Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rocks in the dog house

I stood in the shower, letting the hot water run over me, enjoying having the house to myself this early Sunday morning. My husband had just left to run errands, and I was going to spend an hour pampering myself, a nice break from cleaning the barn and dog runs. It was not to be… Hubby returned within ten minutes.

"I picked up a cocker spaniel out on Tiger Mountain Road," he announced, "He's downstairs."

It's bad enough that I keep bringing home dogs, now he's getting into the act too, I thought. I went down to the garage with wet hair and a cup of coffee to fortify myself. I let a cute little buff cocker out of the crate, and he wiggled all over, saying hello. He was clean, a good sign that he hadn't been running very long.

He ran around the garage and found one of Tank's sticks, brought it over and dropped it at my feet. "Throw it," he was saying, so I did. He romped after it, brought it back, and dumped it at my feet again. When I didn't throw it, he nudged it a little closer. Obviously a beloved pet, he appeared to be about 5 years old.

This little guy was not neutered, which probably explained why he was roaming. Surely there was a female in heat in our neighborhood. We lived in the country, where people think it's safe to have unfenced yards for their dogs. Dogs would roam for miles when they smelled a female in heat.

I put him in the dog run with our dogs, and after a few minutes, they were all sniffing happily. Our dog run was a large yard, about 40 feet by 50 feet, and all grass, like most people's back yard. We had four doghouses in there, even though we only had three permanent dogs. There was plenty of room for the dogs to get acquainted, and enough room so they were not too crowded and inclined to fight. Satisfied that the introductions were going well, I headed for the house to make 'found' signs.

A few hours later, I checked back with our guest. With no sticks in the dog run, he frantically searched for something for me to throw for him. Here he came with a rock about four inches in diameter. It was so heavy and awkward he kept dropping it, but he finally got it there, and proudly presented me with his new toy.

I soon discovered that he had claimed one of the doghouses as his own, and it was filled with a big pile of rocks. Dogs will take their toys to their beds to protect them from the other dogs. The cocker, who by now I was calling Rocky, had established his territory and his possessions and settled in nicely.

I think my dogs thought he was nuts. Tank, our lab, and the dominant member of the household, would run over, check out a rock, and then look at Rocky as if "This thing is not worth arguing over. You can have it!"

Two hard days of rock-fetching later, Rocky's owners were out putting up ‘Lost dog’ posters, saw our signs and came to claim him. His real name was Bo-Bo, and his teenage owner Katrina proudly invited me to come over and pick out a puppy from her female cocker spaniel as my reward for finding him. It was time for some education.

This dog was over a mile from home, with no collar or tags. If something had happened to him, Katrina never would have known. She would decide he "ran away," preferring not to think about his ultimate fate. Well, something happens to dogs that run away, and it's not usually good. Bo-Bo had traveled through the woods, and could have easily been eaten by a coyote. I told her to keep her reward, and to get Bo-Bo and his girlfriend neutered. She promised.

The next day, Bo-Bo was back, trotting down the road at 5:30 a.m., before sunrise. "That dog's going to get hit by a car," my husband growled. Bo-Bo now had a collar, but still no tags.

I wasn't as nice when I returned Bo-Bo this time. I warned her that I didn't like the idea of scraping a dead dog off the road and delivering him to her. Katrina said she would neuter Bo-Bo this week, and until then, she would tie him up. She was sincere in her intentions, but she had that "I'm invincible" attitude that you have only when you're 16 years old. I hoped Bo-Bo was as invincible as she was. 

Photo above is Rocky stashing rocks in Colley Girl's doghouse.

© 2009, photo and story.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A vacation with my dog

One Dog?
I have four dogs in my family, but I escaped from it all with Tux, my sheltie, and spent a few days in Malibu visiting my good friend Lynn, who is there from Seattle visiting her brother. 

What an experience. Three days with one dog. He rode by my side in the car, slept on my bed, and was at my side every minute as we relaxed, hiked and watched Westminster on TV. 

These things don't happen at my house. Tux is one of the gang, and they all sleep in the living room at night. I reserve the bedroom for my cats, Sterling and Whisper, who stay in the back part of the house when I have pet-sitting dogs here. Bedtime is the only time my kitties get my attention, and I have guarded that privilege for them. 

Lynn is the sheltie rep for Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue, and she was having severe "sheltie withdrawal," so she wanted Tux to come with me! We both spoiled him rotten and he was a perfect gentleman. And I discovered the joys of having only one dog. I have said many times I'm going to get down to just two dogs, through attrition. Now I know why. It's not just the money, or the work, it's the fact that a dog thrives on the attention, and is a much better pet. 

With my gang here, Lily and Bonnie are always around, but don't get the walks, the cuddling, the training and love they deserve. Rescued from a puppy mill at age 6, they came to me full of milk from recent litters, and horribly underweight. They've adjusted pretty well, but I sometimes wonder if they would have done even better if they were my only dogs. They are now 10 years old, maybe older. 

Desi the dachshund spends every evening on my lap, and is always snuggled nearby in a dog bed when I am working. He and Tux get occasional walks and outings to the park, which they both love. 

Desi has never been reliably housetrained, so letting him loose in a 6,000 square foot home with white carpeting wasn't an option. He stayed home from this trip. 

Besides a wonderful, relaxing getaway, the trip gave me the chance to pause and reflect on the joys of NOT adopting yet another dog.