Outdoor Adventure: Behavior can determine dog ownership
There comes an instant of foreboding when, upon answering the phone at work, your wife, without preamble, says, “Your dog is a bad, bad dog.”
It is not the mantle of “bad dog” in multiple that puts you on edge, it is the assignment of ownership. The words “your dog” carry an element of weight to them. This even though the dog, Fenway, was purchased by Sally after she and she alone researched the breed (Boston Terrier), searched for breeders and put down the hard cash for a puppy. Which would, in most matters, make it her dog.
But no: Not today. Today it’s, “your dog” and I brace for further details. Said details are quickly forthcoming. Sally had opened the front door to check for the mail and Fenway, alert little pup that he is, had, in the parlance of the old Packer running play of yore, “run to daylight.” Which is to say out the door, down the front steps, down the driveway. Then a sharp right turn and up the sidewalk, running like a sprinter at every step.
Fenway you must understand, is not a large dog. e has a head that is shaped unlike our other dogs (“the big dogs”) in that it is, in technical terms, “sorta smushed in” as if he had run full speed into an immovable object when the nose was soft and pliable. His legs are long for his body bringing to mind a spider or perhaps a leggy fashion model. He is, when he runs, very, very fast. And now he was running all out.
What to do? Sally gave chase. Into the cold morning; wearing a thin shirt and sweat pants; and house slippers. She called out “come”; Fenway ignored her and crossed the next side street in full stride. It is possible that he does not know the meaning of the word “come.” It is equally possible that he does but chose to ignore it; one does not quibble over details such as this when in pursuit.
Halfway down the next block another dog barked and Fenway skidded to a halt to consider: friend or foe? And so he stood, focused on the other dog, when Sally, panting hard and not feeling much of the holiday cheer, caught up with him and corralled him. Fenway was shivering in the cold as if he’d run out of his comfort zone and now the cold had caught up to him.
She carried him back, did Sally, and then called me to chastise me about “my dog.” I asked if her feet had warmed sufficiently but that was perhaps not the best way to distract her from the issue at hand.
Her complaint did not, in fact, fall on deaf ears. The week prior, with Sally in Arizona, I woke to the sound of a dog retching in the darkness of the bedroom. Lights on; bleery eyed, I found Fenway hunched over. I believe the correct medical term is “upchucking.” I will spare you the forensic exam and assure you only that my day started by cleaning up his mess.
He did so two more times by 9 a.m. and when I called Sally I reported that; “Your dog isn’t feeling well.” She grilled me as to the possible cause and I observed that I felt he had…hmmm, how does one word this? How does one present the facts in a somewhat proper manner for this publication? How does one convey that on the day earlier I’d seen Fenway perhaps (I was not completely certain but had my suspicions), perhaps I’d seen him eating what might delicately be called “frozen doggie droppings.” There, there you have it.
Whatever. It was clear that her dog had misbehaved and there was a price to be paid.
I did what I thought best; cooked up a serving of white rice, the perfect tonic for a dog with an upset gastrointestinal system. I let it cool then plated it for him. He ate it. Then tossed it back up.
I talked to the vet: “Just quit feeding him.” Which is what I did and by afternoon he was fine. I know he was fine in that he had enough energy and appetite to chew to near beyond recognition one of my leather slippers.
That evening he settled down and when I stumbled off to bed he followed; up on the bed, curled up tight, the picture of innocence and contentment. I patted him on his blocky little noggin, told him he was a good puppy and nodded off.
At three in the morning, he got in a fight with the cat over, apparently, which one could sleep closest to me. There was a great amount of barking and hissing accompanied by what seemed to be a tap dance back and forth across the bed; two sets of feet rattling and punching me as I lay there in the darkness.
I, nerves thoroughly jangled, did not soon fall into a peaceful winter slumber.
At five in the morning Fenway woke me up and mindful of the previous days start to the festivities, I rose, groggily, and let him outside. It was very cold outside and he came in, shivering. By now the other two dogs were up and I gave up all hopes of further sleep, brewed up some coffee and hoped I’d have time for a nap. Christmas was looming and while the “good will to men” in the old song sounded doable I was having some issues with extending that sentiment to dogs. Particularly one small Boston Terrier now dubbed a “Boston Terrible.”
I called Sally and told her that her dog was a monster.
That afternoon I talked to a friend who was planning on getting a Boston Terrier next month and I offered up Fenway as a loaner to encourage her to perhaps reconsider. A day with him, perhaps two, would take the luster off the best laid plans. I felt it was the least that I could do but she turned me down.
Two days later Sally came back and she and Fenway took up and all was fine. Until Fenway made the dash to open air on the cold December morning.
Ah well, what can one do? We all have our situations. My sister who lives in a small town in Idaho had three moose in her yard this week, eating her lilacs and decorative shrubs. There is no food in the higher elevations where last summer’s fires had destroyed all browse and now the moose were forced lower to find food. She stood at her kitchen window and watched the moose devour her lilacs and felt it best not to go outside to shoo them away. I did not ask if she told her husband that “his” moose needed attention.
Fenway, meanwhile, sits at the window and watches the neighborhood. It is cold outside and the snow is getting deeper as small snowfalls come, every other day it seems. He watches it all and turns to me, meets my eyes. I tell him that, no, he can’t go outside. He turns back, lies down, goes to sleep. His leg twitches and I wonder if he’s dreaming a doggie dream of running free in the cold December air, running free and easy even as he hears the frantic calls: “come. Fenway come!” and the slip-slap, slip-slap of slippers on the hard, cold snow.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander. Call (715) 362-5800.