Our new dog, Mouse (so-named because I was running out of time on Pam’s deadline on what to call her, and because I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series), is pretty awesome. Not completely awesome, because she sees me mainly as a chew toy, and has also sunk her choppers into Pam a time or two, or ten.
Last week, Billy and I went to PetSmart to see about some training classes for said toothy pooch. We’re checking out the calendar and the different classes (none of which were entitled: How to stop your dog from devouring you, when a helpful woman stepped up to offer us some assistance.
The conversation went something like this:
“Are you interested in getting some training for your dog?”
Me: “You can say that again.”
“What seems to be the problem?”
“The dog keeps trying to eat me.”
“Hmnnn.what breed of dog?”
“She’s a presa canario/Saint Bernard mix. ‘Bout this big.”
At this point, I stretch my arms apart about three feet, then put my right hand up just above my hip to estimate her height. Then I add, for good measure, “Goes about two-seventy, maybe two-hundred eighty pounds.”
Now, Billy will tell me later that the woman’s face pretty much drains of color, and her jaw drops open. Then she thinks about it a second, figures out I’m kidding, and starts to laugh.
“Is he always like this?” she asks Billy.
“Pretty much,” he confirms. So, we continue. I describe Mouse, 25 lbs of beagle/hound mix, with possibly a smattering of.well, who knows what thrown in. I mean, that’s the charm of a dog you adopt from the shelter, isn’t it? The way they hide the chance she’s part pit-something? When I mention the possibility-albeit unconfirmed-there’s some pit in the family tree, she was already a step ahead. I’m guessing I’m not the first person to adopt a dog from the shelter and show up at PetSmart with concerns.
“If she is,” Ms. Helpful says of Mouse. “She needs a job. Something to keep her occupied.”
I immediately consider envelope stuffing. The dog’s got enough slobber to lick ’em shut, that’s for sure. But hiring out my dog as cheap labor-even in N. Fort Meyers-isn’t what she’s getting at.
“How about this,” she suggests. “What about tieing a dog toy to a fishing pole?”
“I need to get her to stop trying to eat me,” I cut in. “I can’t afford swimming lessons, too.” Ms. Helpful is not derailed by my sense of humor a second time. Good for her, I think.
“You should try the one hour personal training session. K.C. can work on whatever you want. The biting, destroying furniture, anything like that.”
So, after getting some more flyers, slipping in another doggie one-liner or two, we thank her and head home to tell Pam what’s what. She’s all over the one-on-one aspect of training, and the next day, we sign up for a session with K.C.
Thursday afternoon, we drive the hound of the beaglevilles over to PetSmart, meet up with K.C. (who was very nice, and had probably been warned about my sense of humor), and into the training room we go. My only concern is, like when you bring a clunky car into the mechanics and suddenly it starts running like it’s showroom-new? I’m hoping Mouse gets a little toothy. Not that I want K.C. to get nibbled, but heck, I sure don’t wanna pay $79 an hour for sit, shake and roll over.
I didn’t need to worry. Mouse got chewy, K.C. got out her spray bottle, and twenty minutes later, Mouse was no longer interested in K.C. as living rawhide. I felt like I was listening to an old episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, the way she was handling our puppy. (Especially when Mouse decided to answer the call of nature-without taking a message.)
Forty minutes in. We’re sitting on stools at one side of the room.
Mouse is bounding around, chasing a toy we brought for the session. K.C. hands it to me, so I can see Mouse in action. At which point, Mouse sees the toy in my hand, and confusing my thumb for a Milk Bone, chomps down on my thumb. My right thumb. My guitar-pick-holdin’-thumb. Sigh.
Twenty minutes more training. Twenty more minutes of squirt bottle and various commands designed to let the dog know who’s in charge. All in all? Very successful.
But more successful if you can see. Twice now, I’ve been in the process of being chomped when I reach to grab my handy water bottle, only to be foiled by having grabbed it backwards, thus squirting myself in the face as Mouse goes trotting off. To add to my Mouse-spritzing woes, the mutt is fast. I mean greyhound-fast. By the time I can whip out the spray bottle and fire off a blast of mist, the dog is usually already out of range. At least she’s at the point she’s associating the spray bottle with bad mojo, so that’s something. But without being able to see it coming, I’m still getting meat-tenderized on my knuckles and wrist on a pretty regular basis.
She’s a puppy, though. It’ll take some time. I get that. And, we got her out of the shelter. That freed up a spot for another dog who needs a chance. However much time it takes to train her? That’s how much time Pam and I will invest. It’s worth it. If you don’t have a pet, I can’t explain this. They’re not pets, not really. They’re family. They might occasionally act like your drunken brother-in-law who tries to grope the last available single woman at your Christmas party, but usually, it’s not that bad. If you’ve never thought about stopping in at your local animal shelter, I’d strongly suggest you do so. Dog, cat, doesn’t matter. A little time, and they’re going to be thrilled to be in your home. Remember, they know what the alternative is.
Someone asked me recently, “You went out and got another dog the same week Luna passed away? You didn’t wait?”
And I said, “Nope. You only get so many in a lifetime. There’s always one who needs you.”
And that’s true. I’ve got maybe three dogs left in my life. Maybe. And a couple of cats. Pam and I re-stocked on one of each this year, after 15 years each with Luna and Midnite. Our home is a forever home. At least as long as she and I are around. And it was too damned empty without our fifth family member.
Even if you don’t think you’re ready for a dog or cat, ask yourself. When were you ever ready for anything? First girl you made out with. First time you went all the way. First time you borrowed your parents’ car. First time you got suspended in high school? When you think about it, most of your life is spent not being ready for what’s going to happen. Are you going to get a raise? Get a promotion? Get fired? Get a good deal on your next car? Get into an accident? Get the flu?
At least with a pooch or a cat, you can always count on them responding when you give ’em a scratch behind the ears or a belly rub. To be there when a day at the office really and truly sucks. When things go horribly, horribly wrong. Take it from me-it’s well worth the effort. What you get out of it is so far and away beyond what you invest in pet food and some tennis balls or catnip toys. I’d say it’ll be the best investment you ever make.
Even if you get the occasional scratch or tooth mark. Those? They heal up just fine.
Currently listening to: “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows