Copyright 2002 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
Dog Gone, Doggone Dog, Gone Dog?
Up until a little over a month ago, our pets consisted of some goldfish, a bunch of
cats, and a nice old lazy dog named Kitty. Kitty is eleven years old, and she has more
and more trouble going up and down stairs; since we live on the second floor, this was a
problem that would only get worse as she got older. My mother-in-law's old dog passed
away last spring, and she missed her companion animal; while she's been staying here in
town until her new house is finished, she enjoyed "borrowing" Kitty and taking her for
walks. Nice, slow, sedate walks.
Hubby's and my ultimate plan was to "retire" Kitty to his mom's custody when she
moved into her new place, so that she could have a canine pal, Kitty could live on the
ground floor, and we could be dogless for a few years so we could travel more easily.
Unfortunately, hubby did not make this plan totally clear to his mom. Her other dog had
started out as my husband's dog, too, but his folks liked her so much that he left her with
them when he moved out. Mum-in-law didn't know we wanted to be dogless, and so she
felt guilty about "inheriting" another dog from her dear son. Before we knew it, she went
to the Humane Society and came home with a dog of her own.
Enter Chloe, the Hellhound; fifty pounds of pure muscle and energy, covered with
shiny black fur. The shelter guessed she might be three years old, a mix of Lab and
Chow. After an exciting ride home, during which she punctured toenail holes in the door
panels of mum-in-law's leased car while leaping at other cars on the road, the first thing
she did when the car door opened was take off running down the road, happily chasing
anything that moved. After a lengthy chase, she allowed herself to be caught and led
home for dinner.
Several weeks of insanity followed, during which Chloe gave my mother-in-law
shoulder strain from dragging at the leash during the wrestling matches that passed for
walks, stole her lunch off the kitchen counter when she turned her back for a moment,
drove her crazy by constantly running from window to window trying to chase passing
cars and squirrels, chewed the woodwork, punched more holes in the car upholstery,
shredded multiple doggie toys, and escaped again whenever she had a chance.
It seems that Chloe had already been adopted and then returned to the shelter by
another person before mum-in-law brought her home, and that the shelter has a "two
strikes and you're out" policy. If she went back again, she'd be put down, and no one
wanted that to happen, because she really is a sweet dog in addition to being a
rambunctious psychomutt. "She needs more consistent discipline than you're giving her,"
Hubby said to his mom, whereupon they decided to swap dogs so that Hubby, who's laid
off right now, could work with Chloe and train her to be a lazy pup.
When talking about people, it's possible to argue the merits of "nature vs. nurture"
and whether serial killers are born evil rather than made that way by a traumatic
upbringing, because people aren't the products of centuries of selective breeding for
specific traits. Dogs, however, are just that, and even mixed-breed mutts inherit the traits
of their ancestors. Training can help, of course, but some dogs are born to be lazy, while
other dogs are born to run; no amount of training can turn a Dalmatian into a Dachshund.
Chloe was born to run, and we're learning this the hard way.
During a trial visit, with Chloe on a leash, she ignored the cats at our place and
even seemed a little afraid of them, turning her head away from them as she passed.
Imagine our surprise, then, when we brought her home and Hubby startled a cat, causing
the cat to run instead of walk slowly away. The sight of anything rapidly retreating
causes some sort of genetic switch to flip in Chloe's brain, triggering an instinctive chase
reflex. Cat and dog rocketed around our living room for several minutes, during which
the cat ran up a brick wall and seemed to circle the room without ever hitting the floor,
finally coming to a panting halt at the top of a ladder.
That cat lived on high ground for the next couple of weeks, and must have told
some of the other cats to be afraid of Chloe, too, because a few of them began running
from her, too. We tried to reason with the cats, telling them "look, if you don't run, she
won't chase you," but they wouldn't believe us. They eventually figured it out by
watching Hopalong, our oldest cat, who limps and never runs anywhere, and Ed, another
old cat, who hates everything but me. Hop saunters past the dog, ignoring her, while Ed
growls, hisses, and stalks her until he has her pinned in a corner, looking nervous.
Chloe is getting better-behaved, but it's a slow process with many relapses. Right
now, she's lying quietly at my feet, content to be near me. I should mention, however,
that I'm sitting in a windowless room where she can't prance and jingle back and forth
from sill to sill as she tries to chase the cars and trucks on Main Street. Hubby still takes
aspirin for his sore shoulder after he takes her for a walk, but she's learning not to drag at
her leash, at least not until she sees anything that moves. If she gets outside of the fence
without a leash, she's still off like a shot, totally heedless of any command, a speedy black
streak racing down the road. Our old dog is gone, and we have a doggone dog that wants
to be a gone dog.
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