Dogs make our life whole, unless they’re making us insane

Posted: February 21, 2016 in Dog reviews, Miscellaneous
Tags: , , , ,

The naturalist Hal Borland wrote a memoir called The Dog Who Came to Stay. You can tell from the title how that story turned out. This story is not that story.

In September we promoted a promising new player to our family: a 10-week-old corgi. We named her Xena, Warrior Puppy.

debate prep
Xena listens to another Republican presidential debate.

Soon we were all in love, despite having to rush her outside in the middle of the night and the accidents on unlucky carpets. We were all planning to live happily ever after.

Right?

Long-term readers of this blog know I’m about to say Wrong!

We lived happily ever after for approximately two months while Xena grew from a 6-pound puff ball into an actual canine. Then she got scared. We don’t know what the trigger was, but I blame the folks on the next block who are addicted to inflatable Disney crap. One night right before Halloween, Xena and I encountered the huge gaseous Minions these style masters had staked to the grass (and the side of the house, and the roof). Xena immediately turned and rushed me homeward. I figured she had good taste.

Wrong!

Over the next three months, Xena conceived a theory of the world as being about as safe as the set of The Walking Dead. She became afraid of cars, trucks, bikes, scooters, and joggers. True to her name, she wanted to fight them. It took me an hour to negotiate a truce between her and our exercise cycle. Xena was suffering from what’s called “reactivity.” It’s uncommon. We were stuck with it.

We read the research. We hired experts. We tried various fixes. We despaired. We couldn’t walk Xena in our own neighborhood. On Tuesdays, when the Trucks of Terror came for our garbage and recycling, my wife and our dog had to be somewhere far away – one of Saturn’s moons, for example. We had to smuggle her into parks, waiting in the car until we had a clear run for the trees. It was like living in O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief,” where the desperate kidnappers pay the father to take his brat back.

Few things in life are as unsettling as a dog erupting two feet from your head at 4 in the morning because she wants to chase down and kill a freight train trying to sneak past her – a mile away. In all the years we’ve lived with corgis, only one ever reacted to a moving train, and that was because she’d spotted a man standing in the open door of a boxcar. Emma knew that was a safety violation.

No one here at the Bureau was thriving.

Special D finally called the breeder, who said she’d never had a litter like this and that two other people had already returned their pups. We said, we’re returning ours.

It was an emotional decision, made even more emotional by the lengthy drive to the mountain town Xena came from. Now we’d lost three dogs in three years, but this one was still alive. And ready to attack.

Xena was quiet most of the trip (we could only give her breaks in secluded areas off the highway), but when we got within 15 miles of her ancestral home, she started to bark. She knew where she was.

We arrived after dark. Xena almost flew out of the back of the car. I put her in the breeder’s arms. Xena wiggled with joy and licked the woman’s face – and then she turned and licked mine.

She’s saying goodbye, I thought, and she’s pierced my heart. No, of course not, I told myself; humans think that way, not dogs. We endow our dogs with human personalities. We speak for them. But we are not dogs and dogs are not us.

I realized that I couldn’t go through life thinking that I had failed this dog and yet she still had the decency to wish me well.

So I changed my thinking.

Xena is back at the breeder’s, with her mother and two of her siblings, in a rural area with little traffic. She’ll eventually go to a home with a lower threat level than our place. She’ll feel safe. She’ll thrive.

Xena wasn’t saying goodbye on that cold, disturbing night. She was saying thank you.

That was a month ago. Yesterday we brought home a new dog. We’ve named him Lucky. We hope this one will stay.

 

Comments
  1. Ms O & Foo says:

    Lucky is indeed lucky to have you and Special D as the leaders of his pack.

  2. Accused of Lurking says:

    I’m actually sobbing.

  3. Interesting you post a picture of lovely Xena reacting to a Republican debate; living in the UK I have absolutely no right to express views on US politics, but having heard some of the ‘policies’ in last month or so I too have “conceived a theory of the world as being about as safe as the set of The Walking Dead”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s