Monday, December 03, 2012


This bitch over here is about to drive me nuts. Hang on ladies, I would never refer to my loving wife, Melody, in so coarse a manner. I'm talking about the seven-month-old, female pup named Nancy that we adopted from the animal shelter last July. When she arrived, Nancy weighed eight pounds and was wobbly on her feet, but as soon as we started feeding her pet store food, she hit a growth spurt and morphed into The Giant Puppy. It was like watching a wolf getting its first taste of red meat, then becoming ravenous and eating everything in sight. If there is no food in her bowl, she'll gnaw on the couch, or go outside and chew on tree limbs. Now she weighs fifty pounds and shows no sign of stopping. We thought we had given a home to a baby speckled pup. Now we're wondering if  we aren't raising a leopard, like in those old Cary Grant movies. Since the Giant Pup is in her teething phase, we bought her fifty bucks worth of chew toys and Nylabones, but she destroyed them all in twenty minutes. And I'm not talking about little furry playthings. I mean rugged, well stitched rope toys with big knots in them. So now, as I write this with mutilated hands and bloody fingers, I have come to the realization that I am her chew toy, and Nancy badly needs an attitude adjustment.

I have raised puppies before, but it's been a while and I had forgotten about the mania. I've taken the program offered by the Shelby County Obedience Club, (the dog passed; I failed), but it looks like I'm fixin' to take a refresher course. Melody and I have watched a lot of The Dog Whisperer, so we're constantly saying, "Chhhh" to the dog, until it sounds like a Biblical plague of crickets invading our home. A stern "No!" seems to be more affective. Consequently, it seems like someone is always screaming at the dog, and I have a fragile disposition, as you know. Nancy responds to her name, but she thinks her surname is "goddammit." We're not even certain if the pup speaks English. And since she's still a baby, she doesn't realize how strong she is or the power of her canine jaws- but I do.  After five months of living with Nancy, I have arms that look like a junkie's and the hands of a cage fighter. She has eaten a pair of my favorite socks and a couple of T-Shirts, and I have to keep my house shoes off of the floor. Anything that doesn't squeak or rattle is still fair game. She'll chew on your shoe with your foot still in it. She has a tendency to leap on me and nip at my extremities, so when I first get out of the shower, I have to make certain that she's not in the room. Nancy has learned to eat ice cubes and will attempt to climb up on the coffee table and pick them out of your glass if you are at all inattentive. I know that these bad behaviors can be corrected by proper training and obedience classes, but we've noticed that since she's been leaping on our friends, we have fewer guests that just pop in. So we're rethinking the whole obedience thing.

The problem is the damn dog is so freaking adorable, I can't bring myself to discipline her. Melody has no problem taking her by the collar and putting her outdoors, but I don't want to hurt the dog's feelings. I tried the old rolled-up newspaper a couple of times, but she only thought I was playing and came at me more fiercely. After she's exhausted herself, however, she loves belly rubs and neck scratches and will curl up at my feet like a loyal companion. Cesar Millan might suggest that the problem is me. I have detected small signs of her beginning to mellow lately and after a few lessons, I am sure that Nancy is going to be a wonderful pet. She is whip-smart and spunky. I'd say she was "mischevious," but there is no such word, so please stop saying it. The word is, "mischievous,"- three syllables, not four, and she is certainly the scamp. Since there are two older dogs here, there should be territorial issues, but like other females I could name, Nancy rules the roost. She also has floppy ears that feel like velvet and the longest tail that wags in sections when you appear. Her cheerful greeting at the doorway is uplifting every time and if I'm only away for fifteen minutes, she's so happy when I return, you would think I'd been gone forever. What I'm getting at here is that shelter dogs are often smarter and more clever than pure breeds. I have had both and I know that the dangers of over-breeding include reduced mental capacity and a tendency for illnesses in certain breeds. This pup has the strongest set of mixed genes that natural selection has to offer. We don't know where they came from, but they're strong alright.

The Giant Pup
Nancy is also an endless source of amusement. Since we don't know her lineage, her behavioral traits are always a surprise, like her ability to speak in low tones. She'll prostrate herself before one of her siblings and start chattering like a monkey. What's strange is that they seem to understand her. The bark is another matter. You want your dog to have a substantial bark to discourage strangers from lingering around the yard. A healthy bark likewise gives a start to any solicitors that have the bad sense to ring the doorbell. But a piercingly loud puppy bark can be disconcerting when it's directed at you in an unceasing manner. I suggest to Nancy that she should use her "indoor voice," but Melody just tells her to shut up. It's another issue we have to address, but I'm not up to using one of those shock collars or anything similarly medieval. I'd hate it if somebody put one of those pinch collars on me, so if the training ain't painless, she can go ahead and bark as far as I'm concerned. I'll admit to being at wit's end on occasion. We concluded that maybe older people need to get older dogs, after all that frenzy has subsided. I'm speaking of the dog's, not mine. But just when I think I can't take another minute of barking, or the puppy demanding my total attention when I'm trying to watch the Grizzlies, she will wriggle her way up into my lap and fall asleep. I tried to take a picture of it last night, but she weighed so much, I couldn't reach the cell phone. Just like the Princess and the Pea, I wouldn't dream of disturbing her, especially when my legs were pinned.

I'm sure that like many other people, I wish that I could save them all. I see the pictures of the stray and abandoned dogs online and I wish I had the means to start a refuge, like the elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, where all dogs run free and happy. Only, that's not the way it works. I don't need to remind you of the fate of unadopted shelter dogs, only that they are as deserving of love and a decent life as any pet acquired through a breeder. Since we domesticated these animals, they are entirely dependent on caring people for their well-being. Your dog is waiting for you, but that means responsibility as well. You just can't teach kindness. You either have it or you don't. But these adoptable dogs out at the Animal Shelter could melt anyone's heart. They speak to you with their eyes and their expressions, and any fool could see their need for simple affection. I defy you to visit the shelter and not be moved. Even an apartment dweller knows where the dog parks are, and a shelter dog knows when its been rescued. It's obvious by the many photos of "happy endings" posted by the shelter staff when a dog has been adopted. Check it out, the dogs are smiling. Any love offered a shelter dog will be returned tenfold, as we are now happily experiencing with our new pet. It will be even more joyous when Nancy removes her teeth from my arm. She needs some training, and soon, because this puppyhood is a bitch. 


Alan Copeland said...

Puppies have teething problems like human babies do. Here's a site that might help:

Good Luck,

Cary Wolfson said...

We have been a foster home for cats off and on since early summer. The first four were batches of kittens, all adorable. The last was a 15-lb. orange tabby, built like a linebacker. You forget what these little critters grow into.

If you're not up to the responsibilities of a full-time, year-round pet, fostering is a rewarding option. Check with your local shelter/humane society. said...

Don't let Mother read this!

Alex Perchov said...

She should don a T-Shirt like Sammy Davis Jr., Jr. proclaiming her to be "Officious Seeing Eye Bitch".

Anonymous said...

Anybody can start an animal rescue program. It doesn't have to be large. It could be something small enough to run out of your backyard. All you can save is a remnant anyway, and if you save any that would be a heroic deed. There is an endless parade of needy animals hoping for a home and some love. I know because my wife is deeply involved in animal rescue. I am not strong enough. She comes home all the time and tells me of cases where a mother and all her litter had to be euthanized because they could find no homes for them. That would cause me to die of heart break. The more I get to know people, the better I love my pets.

Anonymous said...

The coming economic collapse is going to really hurt the homeless animals. As family incomes drop, the needs of pets will become an increasingly lower priority. Many more will have to be euthanized. Just think of the all the cute, innocent puppies and kittens that will be put down. It is particularly bad in poor rural areas. People undergoing hard times discard pets constantly. They either starve or are euthanized. For instance, right now there is a litter of small kittens who live around a dump outside of a local Hardee's with winter coming on. I can't bear the thought.

Anonymous said...

Over my livetime I've had several dogs, ususally big dogs but I adopted a shitzu. A 6 yr old female to be exact. They say they are very intekkigent but I'm not sure. She hasnt taught me how to raise her yet. She is precious and the perfect addition to my household. If she had thumbs shed be perfect.
Hang in there, your deliquent will become a lady in time.

claire said...

Aaah yes, puppy behavior. Fell asleep on the couch once and awoke to a strange gnawing sound. He had gnawed a hole in the couch arm... while the bones lay next to him. Fortunately this phase passed--eventually but not soon enough. Re the bones+chew toys: I buy the bleached white real bones at Hollywood. They seem to be out of stock often (depending on which store). They are hard and last. Even better are the deer antlers. (!) They are very hard and very desireable to the Chewinators but a bit pricey.

Anonymous said...

You make me proud to call you neighbor.