Monday, January 18, 2010
The Story of a Shelter Dog
Everybody who owns a shelter dog has a story to tell.
This is mine.
We didnt need another dog.
We already had Addie, our 2 year old docile collie cross, acquired when Ellie volunteered at a local animal shelter for her school community service hours. (A warning to parents ... don't let your child do volunteer hours at pet store adoption days)
I was the one who wanted another dog.
I was the one who spent endless hours looking at webposts of adorable little puppies.
I was the one who made the decision that Billy was the dog for us.
So, one bright and sunny January morning in 2008, I put a new dog crate in the back of the van and set off to bring Billy home.
Even at 13 weeks he was long legged and gangly. All bones and a whippy tail. His mother was a pure bred border collie. We weren't sure about his father ... (maybe a mutant from another planet?)
On the way back he cried and yipped and wouldn't settle.
When we arrived home, I got out. I let Addie out. Then, somehow, I closed and locked the doors to the van. Leaving the key in the ignition. And Billy still in his crate in the back. And we didn't have another key.
Maybe that was a sign that things were not going to be easy ...
Billy took an age to toilet train. I had never had a boy dog before, but surely it wasn't normal for him to wander around the house, leaving a trail of pee behind him? A sort of join-the-dots from the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen ...
And the longer his legs grew, the further onto the counter tops he could reach. Nothing was safe. He would grab and demolish a stick of butter within seconds. He seemed to have a penchant for uncooked pasta. Even raw potatoes weren't safe. And bread ... He was still only about 18 weeks old when I found him , looking rather ill, having consumed an entire loaf of pre-cut bread, packaging and all. He wandered around the kitchen in a state of discomfort for several minutes, his stomach bulging, looking not unlike a cartoon dog which has just eaten a loaf of bread (I almost expected to see the brand name through his fur). Then he began to throw it up, slice by perfect slice; he hadn't bothered to chew it, so it came out as it had gone in.
We called him Alien ... he was like the creature from the film ... he would stretch his neck out, further and further, his mouth would open, his teeth would protrude and "snap", the food was gone.
His worst trait by far, though, was his love of socks. He would grab them and run, and sit, and chew. And swallow.
Inevitably, one got stuck in his digestive system. Surgery was the only way to retrieve it. It was not a cheap option.
But even the pain of surgery, and the mortification of having to wear a cone to prevent him from biting his stitches did not stop Billy from eating socks.
We were saved by a website which suggested feeding your dog hydrogen peroxide, which causes them to vomit.
So, for several months, until he thankfully grew out of the habit, we would force hydrogen peroxide down his gullet whenever a sock went missing. The eaten sock would be retrieved, undamaged but covered in slimy gloop. On several occasions, two, three, and sometimes four socks would be regurgitated in one sitting.
Billy isn't all bad. He and Addie are great friends, and even the cat tolerates him with something which could almost be, but probably isn't, affection.
Even at 60 pounds he still acts like a lap dog, and thinks nothing of scrambling onto my knees for a cuddle.
He and Addie are great guard dogs, growling and barking ferociously at cold callers and unknown visitors. Unfortunately they also growl and bark ferociously at friends and the pizza delivery guy. Some work needs to be done there ...
One day I am hoping he will grow out of his perpetual puppyhood, sit and stay on command and leave unattended dishes alone in the kitchen.
Until then, the words which are most likely to be heard emminating from our home, at very high volume, are "BILLY GET DOWN!!"
- I have been married to Andy since 1991, we have 4 daughters, 2 dogs, 2 cat, 4 rabbits (and various baby rabbits) and a hamster (not dead). We have lived in the U.S.A since 2000, and are citizens of the U.K. I miss many things about the U.K.(pubs, old buildings, red post boxes, church bells,narrow roads, a good joint of roast lamb with mint sauce, to name but a few) but I have grown to love the U.S.