Two years ago today, I spotted an alert looking dog sitting at the edge of an alley wearing a collar with a leash attached, but without a person. He was still sitting there forty five minutes later when I had Sophie out on her walk. A call to Animal Control and a successful attempt at catching him turned him into a family member. AC told me they were “overwhelmed” with work that night, and as long as he was not dangerous, he could hang out at my house.
We’ve come a long, long way. He has gone from adorable puppy – (five months old approximately upon arriving in the house) to an obnoxiously barky one-year-old to still stressed but much quieter two-and-a-half-year-old. He still barks, but not that much. He likes my friends. He tolerates the vet. He sleeps a lot. I call that progress.
He has been a challenge. First, he looks like a bad ass. He may actually be a bad ass, but since he’s a total momma’s boy, I’ll never witness it. Other people frighten him, but he’s getting better. He does not spend an hour barking at someone anymore. He plays well with others, even if Sophie thinks he is a pain in the ass a lot of the time.
Then we had the chewing. Not much was safe if I left it out: computer cords, business cards, my kindle, and so many, many hats. Destruction of stuff has subsided a bit, although he still loves to chew hats. I like to wear baseball caps for dog walking, and my latest was an Orvis hat: dark blue with a yellow dog on it.
It lasted three weeks before Rufus found it. I came home to find a sad little piece left, and Sophie looked like the guilty party from her body language. I knew the truth. Sophie is not a chewer. I had my physical evidence at five a.m. when Rufus vomited up the remaining pieces. You call this a life of crime? He is not good at concealing evidence.
(Sophie, for her part, has not led a crime-free life either. The next day I came home to an emptied-out Earth Balance container that had only an hour before, had been half full of Earth Balance. She’s fine, thanks for asking.)
That of course leads us to Rufus’ vomiting and the farting and other gastrointestinal issues. Car sickness has improved, though. It’s not great, and we’re not attempting to drive him up Guanella Pass ever again. And as long as I buy him expensive food, the farting is at a minimum.
The big thing we’ve gotten through is the defiance. He acted like a damn tenth grader for a while. I taught tenth grade for most of my sixteen years as a public school teacher – and I’m counting the time overseas as well. I love them, but they’re jerks. It’s the eye-rolling, you-can’t-make-me, no-it-isn’t-a-good-morning, why-are-you-bothering-me-again age. I can now tell you with delight that both humans and dogs grow out of this phase. Most of them, anyway. Rufus would stare at me before lifting his leg on the exercise bike. He refused to come when called. He encircled other dogs to goad them into playing. Like any good parent, I swore at him and threatened to change the wi-fi password. He did not care.
Then suddenly, he was better. Like a high school junior arriving on the first day and seeking a favorite teacher out with a smile, he had learned that the world was not against him.
He still gets the jitters with new people. He still is leery of the vet. But to anyone who knows him, he is a million times better.
He had a vet appointment this morning, and while it could have gone a tiny bit better if I’m being very picky, I’m doing internal cartwheels over how well it actually went.
We arrived to a waiting room with three other dogs, all of whom had people attached. Rufus wanted to check them out but we had zero barking. Zero barking! We wandered around so he could sniff. Despite a refusal to get on the scale, he acted reasonably well in the presence of others. He got to see Branden, his vet tech buddy, and a new-to-him vet, Dr. Smith, who thought he was wonderful. He took lots of treats, of course, and while licking a cheese-whiz-covered tongue-depressor, he actually let Dr. Smith look in his ears.
That, my friends, is progress.
We had zero car-sickness or farting on the way home. He wagged his tail once we pulled into the driveway. Once inside, he and Sophie began playing and shared the water bowl as usual.
I left the vet with Rufus and without a headache. I have two very healthy dogs who are best friends.
I feel like a lottery winner: I have a million dollar ticket. Of course the taxmen have to come and said, “There are some steep prices to pay for this.” Nothing comes without the tax. We’ll keep paying it in different ways, but it doesn’t take away the prize.