Thursday, July 10, 2008

We're all terrified of the squeaky ball

Turns out being a dog owner isn't like keeping your Tamagachi well fed and watered. Recently we've been visiting shelters to look at nice dogs that need homes and have been confronted by a mass of eclectic characters (both human and canine). At one place, we were persuaded to see a dog, whom, we were assured, had a very mild temperament (and, we soon learned, also required a wheelchair). At that same institution for homeless dogs, the best option was an overweight geriatric beagle tottering around on spindly legs.

Closer to home, we decided to go to another shelter--purposely during a time when they weren't supposed to be adopting dogs--so we could look without pressure. They only had two small dogs, and a whole host of ravenous, gigantic dogs with huge heads and no necks and gross eye diseases. Of the two small dogs there was a pretty nice seeming Jack Russell mix (see the pictures on my flickr page) who they were calling Carly. Right away there was a reason to adopt her: to save her from being named Carly. The people there urged us to take her for a walk asap, which we did, and while she was skittish as big trucks rattled by, she seemed very sweet. When we stopped, she placed a paw on each of our knees to prove how nice she was. Back at the shelter, we were prepared to bid poor Carly farewell, when suddenly, some official papers were shuffled around and we abruptly found ourselves on the street corner with the dog, our arms full of supplies (including the pills to cure her kennel cough).

We had a dinner party that night, and Carly--promptly renamed Sprout--behaved admirably. Sure she was a bit nervous, but that was to be expected. She sat nicely in her bed (when she wasn't nervously pacing) and loved to be cuddled. The next day, however, she began to introduce us to some of her many peculiarities.

Likes: sitting on you and making sure you're petting her at all times, going up stairs, following you from one room to the next (waiting for you while you're in the bathroom, etc), peeing and pooping in the kitchen right by the front door, inexplicably hiding behind the couch.

Dislikes (also known as fears): trucks, buses, other dogs, ladies with trash bags, going to the bathroom outside, going down stairs, playing of any sort, dog toys (particularly the yellow squeaky ball purchased for her), being left alone, keeping on any sort of schedule.

Sprout doesn't have a lot of characteristics that many would call "instincts." She is not interested in sniffing other dogs' poop or at bird carcasses (she is not a big fan of sniffing anything, actually), and her neuroses are relatively unpredictable. For example, the 4th of July fireworks left her relatively unphased, but she is startled by other things, such as dormant paper bags on the ground. For a brief time, I wondered whether she might be blind and/or deaf and/or without a sense of smell, as many of her reactions do not seem to indicate any engagement with the natural world.

There are probably many reasons that Sprout behaves in such a manner. The grotesque condition of her hairless underside suggests that she may have been a teen mother before her lady parts were unceremoniously removed by the city officials (her scar is on the mend). However, she seems really eager to please, she just doesn't seem to know exactly how to do that. She loves going on long walks (actually they frighten her), but then waits until we've come home to pee on the floor. That is her major down side.

It's not easy putting up with that for any sustained period of time. Having a well-behaved dog is work enough. Every day we have to get a bacon buddy (a horribly smelling treat that's shaped like a person) and cut it in half and stick her pill in it. We've got to walk her around the block a million times a day (all for naught since she likes pooing in the house). We've got to keep an eye on her round the clock. It'd definitely be worth it if she had a more hopeful prognosis, but it's hard to tell whether she can be rehabilitated. The problem, though, is that I love her oh so much already. The question is whether to keep her (since I love her so) or whether we should return her to be adopted by someone else. Aren't all dogs kind of a pain, or is this one especially troublesome? I wish I knew.


Em said...

They're all a pain, if that gives you any hope. And it sounds like it's still a bit early to give up on housetraining. You've got to give her time to heal on a quasi-emotional level (as emotional a level as you choose to believe dogs have) before you can work on reforming behaviors like that.
Because, you know.... time heals everything. But shelter dogs are always more work because retraining takes 10x as long as training them properly in the first place.

HollyHopes said...

I think you have already decided but don't really want to say it out loud....whatever you choose,it will be right and good and loving...if Sprout isn't the right one for you...the right one is out there and just could think that dogs are like babies.... and they will teach you what you need to know about how to love them best...but of course, they aren't babies after all -are they? So, you can bring her back if you want....or it seems right. Dogs are put on earth to bring joy and love to their humans....

w. leavitt said...

sometimes dogs run into traffic and get hit by cars. i thought we'd have to kill my old loa when i first saw her after her accident. then there's the chicken i ran over with a motorscooter here in laos. i think it was less then 20 seconds before death claimed her body completely. keep sprout safe from traffic whatever you do.

olgrrl said...

awww, I'm sorry to read all that. It is pretty soon I guess, still. Maybe she needs more time to get used to what is expected of her. Maybe she needs a different environment, not a city.
keep the posts coming though

emilie said...

i love dogs.