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What A Catch

"A story about my blue heeler rescue. Her name is Stitch.
"I am on a sales' call to a neighboring town and my customer is busy when I got there. I was told to come back in half an hour. My customer's location is kind of in the middle of nowhere - no food, no shopping, no nothing. The only thing close by is the animal shelter. So, being foolish, I decide I'LL stroll in there and maybe play with a couple of the dogs while I wait.
"Long story short, I fall in love with this scruffy, unkempt blue heeler mix. I send a picture to my girlfriend and say 'should I bring this dog home?' We have another dog already. She says 'do what you want.' Still being foolish and not knowing that 'do what you want' means 'no fcking way,' I drive back to the shelter after my sales' call, pay my money, and make the two-and-a-half hour drive home with my new dog. She is about a year old at the time.
"The meet-and-greet with my other dog goes fine. Girlfriend is pissed, but that's secondary. I notice this dog has some unusual behavior for a one-year-old dog. She doesn't play ball - she doesn't even recognize that a ball is a toy. She's not lazy, but she doesn't want to play. She stays close to us all the time. She purposely avoids the kitchen and goes into other rooms when you're eating even as my other dog begs for table scraps (and gets them). She's not anxious or scared, just not playful or fun. She never even wags her tail. And when she meets my dad for the first time, she cowers. Tail down, head down, ears back, super submissive. Undoubtedly this dog has been neglected and abused.
"Time goes by and she's loosened up a bit. She doesn't fetch but she's happy to see us now, wags her tail, and begs like a good ole spoiled dog should. But she's still kind of reserved and just wants cuddles all the time. To this point she doesn't even know how to get into trouble.
"One day (yes, the story starts now) we're at the local dog park. This park has a creek running through it which, after winter, has fish in it. Not good fishing fish, just whitefish or other gross creatures. This drives the dogs nuts since the fish wash up on shore when they die. We all know how much dogs love gross smells - especially rolling in gross smells.
"Stitch disappears into some tall grass one spring day, which is fine as she plays very well with my other dog. My other dog comes back and Stitch doesn't. This is down by the creek area. I keep walking because Stitch always comes back when she gets to far away. Not this time. She doesn't. Finally, and I'm probably 70 yards away by this time, I start calling for her. I see her strutting out of the tall grass.
"And her tail is up. And her ears are forward. And she's holding her head up high. And she's basically prancing. This dog is incredibly happy with herself. I can't see why yet...
"She gets close enough that I can see why she's so happy. This reserved, timid, sometimes fearful, not quite a 'dog' dog has hauled a full fish out of the creek and is carrying it over to me through the park.
"Other dog park patrons are disgusted. I'm almost in tears because this animal who's been abused and neglected for the first year of her life has finally gone and done something she wanted to do, not for anyone's gain but her own. I'm almost in tears because I've never seen her look so proud of herself. It's at this point I consider my dog to have become a dog.
ck I'm tearing up just remembering the look on her face. I walk over to her, sit in the grass and she drops the fish and looks up at me with a big dopey smile on her face, wagging her tail and waiting for her praise. I like to imagine that, going through her little dog mind, was the phrase 'did I do good?' I probably spent five minutes there just petting her and telling her how good she was...
"She was proud, I was proud, and my other dog decided that this fish would make a good snack. I didn't mind."


Don't Mind If I Do

I had an extremely funny thing happen with my dog. When I take him out in the late afternoon or early evening, I sometimes go by the train stop in my neighborhood. I would take him to wait for my husband to get home from work because the dog loved seeing "daddy" come down the stairs from the platform. There was an area where we waited that had an overgrowth of bushes, trees and weeds that ran along the length of the platform. There was a fence on one side and a fence at the top of the hill running along the platform. So if we were early, I sometimes let the dog (Wishbone) run loose on that narrow strip of overgrowth, just for exercise. He was very good about coming back. One time, though, he didn't come back...not on his own, and not when I called him. I got worried, so I climbed the stairs to the platform and walked clear across to the stairs to the next street over. There I saw Wishbone, standing by a car that was in a car waiting line to pick up deboarding passengers. I ran down to retrieve Wishbone and discovered that the driver of the car, an 80-year-old man who was waiting to pick up his adult granddaughter getting home from work, had a bag in the car with him that was filled with the largest dog treats I've ever seen. Wishbone had discovered the man, and had positioned himself outside the man's car, being ingratiating. It was working, too. Wishbone had scored a few treats already. The man had the passenger side window rolled down a lot of the way. I chatted with the man a while, who turned out to be quite charming. As we talked, he occasionally handed another large treat through the window to the very thrilled Wishbone, despite me saying he should stop. It was starting to rain lightly and there was still a few minutes before the train was due in, so this very charming man invited me to sit in the car with him so as to get out of the rain. Before I could say a word (which was going to be, "Thanks, that's very kind of you, but no"), Wishbone leapt up on the bottom of the window and jumped down onto the passenger seat! His feet were plenty muddy too from where he had been, the interior of the car was cream, and Wishbone tracked his muddy paws all over the nice man's seat.

I was mortified with embarrassment, but I also was bowled over in laughter, as I tried to yell at Wishbone and I opened the door so I could get him out. The hilarious part is it was clear that Wishbone completely understood the invitation, and you didn't have to ask him twice! Fortunately, the man was extremely nice about it. He wasn't angry and he had an old towel in the car with him, which he used to wipe up Wishbone's muddy paw prints.

We've known for some time Wishbone understands a lot of what we say but it's never possible to know how much. From that event, it was plain to see he understood exactly what had been said...just not that the invitation wasn't to him. For a long time after that, every time we passed the spot where the treat guy was parked, Wishbone looked for him. He had mentioned to me his granddaughter was getting married and would be moving into a house she was buying in another town with her husband, so I knew he wouldn't be there anymore. That part Wishbone didn't understand, though, and he kept looking for his friend, very disappointed each time he didn't see him. That part was a little sad, but every time I've had a tough day or am down about something, I think of Wishbone leaping into treat guy's car when he invited me to sit in the car with him and I still LOL. It really cheers me up, which is the best part of having a dog. They are terrific companions!


My Bully in Puppy Kindergarten

Back when my dog was in puppy kindergarten, there was an overly-vocal labradoodle puppy enrolled in class which simply wouldn't stop barking.
His excessive barking never let up throughout the entire hour we were attending class.
This was a dog who wouldn't shut up!
And “Paxil's” bark was contagious.
He was proving a distraction for all the other puppies in class, too.
His big, strong bark set all the other dogs off, and over the course of the next few classes (throughout the entire duration of each headache-inducing hour), the other puppies wound up barking non-stop in response.
(It was, by far, the noisiest and most rowdy training class I've ever attended).
All that noise made it difficult to hear the instructor teach her classes. It was absolute ear-splitting cacophony with 15 puppies barking non-stop.
Many of the human participants dropped out in the beginning weeks. I don't blame them. I was tempted to do much the same.
After three full classes of having to shout over the din from all those furry little students, the instructor finally recommended an anti-bark collar which works to stop excessive barking by releasing a harmless burst of citronella spray directly into the dog's snout whenever the dog barked.
She demonstrated it to the class by buckling one around Paxil's neck. Almost immediately, Paxil was rewarded with a surprising burst of bitter citronella directly into his schnoz.
We all laughed at the shocked expression on his face.
The collar had a microphone in front which was able to pick up the dog’s voice. Whenever Paxil barked, he got sprayed.
It was very effective in ending Paxil's bark-fest. It was amazing to watch that puppy quiet down after having been squirted only three of four times!
However, my smart puppy figured out very quickly how the collar worked. He was intrigued and thought it was a neat gadget.
Several times he went straight up to Paxil (who was now a very quiet, well-behaved gentleman) and barked directly into the spray-collar, as poor little Paxil got the full-brunt of the citronella spray bursting directly into his sweet little face.
The instructor worked on the “SIT” and “STAY” commands with my dog over the next several classes, as that spray collar was so much fun to set off that my puppy was quickly in training to become a prankster and a bully.



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