So I currently live with four dogs. And I’m remodeling. And they are sandblasting my house.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing what a sandblaster sounds like try to imagine standing next to a rocket before it blasts off. We’re not taking jackhammer loud. We're talking Delta IV-expendable-launch-vehicle-and-you’re-the-launch-director-huddled-in-a-bunker-a-mere-3-miles-away-waiting-for-that-satellite-to-liftoff-into-space loud. Yeah, sandblasters and rocket ships are the reason we have earplugs.
To my knowledge, no one has made doggie earplugs.
It’s hard to know what the dogs are thinking huddled in the den with me as Armageddon befalls us. They seem okay, if not a bit ... frozen? I am concerned there might be some trauma but despite all the books I’ve read on communicating with dogs, I am clueless as to what they are feeling right now. And I can’t give them Chardonnay.
In the past, to communicate with my dogs, I have used a doggie psychic and a dog behaviorist.
The doggie psychic told me that my dog was, “very laid back. Like if he were a human, he might surf and smoke weed.” I thought she completely nailed this dog’s personality. Especially the smoking weed part. But then she also knew I was from Huntington Beach and he was a blond dog so, who knows.
I used a dog behaviorist when a dog was returned to me and I had to evaluate whether or not he could be safely repatriated to another family. This happened because I work with a breeder and have whelped and raised 3 litters in my house. The breeder is my BFF, which is how I got talked into whelping 3 litter--something I would never, ever have agreed to otherwise. My anxiety disorder can barely support having raised two children and these litters are like having 7-14 kids at once. Yes, 14. In the same litter. We’re talking some 101 Dalmatians shit.
There are things that are pretty cool about a litter of puppies. They move as one, reminding me of the Borg Collective in Star Trek. I even named one of the puppies Seven after Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine. They literally swarm toward any sound or movement. And they are fast! And the first time I saw a puppy learning to walk, I thought he was having a seizure but the poor little guy was just kinda launching himself. And they fall asleep in a pile and start humming and the sound is so strange and eerie that it makes me think they are hailing the Mothership.
The thing that is not cool about having puppies is trying to find each and every puppy a good home. To me, dogs are the furry children who don’t need a college fund. It’s difficult to find people with the same point of view.
At 9 months old, Triple was returned as unmanageable--which basically meant this owner wasn’t ready to deal with 80 pounds of muscle with no impulse control.
The first year of your Ridgeback’s life is kinda like raising a teenager. Let me tell you, if I could have returned my teenagers, I would have. Here’s what a typical teenager does. They tell you they hate you, maybe even drop the F-bomb because that’s how much they hate you. They are secretive and disdainful. They crush your heart, letting you know that you are a complete and utter idiot and anything you have to say is just plain stupid. In fact, they are embarrassed by you. They can’t wait to graduate and finally get away from the horror that is you. And that’s just the tolerable parts because it can get, much, much worse.
This is when you remind yourself that this ungrateful piece of DNA has never dealt with a mortgage, paid taxes, tried to find a doctor covered by their insurance or even tried to get their insurance to pay for anything! Or had one of those phone calls where twenty minutes in you’re finally talking to a live person and, just when you’ve given them all the information, you get cut off so you have to call back and start over? Haha--hahahahaha!
Well, unlike a teenager, you can return a dog. And Triple came back to us courtesy of a clause we put in every puppy contract stating that if you ever can’t handle or don’t want your dog, you call us first. You don’t give him away to your Aunt Mildred or the kid down the block or take him to the pound, because if you do and we find out we will sue you and you will pay us $10,000. It’s called a liquidation of damages clause. That law degree sometimes comes in handy.
This was the first and only time I’d had a dog returned. I’m pretty sure I always tell my puppy buyers that the first year with a Rhodesian Ridgeback is pure hell. They will destroy whatever you let them have access to, which can include pricey furniture, the bumper to your Mercedes, or the Thanksgiving turkey you left cooling on the counter--they are huge counter surfers. They will make you look stupid in puppy training class. They will dig holes to China in your yard and when you leave them alone they will try to convince you that you are the worst person in the world and they are having a mental breakdown from the abuse of your abandonment. They will smell the crouch of every single houseguest--their nose is conveniently at the average crouch height. That last part will probably never change.
You just need to power through the first year, I say. Then, around the time they turn 3, they become the best dog you have ever had, and, like child birth, you forget how horrible that first year was and you will want another one.
To be clear, this is not a Chihuahua or a dog who waits patiently for instructions from his master. This is a dog who was bred to do their job when no one is around. They act on instinct, able to keep a lion at bay, fearlessly dodging claws and teeth while putting their life at risk as they wait for the hunter to show up with the big guns. They also herd, guard, and track--those Dutch people needed a lot of help to farm the African veldt. A large, powerful and smart, active dog--they’re not for everyone.
Apparently, this puppy buyer didn’t hear my very extensive list of why-you-don’t-want-a-Ridgeback-puppy because Triple was returned for, “barking excessively and being destructive.” Yeah.
In any case, when Triple came back, I had him evaluated by a dog behaviorist to make sure it was safe for me to find him a new home. I felt bad for Triple because, when I’d had him as a puppy, he was the liveliest of the litter and very self-assured, but when he came back to me at 9 months old, he was standoffish and seemed--not to anthropomorphize--well, sad. After observing him, the behaviorist told me that she thought he’d been bullied, perhaps by other dogs. I knew the owner who’d returned Triple had two other dogs, so, okay. He just needed to get his confidence back. And I had kept his brother, Denzel (named after my favorite actor of all times!). And if Mr. Denzel Washington couldn’t get Triple to believe in himself, well, it just wasn’t gonna happen--have you watched Remember the Titans?
Three months later, Triple found his new forever home, a woman who didn’t mind when he ate the blinds in her house because she’d had an Akita, and if you can raise an Akita, you can raise a Ridgeback. So Triple is now the dog of celebrities. I would tell you who they are but they are super private people and I signed a non-disclosure agreement (I made that last part up).
But like a lot of internationally famous people, these guys travel. And when they do, Triple stays with me. Mr. Denzel Washington does love a good sleepover with his brother.
On this particular occasion, I noticed that Triple was a little on the heavy side. He’d gained a few pounds and given the athletic silhouette of a Ridgeback, even a few pounds is noticeable. I got right on that shit, cutting back on his kibble and adding some high fiber wet food and pumpkin to keep his tummy happy. I made sure he and Denzel (who, like his namesake, is in fabulous shape) had lots of time to race around the backyard despite the intrusive remodel. By the time his internationally famous celebrity owners returned to the States, he was going to be in tip top shape.
And that’s when it hit me. All of my animals, the four dogs, the cat--possibly even the bird, thought it’s hard to tell (I mean, it’s a bird)--are in fantastic shape.
And I am completely responsible for that. I put effort into it. I make sure it happens. Because I want them to have long healthy lives.
Like the song says: Things that make you go hmmm.
This is my year of change. I hope you join me.
Please feel free to comment below.