Things I have learned from my dogs

Over the years, Deb and I have been fortunate to share our lives with many dogs. We have had many foster dogs who eventually went to new homes. Mostly though if we foster a dog we generally end up adopting it. We don’t generally foster young dogs, instead we focus on senior animals who need stability and security in their last years. Every dog we have had the pleasure of knowing has taught me something. Dogs are patient and wise; unlike us, they do not demand that you get their lesson immediately. Dogs have seen the very worst and the very best humankind has to offer yet no matter what they have been through, the violence and cruelty they have been subjected to most dogs still have an ability to trust us.

Tippy – unconditional love is a powerful healer

Tippy was my very first dog as an adult. She was a Maltese/Shih Tzu cross. I had just started university when Tippy came tome via a friend. This dog showed me the wonder that is unconditional love. During the first couple of years she was with me, I was going through counselling trying to deal with my fucked up childhood. Tip probably soaked up more tears than she should have. We were inseparable. She came to work with me, we went to grad school together, she was my constant companion. She was fiercely loyal and I adored her. Others were not so fond of her though. She was a little, shall we say, on the dominant side. Her place in the car was the front passenger seat and she did not like it if someone else was in that place. She would make their lives miserable![1] She also didn’t appreciate it if I had someone sleep with me – she would growl at them all night. For such a small dog,[2] she certainly had a big presence.

The Chunk – embrace life and enjoy things with abandon

The Chunk was my accidental Shih Tzu. Dog lovers know the kind, the dog and breed you never knew you wanted! The Chunk was a force to be reckoned with. Typical of her breed, she was incredibly stubborn and tenacious. The Chunk was all about doing what felt good – she was a true hedonist. We were happily her slaves. When she really enjoyed things she did so with abandon. She loved to play on the bed in a little game we used to call ‘shih tzu abuse’[3] which involved pushing her away, trying to grab her paws and body slamming her. She would never do this in front of the other dogs for some reason. She exemplified the idea that to live life to its fullest you sometimes had to do it with abandon.

Piper – loyalty to those you love is not negoitable

Piper has taught me so many things, it is hard to know where to begin. I think I will start with patience. Piper took 3 years to completely toilet train. We all spent hours upon hours outside, in the rain, the heat, the snow, telling Piper to go pee. Twenty minutes was a good morning. She would sniff, eat grass, run the fence with Diesel next door. It also seemed that just as she was getting ready to pee something would distract her and we would be starting all over again. Piper is also incredibly loyal and attuned to me. If I am sick, she is always right beside me. She does not ask for attention she is just there. If I do not go up to bed the same time as Deb she will stay with me even though she really wants to go up for treats. She tolerates all the other dogs who want to be with me because she knows that she is my #1 dog in the house. Occasionally she gets tired of the interlopers and will launch herself on me for some love and snuggles.

Zoe – it takes focus to meet your goals

I adore Zoe. She came to us from Turtle Gardens 3 years ago. She was a former breeding dog who had lived a rough life. Once she got here, she quickly put her past behind her and became the diva she was always meant to be. I have blogged before about Zoe and how she gets her own way all the time. Zoe seems to have a unique skill wherein she can punish us if we don’t give her what she wants. Most of the time it is just easier to give in so at least she will stop for a while. This dog has such single-minded focus it is scary. If it was her job to cure cancer it would be done. World peace? She was just bark until everyone put down their guns.

Jesse – embrace change to meet your needs

Jesse is the newest addition to The Swamp. We adopted him through Bully Buddies. Jesse has had a hard life, you can tell just by looking at him. He worries about everything. Losing his Dad has been very difficult for him. Yet he has been able to come here and adapt. Jesse is 8 and he has some pain issues from the botched surgery on his back legs. He has never lived with multiple dogs yet he is managing here just fine; he has great patience with Sawyer who is in love with him. He hates to be left alone and has severe separation anxiety yet he will go into his crate without much fuss. He is even bonding with us. However we know that should he ever see his Dad again he would be over the moon and then crushed even more if he couldn’t go with him. Jesse has taught us that making the best of a bad situation, being adaptable and rolling with change is what we all have to do. Jesse is trying so hard to be resilient and still enjoy life.

[1] Just ask my best friend Joe!

[2] 7.5 pounds on a good day.

[3] Don’t worry, no shih tzus were harmed in this activity.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘crazy weather’ edition

  • I was out today and could not believe the bizarre weather. As I was leaving it was sunny. I got closer to Fort Langley and I was treated to sleet along with heavy winds. As I was heading home, it started to sleet again. The sleet quickly turned to hail over the Golden Ears Bridge, which made it quite slippery. At one point it was sleeting and it was sunny. I was used to this kind of thing from Calgary. I remember it being sunny on one side of the street and pouring on the other.
She is a cheeky little brat!
  • Staying on the weather theme – some of the dogs really hate to go out and get their feet wet. Zoe is the worst. I think it is a Shihtzu thing. I remember the Chunk who would just stop rather than get her feet wet. Zoe goes a specific route to stay on the ‘high ground’ so that she does not get wet. It is really quite funny to watch.
Zoe flaked out
Zoe doing what she does best!
The Chunk in all flaked out
  • Do you notice the similarities between Zoe and Chunky? They are quite similar.
  • One of my co-workers gave me an area rug that she wasn’t using anymore. As soon as it went down the dogs were all over it. They love having rugs and mats to lie on.  The ‘terrorist’[1] dogs immediately started to play and within an hour had the whole thing covered in stuffing from toys all over the place!
  • We have had so much rain over the last week or so that the North Allouette River was getting quite high. I was a little worried that it was going to go over its banks if there was much more rain. Our property does not usually flood when the river goes over – it just makes it difficult for us to get out to the highway.
  • In other news, this was the first time in 2 years that the septic system did not need to be pumped at Christmas. I think this is likely because of the drainage system is moving the water out to the back of the property instead of it backing up into the septic tank. We will see if we get through the whole winter without having to have it pumped. Now, if we can just figure out a way to not have it smell as bad as it does in the winter.

[1] I have nicknamed Sawyer and Sienna the ‘terrorists’ because the are terriers and they destroy everything!

Things I do for my dogs – The Chunk

The Chunk in all her Shihtzu glory!

Part 2 of a series

The Chunk (AKA Twinkie) was a Shihtzu. She was a show dog but her tail curled like a pig’s tail so she was sold as ‘non-breeding, pet stock’ to my grandmother. My grandmother was too old when she got the Chunk and she knew nothing about the breed. She especially did not understand that Shihtzus (AKA shihtheads) are very stubborn and the Chunk had it down to a fine art. I am not going to go into what happened with The Chunk and my grandmother. Five months after The Chunk arrived my grandmother went into the hospital and I took the dog. She never went back to live.

Almost immediately, The Chunk was a trial. She was over a year old and not toilet trained. When she came to live with me it was the dead of winter. I set about trying to toilet training her. The problem was that she preferred to just dash to the basement and do it there. Remember what I said about her being stubborn. I gated off the basement and started making her go out. One day it was like -35 in Cowtown, the wind was blowing and we had a lot of snow. The snow had drifted and it was very deep. The Chunk went out and stood in the middle of the backyard and refused to come back in. I, of course, was worried sick because it was so cold so I tried to get her. I was climbing over snow drifts, falling and cursing and that little brat would hop, just out of my reach so I couldn’t get her. I was extremely annoyed. This incident was my first introduction to the stubborn nature of the breed. The Chunk had it in spades!

Chunk lived life on her terms. If she didn’t want to go out to pee you had to carry her. Most of the time she would rather have an ‘accident’ than do it outside. This applied when it was too cold, too hot, too wet or too dry – nothing satisfied her highness. I lived in an apartment at one point with Tippy and Chunky so we had to go for a walk so they could pee. At minus 30 Tip used to ‘freeze up.’ She would pick one or two of her paws up and stop moving so I would have to pick her up and carry her for the duration. The Chunk would then take her sweet time finding just the right spot to pee. It made me mental!

One day when we still lived in the apartment Chunky would not pee. We walked for an hour that night and nothing. She would squat and try to pee but nothing would come out. We went to bed and I expected her to have an accident in the house overnight but she didn’t. The next morning the same thing, we walked and she would try to pee and nothing happened. It was like something was stopping her. I took her back in and I looked at her vulva open and I separated it a little bit. There was a tiny mat inside the poor little dog’s vulva! I got my scissors and I very gently coaxed it out and then I snipped it off. Chunk then tried to jump out of my arms but I was able to contain her and out we went. That dog had the biggest pee I have ever seen! I really think that went above and beyond the call of duty!

When we moved to Vancouver the Chunk had a new thing to hate: rain. If we were at the park and it started to rain she would turn on her heels and go back to the car. The Chunk going where she wanted to was always a theme with her. Mostly she wanted to sit beside me. I had girlfriend (before I met Deb) and she was completely jealous of the Chunk. She would always complain that I loved the dogs more than her*. Tippy and Chunky had their places beside me on the couch and they would not move for anyone.

The Chunk was loved to play but not in the way other dogs do. After Tippy passed away, Chunky became the alpha dog** of the house. She was much more benevolent than Tippy. Once Chunk became the alpha dog of the house she would not let the others see her play. She would want to go to the bedroom and play on the bed where we would smack the bed and she would try to get our hands and then we would grab her and body slam (not hard) on to the bed. She would get so over stimulated that she would dive off the bed and underneath it. This would go on for about 10 minutes at which time she would pull her little self together and leave the room dignified as if nothing happened.

The Chunk passed away in September of 2006 at 11 years old. She had developed a heart murmur and her heart was enlarged. She also had something going on with her liver. It was very difficult to say goodbye to her. She had been with me almost her whole life. She left a huge hole. She lived a good life. I miss you Chunky. You were an amazing little dog!

Part 1

*She was right about that.

**We know now that allowing a dog to be alpha in a pack is wrong. It should be the humans who are alpha. It is that way now with our pack.