Here is your chance to laugh along with me as I make the transition from lifelong cat ownership to my first experience of owning a dog, if any of you have made such a transition I’m sure you can relate, it truly is entering another realm – a louder, faster, stronger, smellier world!
On the 7th of July 2012 we made a visit to our local, and I have to say, very, very wonderful dog rescue shelter, K9 and were given a guided tour that included meeting several potential new family members, two of which we spent time with in the exercise yard . Fizzy (known at the shelter as Tizzy) was wonderful, friendly and lovable we all agreed that he was a front-runner, but we had been charmed by a little girl named Candy some kind of Australian working dog who instead of barking at us at her kennel gate had generously licked our hands… but in the yard she flew around at top speed and then went a bit mad in the doggy pool and we all thought that as adorable as that was, we could not cope with that kind of high energy in our yard. We were all attracted to Fizzy but having made a mistake with a dog we had for 4 days and then for his sake returned, we did not want to make a mistake – we wanted to provide a forever home and receive a forever kind of pet. We all decided Fizzy was the dog for us, though I confess I was slightly nervous. It didn’t help that he cocked his leg and peed in the shelter office the moment I signed the adoption contract!
Fizzy was more than happy to jump straight into the back seat of our car and leave with strangers – he might have left the shelter with strangers but I can definitely see that he knows we are his pack now, and that he joyfully comes to us and looks to us for guidance when we are out in the world, he is our little shadow and bestest buddy.
My plunge into dog ownership was immediate – when we got home, I took the advice of the shelter guidebook and took him for a good long walk before bringing him into our back yard – this means they have burned off a lot of energy and are calmer before exploring their new home and yard. So of course I went armed with doggy poop bags supplied by our local council. Two poos by Fizzy before we got more than a street away from home (which by the way, is now our norm) means I am scooping up smelly fresh ones and carrying two spent baggies for about half a kilometre before we reach the first council provided poop bin. Of course I always had to clean up after my cat, but not immediately and things were no where near as smelly and then there is the pride factor – I am picking up the leavings of my dog and carrying it behind him like a slave – not the strong leader I imagine myself to be. On my pre-dog owning walks, I used to see the dog poop bins and hold my breath for several metres either side… now I have to stop, open the lid, and deposit our contributions… I held my breath the first time I lifted that lid – but quickly learned it actually takes a few seconds after you close the lid for the smell to hit you – and it hits you while you are taking two new poo baggies from the hanger the bin is attached to – so yeah, I nearly fainted that first time! I now have my breath holding pretty much down pat.
The First 2 Days:
I brought Fizzy in through the side gate to the backyard – I kept him on the lead so that he couldn’t run wild exploring, but as he was calm and not pulling on the lead I decided after a few minutes to take him off. He found his water bowl and took a big and enthusiastic drink – my goodness that is much louder and wetter thing to witness than a cat’s gentle lapping – then I showed him his kennel but he was not interested in that at all. I threw a shmackos into the back of it and he dived in, I think I might have to do this every day for a while till he gets the idea that it’s a special place just for him.
After supper I brought Fizzy into my bedroom to watch tv with me but it didn’t exactly go like I imagined. All these years I’ve imagined a dog sleeping happily on the end of the bed – feeling the benefits of the company but able to relax and enjoy my show or dvd in relative peace. Oh boy! He wriggled like mad, and was only happy if I was actively patting him, and more importantly – scratching his belly. As soon as my back was aching from leaning forward or I wanted to concentrate on my show he would bark at me and mouth my hands. Not on! I know rescue dogs need a lot of love and attention, they need security and to know they will be loved and cared for always and never abandoned again… but I can’t have the dog barking at me, or mouthing my hands. He also found his reflection in the mirror way too exciting… there was barking, whining and lunging at himself. I got in front of the mirror with him, patting him so he could maybe understand that me patting him, and touching him was not happening to some other dog – but that other dog was in fact him. At some point he began to vigorously lick the mirror, I think this will be good because when he comes back other night’s the ‘other dog’ will smell like him and maybe that will teach him over time.
Eventually I could not take the demands any more and put him to bed at eight thirty – he settled down on his bed in our laundry and I shut the pet gate… not a peep from him once I turned that light off and joy of joys he was silent the entire night! Even when I came to check on him and let him out for wee in the night he settled back on his bed and let us all sleep in peace. We were so proud at breakfast as we all raved about how good he has been.
The second walk with Fizzy was today – if walking Doc (our first adoptee dog) was like being a strapper at the horse races, than walking Fizzy is like being a strapper at the dog track. I am sure the pulling will improve as he gets more familiar with the neighbourhood and sees it as his territory and gets to know the other dogs and their scents on trees and lamp posts. I want to make it that there are certain places he knows he can smell and mark his territory but that the rest of the way he keeps up with me and we walk together on a loose lead.
The First Week:
I have had this thought in the back of my mind, a little fear, that if I adopted a dog, one day I’d be out in public and someone would run up to me and say “that’s my dog!” and give me a sob story about him going tragically and most distressingly lost and they have been desperately searching for him all that time. So today we were out walking, and he isn’t pulling, it’s a beautiful thing but I’ve got him to walk nicely for me already (imagine when we go to training!) and suddenly, ahead of us down the road, a couple cross the road and start walking towards the river – he goes nuts…. straining to get to them, whining, barking, rearing up on his legs, absolutely mad to get to them, not at all like he is when we see other people that of course he wants to meet but takes it in his stride as to whether we do or not. I could not help but think he knew them in some way. Horror. I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t get him to calm down until we went down a different street.
Tonight I slavishly stroked and patted Fizzy on my bed, while largely missing most of the action on Master Chef, until he was ready to sleep on my bed. Yes, victory, I finally have a dog sleeping on my bed while I watch my shows on telly. I hope we can get this to be a habit for him. Also he didn’t bark at the mirror tonight or even really look at it.
We took Fizzy to the pet store to be fitted for an all weather coat for when it rains or when he goes out at six in the morning and he barked the entire way in the car. Well first he whined…. I was not sure if this was anxiety or what he does when you are with him but not actively patting him… so I reached back and started patting him and he shut up… but it is very difficult to do that the whole way, achey back, tired arms, and also he is going to have to learn to be quiet in the car… will have to brainstorm how to achieve that!
Fizzy is getting much more confident here, he is initiating play – instead of waiting for us to show him that we are willing to play with him he will bring his toy to us when he wants a game now. That’s lovely.
Fizzy is, like all dogs, a vigorous tail wagger and all I can say is that all pot plants near our doors and all low-lying flowers on the camellias and shrubs had better toughen up – we have broken pieces of plant and fallen flowers galore just from his happy expressions.
I can’t believe he hasn’t been naughty at all – we trust him in the house, my fears about him peeing indoors were unfounded. He hasn’t dug holes, tried to escape, or anything we don’t desire (apart from the car barking).
There is a definite joy to watching your pet behave like a saint while someone else’s does something naughty or that embarrasses their owner – today I met a lovely old lady walking her dog, we were having a great chat until her male dog mounted Fizzy and tried to hump him, she was mortified and I was laughing.
I got Fizzy started on his fish oil capsules, he gets one shoved into a piece of the pet roll he gets for breakfast. Out of habit I looked for that pill all over the patio – I could not believe he ate it, even though I know dogs are meant to be easier to medicate. My old cat Roman, boy he was wily. I once gave him a tablet in the morning, which he spat out. I retrieved it and put it in his mouth again. He spat it out. I put it in his mouth again, I held his mouth closed and stroked his throat the way that is meant to encourage them to swallow. I then patted and held him for a few minutes to make sure that tablet was not coming back out his mouth and to apologise for taking such wonderful care of him (how dare I!). Well that night I was talking on the phone, I sat on the bed and looked out the open door into the hallway – and there in the doorway was a bright orange pill. He had spat it out that little rascal. I swore in mid conversation and then had to tell the person I was swearing at the cat, and why. I told Roman he should have spat it under the bed if he wanted to get away with it.
Fizzy loves his raw hide bone, but when he has had enough treat and decides to save the rest for later, well he doesn’t dig a hole and bury it. He puts it on the ground, near the base of a plant, then using his nose he builds a mound over the top of it – a true labour of love as it has to be the most difficult way to cover it up, his nose is filthy and the mulch and wood chips are everywhere! It is quite a mound when he is done though. I guess I am glad he is not a digger.
In the daytime, Fizzy is let inside after lunch, and he is a saint, he doesn’t mouth you if you are busy and not patting him, he lies down and sleeps and that is what I want from him in the evenings, so I have decided that at night I will let him in, pat him for five or ten minutes, then pretend to read, with my knees drawn up and my book resting against them I will not be making eye contact with him, but pretending to read (which he lets me do in the daytime) and I will secretly be watching the tv screen instead. I hope it works!
I love that we are meeting some friendly neighbourhood dogs, and hello to dear Connie, Ziggy, Fudge, and Jess. Fizzy is so good when I walk him, when we approach someone coming the other way, I say to him “stay down” and he nearly 100% of the time does not jump up, I love it, I always praise him so much as we walk away from a successful meeting. He is good now with prams, kids on scooters, kids on bikes, and folks on gophers. When we pass a house and the dog that lives there starts to bark, Fizzy pulls hard and speeds up to get away, so I hold the lead really short and make him walk our same pace while saying “its alright” and I have to say it is working, he is getting less worried by barking dogs and doesn’t pull as much or try to run. He is learning to be calm and maybe also to trust my judgement.
There was a dog hair in my dinner tonight. I know that Fizzy has had no access to my food or the kitchen when I was cooking it. This can only have come off my clothing into the food, probably when I was dishing up or carrying it to table… but still. Freak out!
The Second Week:
Fizzy is not a barker (in fact he only barks at me sometimes when I stop patting him) he does not bark at dogs being walked down the street, he definitely does not worry the neighbours, yay! but I am concerned he probably won’t be much of a deterrent to undesired visitors… he will probably come running to us for safety, or just wag his tail at burglars and present his belly for a rub. That’s why today, when he barked at the gate in response to noise from across the street I was so proud, I ran outside to see what he was barking at and I never said ‘quiet’ I said ‘good boy!’. Please bark sometimes Fizzy it makes me happy and gives me a sense of security.
So our second week is starting, with a walk at lunchtime on a Sunday. I take Fizzy out the front and only then see two girls on horses down the road coming towards us and he goes crazy barking, whining, rearing up, pulling… the works, I figure pretty quickly that I can’t walk towards them and get him past them they are taking up the entire footpath and he is going nuts. I decide to take him down the side street, which in itself was a monumental effort but he finally began to walk nicely down the street then suddenly he runs back the way we have come and acts all gaga again, I turn and see the girls on horses have turned down the same street. You have got to be kidding me, I take my dog down this shit street to get away from you and help you out so you have a nice safe street and you follow me. Then I hear one of them say we better go the other way. You bet your sweet ass you better go the other way.
Fizzy also cannot contain himself when it comes to cats. It does not help that they see him and run. The smartest cat I have seen was one that froze in place… I was actually able to get Fizzy to move along nicely when he started to suspect the cat might not have been real after all (or otherwise he just thought it was as dull as dish water, whatever!)
I am getting control over Fizzy when it comes to food scraps on our walks. Yesterday there was a dirty dairy cup on the street, it looked like it had once contained ice cream, a sundae, frozen yoghurt, or maybe a smoothie, and he picked in up and started to carry it along with us. I said “no” and he looked at me, I took it off him, and made him walk on. Today we passed it again, and I said “no” before he got it, and guess what, he left it alone! So proud of him. I am the leader, yay! I can also stop him from mouthing other scraps along the way. However there has been a smashed lasagna in the middle of the road where we cross it at the corner and I have to pull the lead really short and stop him from getting near it as I am teaching him that we don’t dawdle on roads, we stop, sit, and cross at a nice pace when it is safe. How long can a smashed lasagna last on a busy street, it seems to be there day after day, I can’t help hoping some stray dog will eat it and put me and Fizzy out of our misery.
And there was a dog hair in my dinner again the last two nights. Slightly less freaked out at this stage. Sigh of resignation there might always be a dog hair in my dinner from now on. The only variable is whether it will be a black hair or a white hair.
I had to physically eject Fizzy from the house this afternoon. We had gone on a great walk, we got home, I brushed him, I played with him, I cuddled him… then I went in for my shower. He is used to this. The pay off for getting walked is that afterwards I need some ‘me time’. But when I came out after my shower he bolted into the house and ran around like a maniac and refused to come to me. When I went out the door and tried to call him to me he barked at me in a very undesirable way. Then I came in to get him and he ran around like a lunatic and jumped on the lounge – which he is not allowed to do and no longer tries to do – and I had to pick him up and carry him out all the while he was struggling. I think he needs to know that I am top dog and that he needs to be calm to get praised and patted. He did soon calm down and then I rewarded him with patting and nice talk… but I can imagine that someone might have dumped him for acting like this especially if they did not know how to respond to it. I really hope we don’t go through this very often though!
We are having problems with ‘goodnight wee’ now. The first week I had him, Fizzy would go outside after watching telly with me, have a giant wee, and then come inside quietly and go to bed. The last two or three nights he has not wanted to go outside, and when I go outside he won’t follow, and then I get him to come out but he doesn’t go in the garden he just sits there wanting a pat and then he runs to the door to be let in. He might not need a wee – obviously he does it when he needs to… but I would feel better if he’d wee so I know I can sleep five or six hours and just let him out if he wants to go when I get up to use the toilet myself. He is now not going to the bathroom for a good ten hours even twelve hours some mornings. I am glad he is house trained but think even if he can hold it that long it would be healthier to go regularly. I don’t want him to get urinary infections or crystals.
I have just been standing in the backyard at ten at night, freezing in my pjs, and the neighbour in his work shed can hear me saying “go wee wees, come on Fizzy, wee wees” and “goodnight wee” like I’m talking to a two year old child. How embarrassing.
Yesterday on our walk, we met a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the street, they patted Fizzy and then asked me if I wanted a magazine. I said, no and claimed I didn’t want to carry it with me the whole way. Then on another street Fizzy surged into a rosebush, there was a horrible yelp, and he tore his ear away from the bush bringing a thorn with him which I had to remove. Then I saw blood. I had nothing to wipe it with but the tissue I had already wiped my nose on (that darn cold air makes my nose a little moist) then for the rest of the way home I could not wipe my nose anymore. Darn it, I should have taken the magazine I could have wiped his ear and used another page to blow my nose. It would have been the best use one of those magazines has ever had.
By the way Fizzy enjoyed the rest of that walk, and was a brave soldier when I cleaned his ear properly when we got home. He is fine. We are very happy and every day gets a little bit better. Though halfway through preparing this post I heard a commotion and found him at the door minus his all-weather coat and then found it in the garden, it was covered in dark earthy dirt and from the churned up ground I can see he had been trying to rub it off, then I went to put him back in his kennel (he comes in for the night after I’ve had supper) and found his bedding messed up…. I pulled it out to refold it and found it soaking wet… he’d peed in his kennel. His coat was damp and that explains why he tried to get it off. I sighed, a resigned dog owner now, knowing my pet is good-natured and needs love and understanding. I don’t know why he peed in his kennel – maybe he did it in his sleep? Hopefully it was just an accident that will never happen again, but this I know… whatever he does, he will stay here with us and we will overcome problems one step at a time. He has his forever home, and I have my little buddy who loves me and I will always love him back.