chow tongue and kept wagging that tail.
We went through the rest of the kennel runs, seeing anything a human might possibly want...or not want as sadly the case may be. There were many other likely candidates, so when Mr. Macho asked me which one, I was hard pressed to answer right away.
"What about you?" I asked in return. "This will be your dog, too!" In spite of that macho manliness fake act, I knew deep down that he was as big a nerd as I with these animals. I even had incriminating pictures of this fellow sound asleep in the sack with our two Sammies, every pixel dripping with that machismo stuff.
"You pick first," he replied, remaining noncommital. I took his hand and we went back to Room C.
"I think you probably know which one it is already," I said. "In fact, I think it's the same dog you picked!" I went to the run that enclosed the part-Chow and Mr. Macho grinned.
Back at the front counter, we discovered that we wouldn't be able to take the part-Chow home that evening, but were instructed to come back Monday at 4:00 PM. This gives the former owners five full days to come and retrieve their missing pets.
When Monday arrived, I left for town early to get dog food and supplies, hoping the silly mutt would still be there, but not hoping at the same time. Maybe his people had come and gotten him, and if he had human kids, they'd all be crying and giving each other sloppy kisses, rejoicing at having found each other again.
I ventured through each room again. Mama black lab was calling to me...sheesh, why am I lying? All of them were calling to me! If only I'd win the damn lottery....then I could buy a huge farm!
The part-Chow was still there.
"Do you still want to adopt me?" I asked him anxiously. His tail swished on the concrete floor, and that was the only answer I needed.
At the front counter once again, I told them who I wanted, handed over $54 in cash, no checks or money orders please, and was told that the "chow/shepherd mix" would be ready after the vet gave him a rabies shot. When the vet tech brought him out, we sat on the floor for a few minutes and got acquainted. I petted his coal black back and whispered little doggie nothings in his ear. I told him of the treats that were waiting out in the truck. I told him about going bye-bye for ice cream and sitting on the deck of an evening, howling at the moon. I told him that I hoped he'd become a fishin' dog and that we'd have great fun together learning how to sit and stay.
He just looked at me with those sad eyes and licked my hand.
Once outside, we did our business and then it was on to get a bath. I was amazed at how docile this creature was! The poor thing had probably been scared half to death there at the Heartbreak Hotel. He was even an excellent doggie while I dried him with my friend's huge doggie drier.
And what a pretty boy he was! He had mostly German shepherd markings (except for a slightly Chow head and, of course, the tongue!), and his coat shown sleekly. I thought again of his other people-it seemed they had taken pretty good care of him for his fur to be so healthy and shining. Were they missing him, wondering where he was?
When we got home, off came the leash so he could explore. It was immediately evident that he hadn't been a house dog. He walked around sniffing all the furniture and knick knacks. He stuck his head in the toilet to get a drink. When he came to the stairs going up, he stopped in his tracks. I climbed up a few and urged him on. Gingerly, he started ascending, so I went to the top.
"Come on, dog," I said, urging him on with a slap to my knee. "You're okay!"
When he realized he was, indeed, okay, the rest of the way up was easy. Then he spotted the small golden retriever statue that I use as a door stop to the computer room and was immediately on point. He sniffed this figure and suddenly jumped down into his "play" stance, rear end in air, letting me hear his voice for the first time.
"That's a fake doggie," I told him, laughing heartily. He sneaked up to it again, then jumped back quickly. Then, of course, he wanted to smell it's butt. When the statue fell over, "Dog" jumped back, then looked at me guiltily. "It's okay, buddy," I replied. "You didn't break him!"
"Dog" (who wasn't named "Jake" just yet) gulped down his first meal at home like a hungry hound. I was tempted to give him more chow, but decided to wait and see how volume one sounded first so as not to have any unpleasant experiences on our first night as a family.
When Mr. Macho arrived home, we all sat on the living room floor and got acquainted for awhile, the man and I discussing names. I'd spent a couple hours on the Internet (still amazed that there were even sites for naming your dog!) and mentioned some of my favorites.
"Not Teddy!" Mr. Macho exclaimed. "Look at him! He doesn't look like a 'Teddy!'" It didn't take him long to come up with "Jake." Since he was a rogue from the pound, and many rogues were named "Jake," well...the name did fit him better than Teddy.
When we were getting ready to go to sleep, Jake jumped into the sack like an old pro. Mr. Macho and I laughed as we watched him get his "sea legs" on the waterbed. He then discovered his reflection in the mirror in the headboard. I had always heard that dogs couldn't see that stuff, but whoever had written that book was most definitely wrong! My two Sammies could also see themselves in the mirror, and Boomer was fascinated with a clock I once had with pictures of Samoyed puppies on it.
"Hey, bud, you're going to have to quit that," Mr. Macho told Jake as he tried to get to the 'other doggie.' "Come out here and lay down!" To which Jake promptly made himself comfy and began to seriously watch Headline News. I decided then that the next day I'd turn on Animal Planet and see if he'd watch that, too.
When he got bored with television, he next laid his eyes on a stuffed toy Samoyed who resides on the top shelf of the headboard. I let him look at it, and, naturally, Jake wanted to sniff its butt, too. He gave it a few doggie licks, but when he wanted to start chewing on it, he got a firm "No!" and I put it back in its place. From then on, every time Jake would saunter into the bed room, he'd cast a longing glance at the toy and then look at me to see if I'd changed my mind yet.
The next morning, Jake had a doctor's appointment just so the vet could have a look see to make sure everything was okay. I also wanted his guestimate as to the age of our mutt and to pick the doc's brain about neutering. Since Jake was from the pound and wasn't neutered yet, $20 of my original $54 would be used as a credit toward the operation.
Our new dog weighed in at 53 pounds, and Dr. Tom gave Jake a once over, saying he thought the dog was about a year old, a little younger than we had originally guessed, since Jake had been so docile and quiet at the pound. "He has all his teeth," the vet informed me, "and they're very clean, so he's still pretty young." We decided to wait on the neutering until after the holidays. This would also give Jake some time to get accustomed to his new surroundings and not throw too much on his plate at one time. I also asked about heart worm medication, and the doc said that could probably wait until spring.
It took several days for Jake to let down his fur, and then his personality started gushing out like a water spigot at full tilt. He was definitely all puppy, as his chewing ability began to indicate. He loved the Nylabones we bought, and proceeded to tear the hell out of a Nylabone pull toy which was left over from Cassie and Booms. Soon there were chunks of it lying on the floor.
"Sheesh, bud, what a set of jaws you have!" I told him. That pull toy had been in the family for at least ten years, and in one fell swoop, Jake had managed to demolish it. I hoped intensely that we could keep him interested in his toys and not OUR toys! Otherwise, the proverbial poopie would hit the fan!
And speaking of poop, Jake wouldn't/couldn't/didn't/choose all of the above. I knew the change in water, food, and housing would have some effect on him, but I was beginning to worry when, after two days, he still hadn't blessed me with a pile. It was a good thing I had time off work, since about once an hour I'd take him outside. Finally, on the third day, I vowed that we would walk until the deed was done, no matter how long it took.
I took off for the state park that was nearby with a pocket full of treats and the the non-pooper in tow. He had gotten immensely better on a leash even after only several days but would still occasionally forget that a choke chain hung from his neck. I thought about the choker as we walked from tree to tree. A friend of mine would argue with me till the cows came home about whether or not this was a good training tool, me on the pro side and she vice versa. She also didn't like dog crates, even though she had seen Cassie and Boomer first-hand treat them as their boudoirs.
Lost in thought, I felt a tug on the leash, and amazingly, it was ME tugging HIM and not the usual reversed scenario.
The Moment was finally upon us!
"Ah, good boy!" I exclaimed, secretly hoping no one was within ear or eyeshot to witness the spectacle of me dancing around over a dog taking a crap. "Good doggies potty outside!"
Our little jaunt was beneficial to all involved. The once stoppered-up Jake had become free flow Jake, so now all we had to worry about was getting the Big Picture that, yes, good doggies DO potty outside.
I read an article once about people naming their dogs. It seems that we inane human beings will give the animal a REAL name, and then come up with a bunch of nicknames. I remember laughing while reading, because we had already done that with Cassie and Boomer. Cassie had been Poopie Girl, Pretty Paws, Puddin' Jane, Cassie Jane, Puddlin' Jane and finally just Pudd (like chocolate pudding folks, not the OTHER definition that males pound...) And when Boomer was a puppy, the way the fur grew on his little fur face made him look like a lamb, so, after Little Bo Peep, he became Boom Peeps, and Boom Peepers, which evolved into Peepers.
It seemed the same fate had befallen Jake. He could be just plain Jake, or Jakola, Jumpin' Jake, or Jakity Jake; or, if we weren't content with that, there was always Dufus, Dorkas, Dorkas Aurelius, Dorkimus Maximus, Muttley, or just simply Knucklehead. (Note that has absolutely nothing to do with this story: "knucklehead" didn't come up as misspelled on spell check; don't ask me why I get a kick out of stuff like that...)
He played hard and slept hard. Frequently while he was in nana land, I'd be startled to hear him whimpering and crying. I'd creep up to him on little cat feet to find him involved in some doggie dream, eyelids and legs twitching. Very gently, I'd talk to him and pet him, asking why he was crying in his sleep, telling him he was a good boy. He'd wake up and look at me dazedly, and I'd be in awe again at how much alike all of us "fur bearing mammals" really are.
The hour arrived where I had to run errands to which the dog was not invited. I spuriously decided to leave him out of his crate, since I only expected to be gone an hour at most. I lectured him about doggie rules, and he cocked his head, listening intently.
"OK, here's your bones and your ball and your stinky sock," I told him seriously. "I have to go to the store to get treats. You be a good boy, and I'll be back ASAP." His fur face was visible in the living room window as I drove down the street.
Nothing was awry upon my return, so we got a lot of praise and a couple treats. Silly me was assuming (and amazed while doing so), that nothing had tempted Jake while I was gone. Little did I realize that he thought he was still visiting, so he was exercising Company Manners. In reality, while I had been gone, he was taking a tour, deciding what looked good for some future date.
We fell into a nice routine while I was off work, but all good things must come to an end. We had decided to take him into town each morning to "visit" at our friend's kennel since we had no fenced yard and didn't want to put Jake in the basement from hell like we had done with Cassie and Boomer. In the meantime, we were making plans to build a little doggie hotel underneath the deck where he could have a dog house and some grass to roll around on.
This we did for two days, and, to put it bluntly, it was quite a pain in the ass, not only for us but for the dog, too, not to mention the fact that he was carsick both times. Thus, on day three, we left him on the first floor with all doors shut that could be shut and human possessions put out of reach.
I raced home the first evening, afraid of what I might find but hoping for the best. First thing in the door, I grabbed Jake and the leash, and we dashed outside. From the way he did his business, it certainly looked like maybe we'd be lucky upon venturing back in the house.
I went from room to room, Jake on my heels as if to say "See, you can trust me! I was a good boy!" And indeed he was! He accepted his petting and treats with much doggie dignity and rewarded me with several sloppy kisses.
As luck would have it, we only did that procedure for a couple days. Work being slow, my husband came home and said he'd have to sit for a few weeks or maybe longer until his company got some jobs going. He and Jake would "batch it" during the day.
It was at this time, Mr. Macho I-Don't-Want-Any-More-Dogs let it slip that "I" should probably think about getting Jake a buddy...and since our Samoyed breeding friends were getting out of the business, they probably had another fur bearing mammal that they'd part with, especially since they knew how we had certainly abused the first two we'd gotten from them!
Stay tuned for Part Two: Jake Gets a Pal
JAKE GETS A BUDDY IS NOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE! :-)
SHANNON, by Henry Gross
(a song from the late 1970s)
Finally the tears fill our eyes
And I know that somewhere tonite
She knows how much we really miss her. . .
Shannon has gone I heard
She's drifted out to sea
She always loved to swim away. . .
Maybe she'll find an island
With a shady tree
Just like the one in our back yard.
I wanted to put this soundtrack on here, but it's way too many bytes, so we have a thunderstorm instead.
It wasn't long after we brought Jake the Wonder Dog home from the pound that Macho Man, aka my loving husband Mr. Bob, decided that Dog #1 needed to have a friend. (Yes, folks, this is the same fella who had said earlier that we would have no more dogs period! But of whom I also had incriminating and endearing photographs sleeping with a couple other mutts!) It just so happened that the people from whom we'd gotten our Samoyeds, Cassie and Boomer, had another dog they needed to find a home for. They had just gotten her back from a person who had been showing her and no longer wanted to keep her. She was a five-year-old female, and since they had five Sammies already, this one was like a sixth leg. The breeders felt bad that they didn't have the time needed to care for another dog. And typical of the Samoyed breed, she wanted a lot of petting and loving.
We both have soft spots for Sammies, so it didn't take too long to decide she would come home with us. Jake was not impressed! As soon as this new dog came into the house, he sniffed her for about two seconds, and then he PEED on her! This blatant show of machismo was not going to fly in our house!
"Hey!" I said to him reproachfully. "Just what the heck is this all about?! You don't PEE on your new house mate! That's a BAD BOY!" Jake hung his head low and looked up at me with sad, brown doggie eyes. Apologetic or not, he got crated up while the new girl, Diane, got the twenty-five cent tour. She was so timid we weren't sure how she'd adapt to "Jumpin' Jake" with all his boisterous, puppy ways. This girl definitely needed some individual attention to get that "Smiling Samoyed" personality to come out.
"We'll have to change her name first thing," Macho Bob quipped, since his ex-wife's name is Diane, and that word is not spoken in our house. That would not be a problem with me, either! Our new girl looked much like a fuzzy, plush polar bear, so she was christened "Teddy" then and there. This, of course, morphed into "Teddy Ruxpin," and since she was very adamant and vocal about when and how to receive oodles of petting (using her snout to nuzzle underneath hands that SHOULD be petting her!), "Ted Ruxpin" fast became "Pest Ruxpin." And then "Shed" Ruxpin because of her fur everywhere.
Our friends had told us she'd get right in there with all the dogs at their house when it came time for rough housing, and this she eventually did with the Jakester. She was not a dog to put up with a lot of guff and was soon the one standing over him in the "dominant dog" pose. She whipped her new pal into shape about the rules and regulations, too, letting him know immediately if she thought he was playing too rough. Jake was an excellent student, and soon both dogs were best buds.
Jealousy was and still is a problem, however, even though "the experts" tell us not to give our pets human characteristics. You absolutely cannot pet and love one up without the other one being right there, so call it whatever you want! Jake, with some German Shepherd ancestry, is quite adept at herding Teddy out of the way so he can be the center of attention. When this occurs, Teddy will stand back for a few seconds singing her wonderfully plaintive version of the Samoyed Song, and I always tell both of them, "I have two dogs and two hands, so each of you gets one!" I also tell them I'm glad there's only two of them; if there were three, one would have to get petted with my foot!
When Teddy first arrived, she wouldn't get on the couch, even at our urging. Of course, Jake would jump right up there as soon as we had called the other dog, thus blocking her path. Now that she is completely at home as a couch canine, one of her favorite places being right there next to her Bethy, getting her ears rubbed. Jake has a formidable couch contender and sometimes has to be scolded since he'll get up there, too, and step all over or sit on Teddy on purpose.
After our first Christmas together, our pound hound had an appointment with Dr. Cut and Sew to get neutered. We also decided to have his dew claws removed. Since he was so playful and still full of puppyhood, we didn't want to see the claws ripped out from catching on the couch or rug. It turned out that the claw removal was a bigger deal than the neutering, though Bob disagrees with that! We didn't realize that the vet actually had to cut some bone out with the claws, and the puppy would have sore paws for at least a month. Still, that alternative sounded better than him getting one ripped out accidentally.
The poor boy certainly looked pitiful when we went to pick him up that evening. He was also still loopy from the anesthetic and spent most of the evening in dreamland. Teddy sat vigil by his side, sniffing his bandaged paws frequently and licking his face. She didn't even mind that he was in "her" spot on the hearth.
Our next challenge was to keep Jake "quiet" for a few days to give his paws some time to heal. There were only to be walks outside to attend to business, and not the squirrel chasing variety. As is typical of youngsters, he chafed at his restraints, but the down time passed quickly.
Also, spring was approaching, so we put our dog run building project on the front burner so these two would have a place outside while we were at work. Our house has a convenient alcove between the house and garage, so we poured concrete there and got several lengths of decorative fencing and a gate for across the front. That, along with two dog houses ran up to almost $1,000, and we chastised ourselves, albeit lightly, for being such huge suckers, even though the alcove could also now loosely be called a patio or some such. (It sounded good, at any rate!) This would be a much better alternative to leaving the dogs down in the basement like we had to do with Cassie and Boomer. Besides that, when I took Jake and Ted down there to sniff around, three guesses as to whom immediately started marking his territory?
It was also time for Teddy and Jake to take lessons on how to be "fishin' dogs." Jake liked being on the boat a lot more than Teddy. He played "hood ornament," standing up tall in the front, eyes forward and ears flapping in the breeze, keen on watching the ducks. Ted, on the other paw, sat on the back platform right by her Bethy, frequently asking for reassurance.
"Don't worry, silly girl," I told her, "I know you are a Samoyed and Samoyeds and water don't mix! You just sit right here and you'll be okay."
Jake was not one to "sit right here," and I kept telling him about being a good boy and that we were on water which is not solid. I had a sneaking suspicion that he would probably have to learn this fact the wet way, and I didn't really want to have to jump in and save him if he went overboard. We kept his leash on him.
The second time they were on the boat (Jake already understanding what "Let's go get on the boat" meant), Bob and I were talking about some earth shattering event and not really paying attention to the dogs. I had already told Jake several times to chill out. It was almost dusk, so we were putting homeward when I looked up just in time to see our boy sail off the front of the boat.
This old gal still has a few reflexes left, as I quickly found out! I shoved the boat into neutral, reached over the side and grabbed the splashing and extremely surprised mutt by the collar, and dragged his wet, writhing body into my lap all within a time lapse of only a few seconds.
Jake was sputtering, and the look on his face said it all. What a surprise to find out that Bethy spoke the truth! Just like a couple teenagers I had had the dubious pleasure of dealing with awhile back! He had mistaken the water for solid ground in the darkening evening, saw something he wanted to chase, and just took off.
The next day, Bob got in the water and took Jake with him, but it soon became evident that the animal wasn't very happy about it. Smart boy that he is, we don't think we'll have to worry about him bailing out again.
We've had pretty smooth sailing with few exceptions since we became members of a new pack. One incident was before we had their outdoor kennel run completely done and left them in the laundry room which is attached to a bathroom with the toilet seat left in the up position. In dog talk, this is the equivalent of the office water cooler, and we liked it because (hopefully anyway!) no one could tip it over or go wading in it! We also had a friend available to come over and let them out at noon.
We arrived home in the evening to total chaos in the laundry room, and I wish I could have been a bug on the wall to see exactly what had transpired. Somehow, the folding doors to the laundry room closet had opened magically by themselves, revealing a bunch of cool stuff to play with, i.e., packages of paper towels, garbage bags, a mop, and various other chewable goodies. It seemed they liked the stuff that comes on rolls the best, unrolling and chewing up every last paper towel in the place. I was so angry that it took me awhile to count my blessings that no one had gotten into anything like furniture polish or the bleach.
The verdict was that they had to stay in their crates until we were done with their dog run. We were extremely grateful to our friend who came over like clockwork to let them out during the day.
When their new run was first completed, Bob and I put the dogs in it and went out to dinner with some friends. Three hours later we got back and the dogs were. . .gone! Anyone who has come home to that scenario knows how my stomach felt when I saw the dog run bereft of dogs. Their Nyla-bones lay there accusingly, as did the padlock that I had put through the hasp but not locked. Why hadn't I locked it!? I hadn't thought I needed to! What a dummy!
Zombie-like, I was so stunned I couldn't even cry! Oh, no! My beebees! They were much like my own kids, and of course, I immediately began to think of the terrible things that could befall themthey weren't "car smart," a farmer could get mad and shoot them, the lake was there to fall into and drown, not to mention coyotes who would make mincemeat out of Teddy, especially, in no time, and not to mention someone just coming and taking them and/or letting them out as a prank. I had gotten in the habit of leaving Teddy's choke collar on, too, just because it was easier than taking it off all the time. I immediately had the horrifying vision of her hanging from a barbed wire fence somewhere.
We started to drive around the neighborhood, still in a fog. Then it dawned on us that we might make better progress on foot, so we went home and got flashlights and started looking. I really wasn't expecting to get any results since I had no idea how long they'd been out of the pen. They could be in the next county by now! Still, I walked and hollered, the tears finally starting to fall.
After about twenty minutes, I desolately started back for the house, crying and kicking myself in the ass for becoming the person I had always abhorred: the pet owner who didn't take care of her pets.
Almost home, I flashed my light into the nearby empty lot and saw the amber glow of animal eyes shining back at me. Off to the left of those was another pair. They were coming at me full throttle, Teddy in the lead, complete with that silly Samoyed smile plastered to her muzzle as if to casually say, "Oh dee doe, we're back from playing now! You weren't worried about us, were you?"
Relief gushed into my veins, and I had to kneel down or else fall. "Oh, there you guys are! Where have you been!?" They both had a hundred kisses for me, and they were both out of breath, soaking wet, and covered with cockle burrs. "You two scared the hell out of me!" I said once I got my own breath back. "Let's go in the house and get a treat!"
That was all they needed to hear, and they raced to the door as I brought up the rear staggeringly. They drank their water bowl dry several times, and Jake was overheated to the point that I made him lay down and rubbed him with an ice-soaked cloth until his ragged breathing slowed down. He must have been out chasing deer.
In the meantime, Bob went out and examined the gate. He was wondering how on earth they had gotten out with the padlock through the hasp. When he came back inside, he had some astonishing news: You could put the lock through the hasp even if the gate wasn't latched all the way; hence, it would only LOOK like it was secure! All it took then was for one of the dogs to bump into the gate accidentally to discover that freedom was a few steps away! I was amazed that they had stayed together during their whole adventure.
Hard lessons were learned that night. Check and recheck the gate, and make sure the dogs have identification on them. Even now I've been known to turn around and go back home to check the gate again, although I had checked it five times before I left the first time. The padlock is always in the locked position now, too, just in case someone is tempted to try letting them out while we're gone. I know I don't want to ride that emotional roller coaster again!
We've been a pack for almost a year. The requisite Samoyed hair tumbleweeds are back, and we pick hairs out that have become laced into our eyelashes. We've settled into our "routines." We laugh at Jake, who avidly loves to watch doggie shows on Animal Planet, front paws hanging off the edge of the bed (which he now thinks is his, by the way). We laugh at Ted and all of her vocalizations, always getting the last "woof" in. We get a kick out of their fascination with a white teddy bear my mom got me for my birthday and how they always try to smell its rear end.
Jake whips around the house when we get home, tailed tucked down and butt low to the floor. He has learned to sit, speak, lay down, and shake, but has a way to go with the leash. "Stay" is also a challenge. Teddy is much more sedate on a leash, but has been known to chase butterflies on occasion. Another of her fixations is the squirrels, and while we walk she has to check out all the treetops within a mile radius. While she was at her first home, the squirrels would tease the heck out of her and her buddies, so she is still waiting for an opportunity to exact revenge.
We also got a laugh one evening when we got home from a short excursion where we had left them to roam the house freely. On the throw rug in the hallway were two "presents," one a BIG PILE and the other a little dainty pile. It was hard to scold them, and we still wonder who was first to do the honors. We would definitely call this a competition of some kind!
After my sweeties Cassie and Boomer, I didn't think I could ever have a dog again. Silly woman that I am, I loved them with all my heart. Indeed, I felt as if they had stolen that heart! I realized, though, that they are always with me now, and they didn't really steal it, they just wanted to share it, the same silly heart that still amazingly has room for more.