I can never stop talking about my dogs to my friends… & then the moment I decide to blog about them I can’t decide what (which!) to write about as my First Post. I’ve let my backbrain munch on it for 24 hours & it’s come up with nothing except that the polite thing to do is to introduce myself. And more importantly, the dogs. And the cats. Sorry, Honeygirl.
By profession I’m a bartender, although I also do some clerical work for my father’s office & help out at my mom’s department at a nearby high school. When I say “help out” it means that there is a paycheck involved but it’s so small that I’m sure I’m not doing it for the money. It’s been over a month & I haven’t gotten a paycheck at all anyway. That’s our DOE for you.
I’m the only human in the house, & as I’ve struggled to be a good owner to my dogs, I’ve found a great respect for all single parents. It’s really hard to do everything by yourself. At a certain point I had to concede that it was too much for me, but that’s a different post.
Honeygirl wasn’t actually one of my choices; she wasn’t even a kitten. She was an adolescent, & she had the green collar that indicated she had been a stray. She also had fleas. Well, the entire Cat House at the Humane Society was infested with fleas. I think they’ve since fixed that problem but back then it was just a given.
As I moved from kitten to kitten, this one tiger calico kept very calmly climbing onto my lap or even my shoulder & just perching there, purring. She apparently thought I was the ideal perch, which I later came to understand is prime real estate & one of the most important commodities to cats. In the end I looked at the volunteer & indicated I would take the cat on my shoulder.
Around a year later my parents called me because they had rescued a tiny black kitten from their dogs & knowing that I liked cats, wanted to give it to me. I headed to their house & looked at the kitten.
It was adorable but its eyes were covered with dried mucus & its nose was running. My sister & I took it to the Humane Society where they determined that the kitten had a fever & was very ill. It would probably be euthanized. Since I had turned in a life I decided to save a life, so we went back to the Cat House & my sister chose an adorable gray kitten, & as he chirped at us & wagged his tail all the way home, named him Puppy.
Honeygirl was super pissed. She didn’t come out of the closet for 3 days & when she did she batted at him & hissed. He scrunched himself up during these attacks, & when she wasn’t attacking him he followed her around & batted at her heels. Eventually she came to accept him but to be honest my 2 cats never really liked each other in the 16 years that they were together.
In 2008 I moved in with my grandparents, who were becoming frail enough to need assistance now & then. My grandfather had always had dogs, but in recent years hadn’t had the strength or energy for one. They had a huge fenced yard & I decided it would be nice to have a dog running around in it; at least my grandfather would have something to watch when he sat in his chair looking out on the back yard.
There were certain breeds of dog I’d always been interested in – Chows, Basenjis… well, basically Chows & Basenjis. My grandparents’ valley was really hot so a Chow would probably have been miserable there, but I saw an ad for Basenji pups in the paper & went to check it out. My sister & I drove all the way out to Makaha, on the North end of the island, where I purchased Jack from a backyard breeder. Back then I didn’t realize what was wrong with the breeder, but in retrospect I have plenty to say, & that will be a whole other post. That crappy breeder almost cost Jack his life, & certainly his home. But I didn’t know any better back then.
Jack was miserable. He had fleas, & he couldn’t sleep in the house with me & the cats, & he howled & cried actual tears. I felt horrible. Even after the fleas were dealt with, he still had to stay outside because he couldn’t get along with the cats; he had a huge crush on Honeygirl but expressed it poorly, & Puppy wanted to kill him. I spent as much time as I could outside with him, & my father built him a gorgeous doghouse, but he was lonely.
I’d told my vet of Jack’s plight & that I wanted to get a 2nd dog so that he wouldn’t have to be alone whenever I was gone. My vet suggested an Australian Shepherd – he said they were very smart. I saw an ad in the paper for Aussie puppies, & when I saw a blue merle for the first time I couldn’t not get this puppy.
My grandparents immediately fell in love with her. Who wouldn’t? I named her Chie, because it just popped into my head.
Jack’s demeanor changed instantly with Chie’s arrival. He became less needy & anxious, & more confident & happy. The two of them quickly became inseparable & destroyed a whole lot of the yard playing all day. My grandmother, who never liked Jack, had only nice things to say about Chie, who was, from Day One, gentle, sweet & loving.
My grandparents passed away in 2008 & 2009. Alone in the house, I felt a little paranoid about my dogs’ safety. I know this is kind of backward, because lots of people have dogs to help keep their property safe, but I constantly worried that someone might want to break into the house, & they would hurt my dogs in the process. Chie was about 60 lbs & very protective, but no match for a person with the intention of breaking in.
My brother was very interested in American Bulldogs & wanted me to look at a litter that was just on the other side of my neighborhood, because the pups looked great & the breeder’s care of them was immaculate. I knew nothing about American Bulldogs but knew my brother had done a ton of research, so I went to check them out.
From the getgo one of the puppies was making eyes at me. Most of the pups were already spoken for, & only one female was available. When I found out that that female was the same puppy that had gotten my attention I felt the strings of Fate again.
Madeline was high energy from the start. I noticed that Chie was constantly blocking Madeline from Jack, & at first I thought it was some kind of jealousy, but came to see — too late — that it was wisdom. Madeline was pissing the living crap out of Jack with her puppy playfulness.
There were a number of warning signs during Madeline’s first year that I should have responded to, & ultimately my lack of response led to my having to give someone up. I had had to learn a lot with Jack because Basenjis aren’t the most obedient dogs in the world. Chie had been relatively very easy on me – a comfort at all times – but with Madeline I was only ever unprepared. The learning curve was extreme. And it keeps curving.
I totally didn’t need another dog at this point. My brother’s American Bulldog, Gunner, is the smartest dog I’ve ever known, & my brother had received a breeding proposition. The female was a gorgeous, well built Johnson type American Bulldog (Gunner is a hybrid Scott/Johnson) with no genetic defects for 5 generations up. Gunner also had no genetic defects in his lineage. Gunner had a powerful back end & the female had a strong front. They got along great & Gunner was the happiest dog you ever saw for about a week.
I helped take care of the pups & Boomer was my favorite. He was the dumbest, ugliest, clumsiest puppy. My brother did little exercises with them every day to stimulate brain development & Boomer was the dunce of the litter. My brother wanted to give me Carly, who was pick of litter, but I didn’t feel an affinity for Carly. Both my brother’s girlfriend & I were in love with Boomer.
My brother kept Carly for himself & when Boomer ended up being the only puppy not spoken for, at 12 weeks he came home with me. Boomer has his dad’s intelligence & his mom’s strong drive. I could do without the latter, believe me.
I wasn’t ready for 4 dogs, especially when 2 of them are such a powerful, aggressive breed. But I’ve done my best & things have so far worked out pretty well for everyone.
This blog is about the things I’ve learned as well as all the stuff I still don’t get. I consider myself an intelligent person, but when it comes to dogs I’m an idiot. Please feel free to throw in your two cents because I welcome any wisdom about anything to do with my dogs.
When I put Puppy to sleep last year I realized that we aren’t just owners to pets. We are stewards to these innocents who give us unconditional love that we would never find anywhere else during the short time they are with us. The best we can do is give them the best life we can while they are here.
I hope this blog will be about the best life I can give to them.