After our walk this morning I opened my car door to get a coffee mug I'd left in the passenger seat. Lila jumped in and made her way into the backseat. I said, "no, no, come on, we're going inside," but she just gave me a look and curled up and lay down in the backseat. I closed the passenger door and opened the backdoor, saying, "okay, jump out, let's go into the house now." She just looked at me. She wants to go for a ride, and she knows it's just a matter of time before I get in the car. She's been out there for a couple of hours now, and I've gone out to invite her into the house three times. Nope. She looks at me, and stays put.
I have been a bad doggy mommy, and this morning while I was fooling around with Lila she picked up a fragment of cloth and shook it at me, and I realized that she's chewed up all of her toys and I haven't gotten her any new ones in a long time. So we went to the doggie store, and now she's happily chewing up a hula girl. These Bamboo treats claim to be "combat tested" to "withstand aggressive chewers," which may indeed be true. But Lila can still get through the tough canvas cloth, strew the fluffy stuffing all over the living room floor, and pull out the inner squeaker within about twenty minutes of getting it in her mouth. It's fun to keep chewing even after the squeaker has been destroyed, although there's not quite the same tangible goal.
This dog toy is the favorite of both Haole and Lila. They treat it very differently, though. Haole likes to carry it around gently in his mouth, place it somewhere, and lie nearby. Lila leaps around until she locates it, and then chews at it until it emits its very distinctive low-toned flatulent squeak, and then walks around delightedly, making strange noises. Haole looks uncomfortable and put out when she does this.
In any case, dogs seem to agree that the devil ball is lots of fun. I went to Neighbor and 517's house to water their plants and Lila wiggled from foot to foot until I let her in, and then she went romping around from room to room until she found the devil ball. I think she hid it somewhere.
After about two months of living with the new doggie, I have learned some things. First, I have learned her full name. We call her Lila, but it's become apparent to me that Lila is just a nickname, and her proper name is Lila Pila Pudding and Pie. This is what I prefer to call her on formal occasions. Sometimes this can be shortened to Lila Pila Poo, which makes me snicker, but which I say in a tone of voice infused with great dignity.
Lila still likes cats and squirrels a little bit too much. She's calmed down a great deal, and relaxed about people. She doesn't get spooked, or cower, around strangers. And around friends, she doesn't jump up on them as often as she did at first.
Lila likes to sleep in dark places. She curls up under my desk when I'm writing. At night, she squeezes under my bed, ridiculously, and when she sees my feet hit the floor I hear wagging and a clumsy series of bumps as she works her way out. If I leave her during the day and don't put her in her crate, she takes herself upstairs and curls up in my closet.
I am less and less sure that she is a boxer after all. She's longer and leaner than a boxer, not as thick in the chest. She's taller, too. She's got an athletic, streamlined body, not quite like a greyhound, but more like a weimaraner or a german shorthair pointer. But then there's the face and head. There's the flat forehead, like a pit bull? The snout and underbite and jowls. Like a Great Dane? A bulldog? A boxer?
Yesterday at the dog park a woman was walking a dog and I jumped out of my car and said, "what kind of dog is that?!" It was an american bulldog, she told me. Same nose shape, underbite, eyes. similar blotchy markings. I said, take a look at my dog, and tell me what you see. "Ooooh," she said, "they DO look alike." Not that Lila is built like a bulldog. But later that day she was romping with a german shorthair pointer, and their body shape and musculature was nearly identical. They were equally matched, and leapt and feinted and sparred with this graceful athleticism that was fun to watch.
It's a mystery, indeed, and I'm not sure why I'm obsessed with knowing what combination of breeds she is. Knowing won't tell me anything. But I study her anyway, and compare her to other dogs, trying to puzzle out her heritage.
You would have loved this day. It smells delicious, and it's sunny but not so hot that you would be panting helplessly on the dining room linoleum. Yesterday's thunderstorms mean mud puddles and streams in the woods, and you would have splashed and lapped and laid down in the cool dirty water without regard to how it would make you smell. You knew how to savor the sensations of a day like this.
The grass has grown over your grave and the rosebush is blooming and dropping petals down on you. Standing back there you can hear a buzz of invisible bees, quivering somewhere inside the flowers.
I miss you every day. That's what I want to tell you. When I mow the lawn over your grave I remember digging it, and laying you in there, stiffened and wrapped in a blanket. I remember seeing you dead at the vet clinic, patting you and talking to you and crying. I remember seeing you alive at the clinic, all ripped up, tired and bleeding but wagging weakly at me, giving me a little lick. If were given magic powers and I could do anything this is what I would do: I would go back in time to that hour when you slipped out of the yard to go for that fatal ramble, and I would keep you right beside me. I wouldn't look away. If, somehow, I wasn't allowed to do that I would go back in time to when I was patting you and you were still alive and the vet was telling me you were stable and would recover from the attack. I would stay there, with you, all day long, patting you and talking to you and cleaning the blood off of you gently with a cool wet washcloth. Maybe if I had stayed things would have been different.
Bill wonders what my views are about dogs in the workplace.
I think it's pretty sensible to ban dogs from the workplace. There are too many annoying and unpredictable dogs. There are too many people who have legitimate anti-dog sentiments -- fear, allergies, distaste. It doesn't seem right to give sentimental dog-loving employees the right to impose a disruptive and distracting factor on an environment that their co-workers can't choose to leave. People who own dogs invariably think they are cute and loveable even if they are stinky, hyper, and annoying. You can't leave it up to the dog owners to make a judgment about what their co-workers will like, or the place would be full of terriers and poodles and pugs. So I think no-dogs-at-work policies are okay.
But in a small workplace, where it's possible to know whether people who work there like dogs or not, and where the boss and all the employees can get to know the temperament of the dog who's there, I think it's great to permit dogs. I love going to boatyards or shops or clothing stores or offices where there's a friendly dog who waddles wagging up to greet me, or who ignores me, sleeping in the shade. It's an extra bonus; it makes me comfortable, it makes me want to stay and talk longer. When I'm in places like that I assume the employees are happier. It tells me a business is friendly, sensible, and flexible.
Lila has now officially been with me for two weeks. She's currently pacing around the house trying to decide where to hide the rawhide bone in her mouth. I think she'd like to take it outside, but I'm not capitulating to that. Well, actually, I just capitulated, and now she's on the porch outside the kitchen, sitting and staring intently at the house across the street. She is looking for birds or squirrels, which she has seen in their yard and which, in the first week, she tore across the street trying to catch.
I was afraid, during the first week, that she would turn out to be too much dog for me, too wild, too spooked, too unpredictable, too coltish and frantic. She would growl and cower and wag, with her tail low and down between her legs, when someone came to the door. If it was me, she would jump up, exuberantly. She's strong and muscular, so even a friendly pounce is something to contend with. I was afraid she was antisocial and might turn out to be aggressive with other dogs or people. None of those things would work for me. I was terrified that I would fall in love with her and then have to choose whether to be her slave or whether to give her back.
But she's mellowed out a lot. She's gained some weight -- you could see her ribs before, and at the shelter they said they were feeding her up to six cups of food a day and she was still losing weight, because she was so stressed out. She's calm, and she's smart, and she's eager to please. She's also friendly. She'll bark when someone comes to the door, but the tail is up, wagging. She's gotten more comfortable here. She knows not to jump up on people, and a stern "Off" is enough to stop her when she forgets. She sits well, and calms right down when you ask her to sit. She walks well on the leash with the Gentle Leader. (Without it, she was pulling a fair amount -- am not sure if that would still be true, but I'm not going to try to find out just yet.) She's friendly and curious when meeting other people or dogs. At the dog park she's energetic and sociable and appropriate, and comes back to check in with me from time to time when romping around with the pack. She's a good dog.
There are some issues, of course. Every time I've left her alone in the house she's peed in the dining room, and sometimes pooped. That doesn't seem to be about bladder control, but rather about separation anxiety. That's obviously no good. She's also done some counter surfing: she ate a loaf of bread off the counter, right out of its plastic bag. Darn it! And she's pulled out a container or two that smelled good from the recycling bin. This happens when I'm gone, not when I'm in the house. So she has some learning to do. We're going to take an obedience class together in a couple of weeks that I think will be useful.
I read Cesar's Way, which I found interesting and helpful. It doesn't give you specific techniques for solving particular problems, but talks a lot about establishing yourself as the pack leader and giving the dog the natural ingredients of a happy life. These things will calm the dog down. The biggest thing I got from the book was the importance of walks -- walks or runs, specifically, not just "exercise." Dogs are used to roaming and following their pack leader. It both bonds them to their pack leader and makes them feel useful and ready for play or eating. So you can't replace a walk with play (e.g. chasing a ball around the yard). It doesn't provide the dog the same sense of achievement or belonging or connection to the owner. To the extent I've been practicing my responses and the way I communicate with Lila, I think it's helped make her feel calm and secure.
I might get her a backpack, which Cesar recommends for stronger dogs, because I am not sure I'll really be able to walk her for an hour and a half every day. Some days, sure. Most days, I don't know. The backpack can carry some weight, so the dog gets more exercise and feels a sense of achievement. Interesting theory.
When I get my hands on a camera I'll post some photos. She's beautiful. She played with a full-breed boxer in the park yesterday and she's much cuter than that. She's leaner, a little less jowly. Maybe she's got some lab in her, or maybe some pit bull. It's hard to tell. But she's a great looking dog -- golden brown with a little hint of brindle pattern in her coat, and a white patch on her chest. Brown, slightly jowly nose with the boxer underbite that makes her head look a little like a gorilla or a monkey. There's an uneven white patch on one side of her nose. She's got an expressive forehead that wrinkles if she's concerned, and dark brown eyes that look like she's got eyeliner on around them. And two floppy ears, one of which is often turned inside out or slightly askew. She's a dreamy, lovely thing.
I am just a poor boy, though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles
Such are promises.
All lies and jest till the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest. mmmmmmmhmmmm....
When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers, in the quiet of the railway station, running scared.
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know.
(Join in, everyone!) Lie la lie, li la la li lie lie, Lie la lie.
Seeking only workman's wages I go looking for a job but I get no offers
Just a come on from the whores on Seventh Avenue.
I do declare there were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there, la la la la la.
Now I'm laying out my winter clothes and wishing I was gone, going home
Where the New York City winters aren't bleeding me.....bleeding me, going home.
In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries a reminder of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out, in his anger and his shame
I am leaving I am leaving but the fighter still remains mnnmmmm...