Monday, March 26, 2012

Good Dogs, Bad Dogs

I was really going to write a post about how well our young dog Penny was doing. She is a border collie cross, and not an easy dog to live with, and in fact got on my every last nerve from the time she was six months old until just recently.

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.


Sharon Ledwith said...

This has all the makings of a Disney movie! Don't worry, she'll grow out of it. You were meant to have this dog - the Universe works in mysterious ways! Just pour hubby a strong one and remind him. Cheers!

Linda Benson said...

A strong drink, you say? I think I'll pour mySELF a strong one, to calm my nerves. LOL. Thanks for the cheering up, Sharon. I need it. Want a dog??

Jaye Robin Brown said...

We had two dachshunds when I was a kid. We came home from school one day to the living room sofa eaten down to the frame with stuffing everywhere. It was a testament to my parents that Bonnie and Clyde weren't banished forever :0)

Linda Benson said...

Ah Jaye, these things become more humorous as times passes, don't they? Your parents must have been saints, for sure. Once I had two dogs rip up the entire back seat of my car in the time it took to go inside a bank and come back out. I guess maybe certain dogs just get bored, but gosh they can be destructive. I still love them, though.

Derek said...

Maybe Marley has reincarnated. And maybe that's a whole set of stories waiting for you to write them down. As you say, Collies are super smart - maybe she needs a part-time job!

Patricia said...

I feel ya', Linda. We had a problem with our first dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, who had been inbred (we believe) and would bite ONLY my husband, when he would get too lovey dovey with me if we were lying in bed. Finally when we adopted our baby daughter, we knew we had a problem because he was dangerous. So we had to put him to sleep. He was ten years old, I believe, and we'd loved him for all of his life. But it was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do.

Linda Benson said...

Oh, Patti, so sorry about your dog. What a heartbreaking decision. And Derek, yes, the only bright side to all of this is that I see endless inspiration for stories. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Hey, I haven't posted before, but all I can say, is having the equivalent dog to the one who lunged and growled at your dog, is that chewed up possessions is waaay better than an aggressive dog. :)

there are indestructible-style dog beds, and perhaps some of those indestructible kong-toys would help? We bought our chewing dog a rubber tire on a rope, and she really refocused her chewing on that... I'm sure you've tried everything, but just in case, thought I'd mention it. You must be so frustrated!

Linda Benson said...

Anonymous - thanks for your comment. I have no idea where to find an indestructible dog bed, but that sounds like a great idea. For the moment, Penny sleeps on a bed of straw in a really warm outside doghouse. I'll have to look into a rubber tire on a rope. That might keep her occupied. She is just such a busy dog! Thanks for the suggestion.