Now that Shadow likes us, his aloofness isn’t the only thing that vanishes. All that calm stillness seems to have evaporated like dew on a dry summer’s day. By the end of the first week, we begin to get an idea of what we’re truly getting into. We decide to call him Shadow, because it’s the only name we can agree upon. But a host of other names come to mind: Boing- Boing; Jumping Jack, ADD Kid, Motor Mouth, Hyper drive. You get the picture.
Dog owners, like parents, can find a barrage of conflicting, often bitterly divisive information about every aspect of raising a puppy—from what types of food are best to which training methods are most effective.
But most people involved in the Great Dog Debates agree on one thing: when it comes to energy levels between dog owners and dogs, opposites do not attract. A host of problems can develop when laid-back, low energy people (insert our names here) end up with a high energy dog (insert Shadow, The Indefatigable.)
We knew this. In the past, before this recent abandonment of all good sense, I had a pretty good method of picking out a dog. I’d walk through an animal shelter, noticing which dogs sat silently, which barked. Then I’d take one of the dogs out and walk it down the aisle with me, still looking for the dogs that watched calmly and not fearfully. Any dog that acted aggressively was automatically eliminated from consideration. And any dog that barked. Because we didn’t want a barker. Nothing worse than a chronic barker.
Soon we’re adding another nickname for Shadow: the Barkster. Yes, all puppies are naturally energetic, but we seemed to have acquired the super-energetic, barks-his-head-off model. My previous dogs had all been what I called the “strong, silent” type. I am not used to this new, uses-his-voice-like-a-weapon model.
On the positive side, he’s smart. He has almost no accidents, partly because we watch him like a hawk when he’s out of his crate and rush him outside at the first sign of suspicious behavior. Partly because he was raised outside and has a natural preference for dirt and grass. On the fourth day, he’s playing on the kitchen floor, when suddenly he stands up, tilts his head as if to say, “Oh, I get it!” and trots to the front door.
He seems to get the idea of the leash and he quickly learns to stay out of the rooms forbidden to dogs. The forbidden rooms, our living room and bedroom, are the result of a compromise between me and Tom, whose love for animals is sometimes at war with his natural fastidiousness. It’s easy to train a dog to stay out of a room, and worthwhile (to some, anyway) when the carpets stay clean. And I’ve found that people who are uncomfortable around dogs–I have some in my own family–appreciate having a room where they can sit and not worry about having a dog’s face in their lap.
Shadow is smart and a fast learner. But his energy level is through the roof. I write: “It was 20 this morning when I walked the dogs. I must say that tromping around the property at 7:30 am in freezing weather is NOT my idea of fun. The dogs like it, though, and Shadow, a.k.a. Hyper Drive, needs it to keep from going nova.”
Not that all those walks—four or five a day—seem to be putting a dent in Mr. Ever-Ready Labradoodle. On our excursions, he speedboats around poor old arthritic Tiyo, darting in and out, biting at his legs, barking like a maniac. He’s not much quieter in the house.
Perhaps the universe felt we needed a bit more compassion. Both Tom and I had always despised yappy dogs. Like the people you see at an airport or in church glaring at the parents of a disruptive child, we’ve always felt that yappy dogs came from a failure of proper training and discipline. Now we learn that there might be just a little more to it than that.
All our efforts to discipline him only seem to excite him more. He reacts to a loud “No!” like we’ve jabbed him with a cattle prod. Ditto with the famous Cesar Millan “tsch”. None of the other dogs in my life have ever acted this way.
You know the old saying, “It’s not what you don’t know: It’s what you don’t know you don’t know?” In our case, it’s often not what we don’t know but what we forget to notice because we’re so focused on something else. I belatedly remember Nancy saying about her dogs, “They will do their barking. They will do their howling.” Those words, which scooted past my consciousness at the time, have come back to haunt us.
It reminds me of when we moved from Utah to Virginia. Not wanting to make the mistakes common to out-of-town buyers, we read and studied all sorts of materials on buying real estate before looking for property. And when we finally made an offer, we put half a dozen contingency clauses in our contract, insisted on a well stress test, and then flew out for the inspection. We did every we could think of to insure we wouldn’t have any unpleasant surprises. We basked in the smugness of the over-prepared.
Then came closing day and the final walk-through. Right away, I noticed that something seemed different. The house looked so bare, so stark, so . . . bright.
“Where are the curtains?” I asked.
We were so intent on the whether the well would be good, or whether there might be a garbage dump or junkyard on a surrounding property, or that there might be a leak in the basement, that we failed to notice a standard part of every contract—whether or not the window coverings will be left on the property. We rushed to find our buyer’s agreement and sure enough, window coverings were not in the list of inclusions. We stared at the contract, stunned. And I’m sad to report our windows were covered for an unconscionably long time with the cheapest white sheets we could find at WalMart.
I wish I could say that was the only negative surprise we encountered. We also failed to notice the hundreds of baby white pines planted in the field next to our property. Actually, we noticed them, but it wasn’t until I was showing our property to a friend who’s a master gardener that we understood their significance.
“Wow. All those trees are going to ruin your view,” she said, peering at Buffalo Mountain to the north. “And shade your grapes.”
It is with a similar sinking heart that we discover just what we’re getting into with Shadow the Indefatigable, whose coat may not shed, but whose energy seems to be boundless as the horizon.
(to be continued. . .)
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Judy Moffett says
Yeah. You can never be prepared enough when buying property. And as for dogs…I love all four of my poodles past and present, but the sweetest, smartest, most affectionate one of them all was Feste, whom I adopted from a shelter after a puppy mill was closed down and the puppies distributed all around the local shelters. He had terrible medical issues and died just short of his 8th birthday (best guess–who knew when his actual birthday was?) of an autoimmune disease called immune mediated hemolytic anemia. I spent a fortune on that dog, and would never have adopted him had I understood what I was doing. But of all the four, he was the one I cared for most. Go figure.
Susan J. Kroupa says
Judy, I think sometimes the animals who give us the most trouble are the ones we love the best. I feel I dodged a bullet with Shadow, in that, except for dying 3-4 years too early, he was always healthy. Much healthier than Tiyo, the hound/shepherd mix we adopted as a pup. Tiyo came down with parvo the day after we adopted him, and although we got him straight to the vet and he recovered, I’ve always wondered if that affected his later health.