Is there any doubt that our dogs own our hearts, utterly and completely? If you’re like me, you never or hardly ever get mad at your dog, even if he or she – like my pooch Roxie – scratches up a couch pillow or pees on the lovely carpet brought back from India or snatches your tuna sandwich from the kitchen table when you leave the room for three minutes to answer the doorbell.
I usually assume her behavior is my fault. Unless I catch her in the act, which I never do. What I learned about dogs, years ago and many doggies ago is that unless you see her gobbling down your lunch, she won’t know why you’re yelling at her after the fact, she’ll just get scared. She won’t recall what she’s done or why it was evil. She’ll just get spooked and withdrawn.
I really don’t know if this scenario is true. Roxie always remembers to leap up into our friend Terry’s arms as soon as he arrives because he greets her by rubbing her belly, smooching her and crooning to her for about seven minutes. Does it make sense that she wouldn’t recall peeing on the colorful Indian carpet if confronted an hour later when I see the evidence? I don’t know but I’m incapable of expressing outrage to her, even though I just had to buy a new set of bed sheets because she ripped apart the bottom sheet with her paws. Of course, she was alone in our bedroom for many hours when she executed this felony. Should I have squawked at her, rubbed her nose on the torn places, banished her from the bed which is her favorite spot in our home? Brought in a trainer, even though she’s almost nine years old?
Is she as confused by Tom and me as we are by her?
Roxie is part schipperke, (pronounced skipperkee) a Belgian dog that lives on boats and keeps watch. She also has huge papillon ears which stop people on the streets to ooo and aah. She spends much of her daily time on our deck overlooking the beach, yapping at passerby dogs, apparently protecting us.
We both love her madly, although I’m her main keeper. I feed her twice a day, do most of the walking, take her to the vet when needed, and talk to her about my day and what she can expect from hers. Like: “Brad is coming today and you’re going out hiking with him and your dog pals in the Malibu hills isn’t that fabulous?” If my tone is upbeat, she’ll wag her tale. I have no idea if she comprehends any of this. I do know for certain that she understands “out”, and always reacts with joy. My friend Arlene, who used to train rottweilers, tells me Roxie probably knows 236 words. I wish I knew which words they are so we could have a real conversation.
She also seems to know when I’m having a bad day or don’t feel well. She’ll cuddle next to me wherever I am and won’t move until I do. She also sleeps right next to me, sometimes on the pillow by my head. Tom and I are grateful that, as opposed to many dogs belonging to
our friends, she doesn’t wake us at 6:30 in the morning because she wants to go out; she sleeps quietly until I get up a few hours later. That blessing may be a fine tradeoff for the ripped sheet.
(By the way, I did sew the sheet, with a matching-colored thread, but I could feel it with my leg all night. The new sheet set cost $215.)
I talked to two good pals about their dogs, whom I know well. Jason and Glen’s pup, Murray, is mostly border terrier. “We call him borderline terrier” says Jason, and that’s because Murray can be bonkers. When he comes to our home, he immediately runs into our bedroom where we keep Roxie’s toys, he takes them out of the bin, one at a time, and scatters them all over the house, after he’s besieged all the guests to throw a toy for him to chase. When he leaves, we go into every room collecting the toys to return to Roxie’s bin. She doesn’t care about any of this, as she plays with none of her toys. Even the new gorgeous Lambchop we just bought her, for which she’s indifferent. I remind her that she now has three Lambchops.
Murray was a rescue; his whole family lived on the streets in Pasadena, and they got him from the Humane Society. Jason said, “he gave the performance of his life. He looked so vulnerable, he was shaking and quiet, never barked. Of course we took him, and as soon as we got him home, he started barking and hasn’t stopped.”
Jason and Glen used to think that if they threw Murray’s toy five or ten times, he would fetch it and get bored, but he never does. They hide all the toys when friends come over, so he doesn’t overcome them with his demands. His favorite toy was a fake hamburger with cheese, lettuce and tomato. He’s ripped apart everything but the bun, which he demands be tossed to him incessantly.
Murray has a piercing high-pitched shriek which he mostly uses when something is happening in the backyard, like a raccoon or mice. He bolts to the door, and leaps about four feet in the air. They let him outside so he can chase the critter. It’s a hideous sound that Murray makes in his chases. The blessing is that he sleeps under the covers and makes no sound at all.
Murray, like Roxie, yaps. “He barks at anybody who comes to the front door. I know from his bark whether it’s for a passing dog, or it’s just for Amazon with his Jeff Bezos bark.”
I wanted to know Murray’s most loving traits. Jason says he’s all sweet, kind, likes all animals and people, so the guys are comfortable taking him anywhere. He loves to rest on Jason’s or Glen’s laps for hours when they’re watching tv or Jason is playing the piano.
Does he pee inappropriately, I ask? Never in their home, sometimes in a friend’s place. (Tom and I have four pee pads: living room, bedroom, Tom’s office over the Indian rug, and my office upstairs. Roxie doesn’t use them much, but we’re grateful when she does.)
Murray is finicky about his food, Jason and Glen say they spend their lives trying to make him happy eating. “It’s so unnerving when we put down the food, and he just sniffs, looks at it like he’s personally offended, recoils, looks at me like how dare you feed me this crap and walks away. So we always have to keep on our toes with a variety so he doesn’t get bored. And we put a little cooked chicken breast on top of everything, which he really loves.”
Roxie eats everything, anything and at sixteen pounds never gains or loses weight. I’ve fed her the same healthy grain-free food twice a day for a year. But after this conversation with Jason, I felt guilty, so I’m going to try some variety, like I do with my eating. I just told her I’m going to do this, and she wagged her tail.
Jason and Glen once had a dog named Roy, part papillon and part chihuahua. He used to bite all their Jewish friends. Only their Jewish friends. Once he nipped me on the finger. After that, I called him Heinrich, and insisted that he had Nazi DNA. How did he know who was Jewish is the obvious question.
My friend Susan has a mixed terrier named Hallie. They live across the street and Susan and I often walk our dogs together. They have no interest in each other, even though Roxie adores dogs of any size, loves sniffing their butts at any opportunity.
Hallie used to be vicious to every other dog. Never to people. Susan says there were times she was going to get rid of her “because I told her she wasn’t reflecting my values, and I didn’t want to be seen with her.” Gradually the pooch improved and Susan was able to control her. And love her. She’s also a licker which Susan hates. Roxie is a sometimes licker, which I love, I wish she would do it more.
(My friend Karen craves licking, but her dog won’t do it her unless she puts peanut butter on her face.)
Hallie doesn’t follow commands, the only thing Susan has been able to train her to do is to sit. She’s housebroken but of course Susan walks her four times a day. Susan has never had a dog that she was completely infatuated with.
Tom says everything “bad” that Roxie does is our fault. I guess I must admit this is true. But she possesses my heart and she’s always somewhere in my field of awareness, I worry about her way too much. Tom says it’s a very good thing I never had children. I have to agree.
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