Someone Else’s Dog

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It was fairly easy to comment about Gypsy, our sweet but otherwise uncouth concoction of dog breeds, but the newer addition to the family has taken some time to adequately describe her.  That would be Maddie, an Australian Shepherd.

Maddie, of course, didn’t enter the family knowing that she would constantly be compared to Ringo, our previous Aussie.  Other than his house-rattling bark, he was pretty much the perfect dog.  He was a good companion and a protector, also very intelligent, obedient, and a fine Frisbee catcher.  It didn’t hurt that he was a fine looking dog.

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Maddie, then, is also a good looking dog.  She’s not quite as smart, not quite as obedient, and has not managed to pose quite as regally.  In considering the various ways to describe Maddie, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s someone else’s dog.  Someone other than my wife’s, that is.

We adopted Maddie when she was about 6 months old, from a local breeder who had taken her back from her first placement.  All we know is that she was somewhere in Florida, that there were small children in the home, and that she was too much for them to handle.

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Our first clues about her formative months were the toys that had been returned with her.  There were two small chew toys which she has kept a proper respect.  In other words, she’s shredded everything we buy her, but those two seem dear to her.  Unusual.

Secondly, when she sees small children, she’ll pause whatever she’s doing to look, not just to see that there are smaller people about, but checking them out expectantly.  It’s bittersweet, because it’s obvious she’s disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong; she’s very happy here.  She just hasn’t forgotten.

Maddie also had more privileges before she came to us.  Though now a year and a half old, she imagines herself to be that very small puppy that was no doubt embraced by children and adults.  As a result, she still expects to be welcomed into anyone’s lap.  Or chair.  Or couch.  Hey, those aren’t the house rules here, pup.  Worse, she’s attractive, she knows it, and she tries her best to use it any which way she can.

She’s also used to having all of the attention, all of the time.  When I arrive home, there’s always been a dog to greet me and wag a tail. Maddie, though, basically gives me a look that says, “Oh, good. You’re home. You’re late for taking me outside to play Frisbee” as she trots towards the front door, looking back to make sure that I’m following. But Frisbee time isn’t limited to my return home from work.  When her energy is pinging, we refer to it as time to “defuse the bomb.”   It’s easy to gauge when this is.  If using something less literal than “all of the time,” it’s when her ceaseless motion causes us to make eye contact, which is swiftly followed by a few “come hither” steps towards the door.  It’s effective, it’s endearing, and it’s wearing (on us and the lawn.  She’s a good de-thatcher, though). 

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Another clue about her past was the first time I got ice from the fridge when we brought her home.  Then, and ever since, she’ll race to the kitchen, adopt her “Woe is me. Please, sir, some ice” look and wait patiently until I toss her some chips. We’ve since come to an understanding that the number shall be three, no more, no less.

We’ve had her about a year now, and we’ve only learned a few other things that don’t fit neatly into her formative months.

The first is that she enjoys dog training class.  She’s a smart enough dog that gets distracted easily, but she’s obedient, particularly when treats are available.

This hints at another truth about her.  Whereas our prior Aussie sought first to please his masters, Maddie definitely favors pleasing herself first and asking forgiveness later.  Okay, so she needs more obedience training.

The third is that, when we fail to defuse the bomb, she really likes chewing things.  Therefore, we hide our shoes (shoestrings) and are generally mindful of what’s on the floor or on low lying tables.  We also provide her with ample chew toys, from which she specializes in removing the stuffing in a search-and-destroy fixation on the internal squeak bladder. 

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Other than littering a room, we’re fine with that.  What I’m not fine with is chewing on my music CDs.  (To be fair, our cat can be held partially responsible for “assisting” these CDs off of my stereo rack).  Here, she found the interior plastic frame and obviously realized that there would be no squeaky toy inside.

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Below is a Civil Wars (that’s the name of the duo, recommended, by the way) case I got for Christmas.  It’s one of those environmentally friendly paper packaging concepts, which offers a nice “in the round” experience for hearty chewers.  Surprisingly, the disc emerged undamaged.

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The cover looks even more retro now.

There are other things, sure.  She likes to go for long walks in the woods, loves to ride in the car, and likes chasing bubbles or balls.  She’s at my wife’s side every moment possible (excluding the aforementioned bomb defusings). And, recently and for just the first time, she and Gypsy actually played together (nicely).  Gypsy hasn’t exactly been warm to sharing space, food, toys, attention or anything else with the newcomer, but tolerates her politely.

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It’s not uncommon for dogs to have a fondness for cat poo.  Still, given the size of the litter box opening (it has a cover), its proximity to the wall which should only allow a certain nimble overweight cat to enter, and a vacuum cleaner that serves as a dog barrier, her success rate at getting at the goodies makes me wonder why she doesn’t just help herself to the fridge.   Ugh.

Other than those bits of trouble, she’s very soft, smells good (except when helping herself to the litter pan), and, most importantly, doesn’t make me cringe when we have guests over.  Unlike Gypsy.

All in all, Maddie is a pretty terrific dog.  She’s always nearby, interested, anxious for fun, and happy.  She’s our dog now.

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