Saturday, August 05, 2006

My Spazzy Little Dog

I have never been a dog person. We had a few dogs when I was a kid, but they were always relegated to the back yard and basically ignored once they passed the puppy phase. I remember a German Shephard we had, named Stravinsky. He was a decent dog, but one day he escaped our back yard and murdered the neighbor's rabbit. Things remained strained between our families for many years after that . . .
Then there were Juno and Kimo, both Eskimo Spitz dogs, who looked like white furballs with legs. Both those dogs died the same way, years apart from each other. They escaped the back yard, bolted into the street and were immediately run over.
Yeah, dogs were just a lot of trouble and heartache, if you asked me. Give me a cat anyday!
And then I got Scout . . .
I'm not sure when my attitude toward dogs changed, exactly. I started looking at adoptable dogs online at the Humane Shelter about two years ago, searching for a good hiking companion. I began researching different breeds, and interviewing dog-walkers on the street. I even went to pet stores and asked to play with the puppies--my family was starting to get worried about me!
My husband was not keen on the idea of getting a dog. We travel a lot and are very busy people and have a really small backyard, he reminded me on a daily basis.
"But I guess you can get a Sheltie if you really want a dog," he conceded. (Greg had a soft spot for this breed because of a Sheltie he'd been given many years ago).
That same day, I found an add in the paper for Sheltie puppies, at a breeder's not far from our home. The next day, we brought nine-week-old Scout, a female sable sheltie, home with us.
The first night we brought her home, she trotted in nervous little circles around me as soon as I set her down. I asked the vet about it the next day and he thought that was a trait of her breed.
Scout was a lot of fun--we used the circle thing to our advantage and entertained all who came to visit. If you lay down on the carpet, she would start running full speed around your prostrate body. Then, if you lifted your arms or legs a wee bit off the ground, Scout would hurdle them with glee. She would run until she made us dizzy and she never seemed to tire of it.
Other odd behaviors developed as she matured. Heaven forbid anyone should sneeze--Scout acted like she would rip your head off. Certain sounds--a spoon clinking against a glass mug, hammering nails, cracking hard boiled eggs (I'm not kidding) would make her go beserk. Since we have a steady flow of people in and out of our home (which stressed her out), I almost felt like I needed to put up an "Enter at your own risk" sign on our door.
And then there were fireworks . . .
The first time Scout heard fireworks--New Year's Eve, she was about six months old at the time--I thought she would die from sheer terror. Upon hearing the first "bang," Scout started frantically running in circles. She raced upstairs and jumped up on our bed, cowered there for a few minutes, then ran back downstairs and resumed her frantic circling. I tried to hold her and reassure her, but some primal instinct had taken over and she acted like I wasn't even there. Her heart was pounding, she was panting, her eyes glazed--the fireworks actually scared the poop out of her.
Unfortunately we have neighbors who must have stock in a fireworks company. They celebrate for at least the whole month of July. A week before the 4th, I got some doggie drugs from the vet. We doped her up for two weeks straight, and then thought the siege was over.
One night we went out and left Scout shut up in the downstairs area of our house. We we got home we found pacing wildly in circles, making a smelly brown path as she tracked through her own excrement. As I cleaned up the mess, we heard the tell-tale pops and whistles coming from our neighbor's back yard.
That night I went to bed wondering if I'd made a mistake. Maybe Greg was right. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten a dog--especially a high-strung, neurotic one. I actually considered giving Scout away to someone who could give her a better home, where she would feel calm and safe. But I really doubted that such a place existed, as long as sneezing, boiled eggs and firecrackers are a part of life.
Scout must have read my mind, because she's been the model (well, sort of) dog ever since. Last week, Greg and I house-sat for friends who live on a sprawling property that borders Eagle Creek. Trails abound in that area, so Scout and I spent days on end hiking and exploring. As we hiked through beautiful old growth forests and along pristine Eagle Creek, I spent a lot of time in prayer--and in good conversation with my dog. This might sound weird to those of you who aren't dog people. But Scout started to feel like a friend.
As long as I didn't sneeze . . .