Friday, March 21, 2008

Dingo the Wonder Mutt

Once upon a time, my husband thought it would be a good idea to get a dog. He had grown up with dogs all his life and apparently seemed to feel that something was missing from our happy home. I, on the other hand, am a cat person. I could not have cared less if I ever saw another dog again, let alone if one came to live in our home. Besides, I reasoned, dogs are so hard to care for. You’ve got to let them out every few hours to go potty, you’ve got to find someone to take care of them if you go on vacation, you’ve got to make sure they don’t poop in anyone else’s lawn, etc, etc, etc. You can leave a cat alone for a couple of weeks if you really need to – just leave out several bowls of food and water and get one of those self-cleaning litter boxes. Wha-la! You’re set. Pet the kitty, say goodbye, and head out. For the most part, cats are self-sufficient. But a dog… a dog seemed like such a hassle.

My husband went on wanting a dog for some time. I went on ignoring this as I knew he wasn’t going to actually get up and take action. As long as I didn’t physically go pick out a dog, I knew we weren’t going to get one. I seem to be the proactive one in the family, for some reason. However, that summer our house was broken into twice. The more D talked about a dog, the better the idea seemed. Still, I was slow to come around.

Please….” D would say, “I promise I’ll let it out and feed it and water it and walk it and make sure someone takes care of it while we’re away. You won’t even notice it’s here.”

Stupidly, I believed him.

I decided that fall that I would get D a dog for Christmas. For Christmas I brought home a dog kennel, food and water bowls, a collar, a food scooper, etc. I told D we could go pick out a dog, but I had to approve it. I’m kind of afraid of large dogs and D wanted a pretty big one. I had to approve of the size. We decided I would search for a dog that I could handle and then D would see if he liked the dog. Thus, the hunt for our Wonder Mutt began.

I started at the Humane Shelter. I decided I was looking for a medium sized dog with a fairly calm temperament. I looked over all the dogs and found one that looked just the right size – not too big so as to scare me, but not too small so as to be an ankle biter. He was pretty cute, too. I filled out an adoption application and they let me meet the dog. When you meet an animal at the Humane Shelter you go into a little room. The animal you want to meet is then brought into the room with you and you are left alone together for a bit. This helps to ensure that you are seeing the animal without the influence of the other dogs or cats or people and you can see how the animal interacts with you.

I can’t remember the dog’s name, but he was really cute. I was really looking forward to meeting him. I went into the little room and sat down, waiting for one of the volunteers to bring the dog in to meet me. The dog came in the room. I attempted to pet him. He ran around in circles. I sat there and stared at him. For 10 minutes, this dog did nothing but run around the edges of the room. I was starting to get worried. It seemed that this dog had a little more energy than I could handle. Then, to top it off, as soon as he stopped running around the room he started humping a stuffed animal. The staff had to take the stuffed animal away. Apparently, the dog wasn’t yet fixed. Gee, thanks for telling me.

Someone finally came in and took the dog back to his cage. I said, “Wow, he certainly has a lot of energy”.

The Staff Member: “Yeah, that breed of dog is bred to herd cattle. They need to run about 10-20 miles a day.”

Me: “Oh.”

It became apparent to me that this dog was not coming home with me. There was no way in hell I was committing myself to running 10-20 miles a day. I don’t even get that far by car on a typical day.

My search continued.

My next stop was the SPCA. At the SPCA I saw two dogs that caught my eye. One was a black lab – a little bigger than I really wanted, but I knew it was more what D really wanted. The other dog was some sort of Shepherd mix named Dingo – but pretty small for a Shepherd, maybe about 40 lbs or so. I asked the staff about the dogs and I was told that the little Shepherd dog had previously been abused and was very shy. Immediately, I had to have her. Poor little thing – she was abused! I’m such a bleeding heart. The staff also told me that she was afraid of men. For some reason, I did not think this would deter her from being the perfect Christmas gift for my very manly husband.

The SPCA staff brought me into the room where Dingo was kept. Instead of being in a kennel with the other dogs, she was living in one of the offices – apparently she was such a ‘fraidy cat she couldn’t be left with the other dogs. I walked over to her and she sat perfectly still. I petted her and checked her out and talked to her. She did not move the entire time I was in that room. She just sat there and stared at me nervously, with her tail tucked. Somehow I equated 'previously abused, scared out of her mind, jumpy, paranoid dog' with 'calm, low-maintenance, ideal-for-my-lifestyle dog' and decided she was perfect for us. Calm? Yeah, she was calm – because she didn’t want me to beat the crap out of her. I don’t know if that really counts as a personality trait so much as it counts as a defense mechanism. Poor puppy.

I took D to the SPCA with me two days later to make sure he approved of the dog I had chosen for him. When the shelter volunteers took us to see Dingo, she barked and growled at D. She jumped up and bared her teeth and growled low in her throat and acted as if we would make a particularly tasty lunch for her.

D looked at me, looked at Dingo, looked back at me and said, “Are you sure we should get this one?”

I looked at him like he was insane. Not get this dog? What? Of course we should get this dog. Just because she was barking and snarling and growling and baring her teeth and acting like she wanted to eat us and wouldn’t come within ten feet of D didn’t mean she wouldn’t make a great Christmas gift for him.

“Geesh,” I thought to myself, “he sure is picky.”

What I said was: “I think we should take her home. I’ll bet if we love her for awhile she’ll start to get better.”

D: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Well, no, not really. But we can’t just leave her here.”

D: “Well, okay.”

D is not a bleeding heart himself, but he always seems to sympathize with my bleeding heart convictions. I have no idea why he has so much faith in me, but he does. I don’t ever have that much faith in me. I never think I’m going to be able to really make any sort of difference even though that’s all I want to do, and I express my bleeding heart convictions in these sort of half-assed pleas – hoping I’ll do something for the best but terrified that I’m digging myself into something I can’t really handle. For some reason, D always goes along with it. God bless him.

Four days later we brought Dingo home.

Correction – four days later I brought Dingo home. The SPCA staff, D, and myself all thought it would be best to bring her home without D there so she wouldn’t freak out. Way to go, H. Some fucking Christmas present. For weeks she ran downstairs every time D went upstairs and upstairs every time D went downstairs. We’d take her out the front door, through the yard, and into the gated back yard because she was afraid of the linoleum floor in the kitchen and wouldn’t cross it to go out the back door. We tried to teach her to play Frisbee but she ran away from the Frisbee and looked at us as if to say, “Why are you throwing things at my head? What did I do now?”

Two years later, she sleeps next to D at night in our bed. I attribute this to a great deal of love and patience, as well as a small fortune in doggy treats. I can probably count the number of times D has walked her on one hand and somehow I end up letting her out every single morning, but I think I’m getting the hang of having a dog. Dingo seems to be getting the hang of having a family as well.

So that’s my story – the acquisition of Dingo the Wonder Mutt!

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