Monday, March 26, 2012
Good Dogs, Bad Dogs
Hoping to become a better dog mother, I read everything I could about border collies. They are the smartest of breeds, they need a job, they bond with their owners, and they need lots of exercise. Exercise, exercise, exercise is what all the books said.
So I laced up my walking shoes, and took her and the old dog out on forest trails and logging roads every single day. I'd load them up in the car and take them to a nearby paved subdivision with a good hill to climb. I played ball, frisbee, bought her bones to chew on, and squeak toys, and even a non-destructible rubber ball with biscuits hidden inside.
And still Penny dug up the yard, pulled prize azaleas from the soil, destroyed rhododendrons, ripped fern fronds off one by one, and pulled the stuffing out of every single dog bed we bought her.
We made a joke out of her name, that she was the Bad Penny and we couldn't get rid of her if we tried.
My husband was fed up, and truthfully, as winter wore on, I was getting tired of defending her with the refrain "She's just a pup. She'll grow out of this stage."
At one point, several weeks ago, I even decided maybe we should find her another home. But I loved this dog, and didn't want to pass her down to someone who might treat her badly. I answered a couple of ads that I found on Craigs List with people looking for such a dog, but it wasn't the right match. I sent a long e-mail to a border collie rescue agency that specializes in placing such dogs. I never heard back. Finally, in desperation on a stormy winter night, when this jumpy, wet dog, who never seemed to calm down, was wreaking havoc on our normally peaceful marriage, I picked up the phone to place an ad in our local newspaper.
No dial tone. The phone was completely dead, and the telephone service was out.
It was a sign, I decided. No wavering. We are keeping the darn dog, making the best of the situation, and sooner or later she will turn the corner. I called a local dog trainer and signed Penny up for a dog class, thinking maybe a little socialization would help.
At the first lesson, we almost got kicked out, after Penny drug me across the arena toward a shepherd mix who growled and lunged at her. "You want a piece of me?" she said. "Come and get it!" Geez, talk about embarrassing.
Luckily for both of us, the instructor decided to put that errant shepherd in a "special" class, and Penny got lots of one-on-one attention at her second class. She did beautifully! She heeled, and sat, and every time she came unglued a bit, her teacher said she was only insecure. I can live with that.
Finally, we are making progress. Penny is 15 months old now, and I convinced my husband she is well on her way to finally becoming a good dog. She doesn't jump on people so much, her digging is less often, and surely her need to chew and destroy things must be over. A local feed store had pet beds on sale, and bless his heart, when my husband went to town, he not only bought two of them (one for each dog) but he made Penny her own little wooden box for the bed to go in.
I breathed a giant sigh of relief, both for Penny and for our marriage. Things were turning out peachy-keen.
Until this morning. I fed the dogs, came in the house to check my e-mail, and inside of ten minutes, this has happened:
That was two hours ago. I scolded her (quite) strongly, locked her up in the dog pen for almost an hour, and came in to face my husband's wrath.
Penny is now in the dog pen again. She just destroyed the second bed (her own.)
I have no words, although it does help to have a sense of humor about these things. Maybe we can get on a television show called - Is there hope for this dog? or Is there hope for this marriage? Peace - out.