Ranger the Shelter Dog (who won’t poop outside)

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Ranger

Those of you who have been following this riveting tale know that we had a wonderful dog (absolutely wonderful) in our Buddy, and he is the namesake of this blog. He lived fourteen and a half years, gave us a great deal of love and a lot of laughs, and punched a big hole in our hearts when he passed away—relatively peacefully–on Election night two years ago.

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Andy in his favorite pose

At first we couldn’t think of getting another dog, but it’s been two years, and we needed to do something to fill that empty space left void where a four-legged creature once showed unrestrained delight at seeing us come through the door in the evenings. Cats don’t count, people. We love our Andy, but when we come home from anywhere, he lifts the lid of one eye into a sharp slit and glares at us like, “It’s about time,” or “You people ever gonna figure out how to keep food in my bowl?” And other pleasantries that don’t involve actually moving his hairy butt from the prime real estate known as the living room couch.

We were expecting to come home empty-handed the first time we went to the shelter, but there he was: in the midst of black, brown, and striped pit bulls mostly, there was our new dog. He sat at the gate and chuffed. He bent his head low to his front paws, raised his behind, and his tail waggled like a happy little flag fluttering on a little boat. And he chuffed again.

After about 20 minutes of this, we asked the attendant if we could take him out for a spin. We watched as she allowed him to drag her all over the place on the lead, tripping her and happily going wherever his nose led him. But when she handed me the lead, I told him to “heel.” He looked up at me and smiled, as if to say, “Hey, I’m, like, a free spirit, babe.” I ignored the cuteness and told him to heel again and started walking. He began to get out ahead of me so that the lead became taut, I gave it a light snap, said heel again, and after about a minute or so, he realized what I wanted: not to be tripped up by an enthusiastic, confident, delightful, but somewhat headstrong dog.

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Andy and Ranger

He loves the family, he loves the cat (who, not too surprisingly to us, loves him too). He sleeps in our room without a peep at night, he doesn’t snap food from our fingers, he comes to his new name, he sits, he’s started lying down on command, and he’s very affectionate and people-oriented.

BUT, he hasn’t figured out where to poop…and he’s four years old. You see, there are problems in any relationship. Some problems are not worth pursuing, others are. We feel, in this case, that this problem is worth working out between us. We think he must have been kenneled for too-long periods of time in his former home because he doesn’t show any sign that he understands what grass and dirt or for. He understands trees and bushes but not grass and dirt. He has pooped in the house three times, but mostly wants to poop in the cement-floored garden shed. And he doesn’t go there on his own, he waits for us to put him there when we must pop into town for a few minutes, etc. This is more than mildly disturbing as we only put him in there every two or three days, and other than that, he shows no sign of even needing to poop at all, and totally ignores the poops I gather from the garden shed (and the couple I’ve collected from the wood floor near our bedroom) and place in the spot—across the driveway at the furthest point from the house—where I want him to make his deposits. He doesn’t even lower his nose to those poops. In his doggy brain, they do not exist.

Moving poop from where Buddy used to drop it as a puppy, to where we wanted him to drop it, worked for Buddy for most of his 14.5 years….Ranger is not getting this at all. Buddy used to ring a little Christmas bell that I kept on the back door handle all year long, and he did this when he needed to go outside for a “private moment.” I don’t think Ranger is going to “get” this, as he never indicates, ever, that he wants to go out at all. So here’s the question, not “Do we keep this guy?” but “How do we train this guy to go outside on grass and dirt, and not cross his legs waiting for the garden shed floor?” And, “How do we get this four-year-old to see the house is not the place for unseemly canine scat deposits?”

Any suggestions dear readers?

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posted by Jean Foster Akin

photos by JFA

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What Kind of Dog Should I Get?

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Buddy, mixed breed

Buddy was a great dog. He was no show dog (mostly because his head was way too small for his body, and I know this sounds terribly mean of me to say, but if he was anything, Buddy was a humble fellow and he would be the first to agree with me on his lack of head-to-body proportionality). But beauty is not what makes us—any of us, human or dog—great.

I think dogs are in the Top Ten of God’s greatest creations, and so I want to find another one to share my life with.  But what kind of dog should I be looking for now? Buddy was a mixed breed German Shepherd/Golden Retriever. He was smart, loyal, protective, somewhat shy, easily trained. My husband has been thumpin’ for a standard poodle: no shedding, smart, trainable. I like how they prance when they walk. Though, forgive me, I don’t think of poodles as dogs. I mean, yes, I know they ARE dogs, but they don’t have that predatory look I am so used to in dogs like Shepherds. I have had Shepherds all my life, from the mixed breed my brothers brought home one day to my mother’s dismay when I was not much more than a toddler, to the big, broad, heavy, regal purebred Alsatian by the name of Augustus who came to us in my early teens. Unfortunately, “Gus” was a dog who bit people.  The first dog I ever knew was my mother’s dog, Geraldine (Gerry for short). She was a mixed breed, white and orange I think. Floppy ears, sharp nose. There was a sharpness to the noses of all the dogs of my past, a look in the eye that said they were watching. Poodles have such round eyes, such stuffed-toy-like faces. Of course, there are Goldens, and they have floppy ears and look lovable in all respects—but they also look like dogs. Know what I mean?

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Bouche, Standard Poodle

But still, poodles are dogs, and dogs are great, so poodles must be great. I could get used to a poodle. With this in mind, I searched for a Standard Poodle at the local Humane Society centers within 30 miles of our house. No standards. I found a few in a center in North Carolina…a little too far to drive though, and just when I thought maybe we could drive it  anyway, the poodles that had been there were gone. Since then, three months now, I have seen no more standards there or anywhere near home. Not unless I wanted to pay $2500 to a poodle breeder…which I didn’t then and which I  still don’t.

So I’m thinking: why not just go to the Humane Society and hang out for a while, see which dog chooses us? Forget about shedding. Forget about breeds. Forget about eyes and noses. Forget about it all. Just see which dog looks at us and acts like he thinks we might be reasonably okay to live with. My husband said that might be a good plan.

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Jack, Rhodesian Ridgeback

We’ve never really selected a dog, dogs have just come into our lives. We’ve always loved them. I can’t imagine that will ever change, regardless of eye shape or nose shape or breed.

No More Nose Smudges

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You know, when you own a dog, there are a lot of messes.

There’s dog hair on the carpet and around the edges of rooms without carpeting. There’s water on the floor by the dog dishes. There are smudges on the windows at snout level.

I dealt with those things for fifteen years.

In year 13 and year 14, there were other messes. Buddy couldn’t always hold his water over night. Some foods that he’d always enjoyed made him sick those last two years. Always, when he inconvenienced me with “accidents” he seemed so ashamed of himself. I don’t believe he understood the inconvenience aspect of this, but he knew there were some things he wasn’t supposed to do in the house and it obviously bothered him as much as a dog can be bothered by much of anything.

I felt overwhelmed sometimes by the troubles of my old dog. I worried about what was next for him…and would it hurt. Now he’s gone and I miss his old self laying at my feet when I’m alone in the house. I miss his perked-up ears and laser-focused eyes as he peered around a kitchen counter, watching me cook; I miss him catching every single drop, chunk, sliver, and slice of food that I accidentally or purposely dropped on the kitchen floor. I miss that protective, four-legged creature who knew the difference between a scream of fright or a shriek of delight when my kids were little and playing in the yard. He was a night watchman, patrolling the darkened house while my family slept peacefully in their beds.

He’d chase the kids around the house, hide behind chairs and leap out at them when they least expected it. He’d catch the snowballs they tossed at him and chase after their soccer balls. There was a lot of noise when he was here and the kids were young. They’d all roll around on the floor together, the kids tumbling and hollering, and the dog making the strangest sounds–fully recognizable to my mother’s ear as sounds of absolute and utterly delighted excitement—sounds the neighbors misconstrued as the ravening growls of a predatory beast. Kids and dogs. It’s loud. It’s wild. And if it annoys you to hear the scratching claws on the kitchen linoleum, the thumping up the stairs, the panting and the squealing, then I don’t know what to tell you, except that you’re missing out in ways I can’t explain.

I miss him, that dog. I miss coming in at night, opening the back door slowly and seeing his nose poking out ahead of that sweet face…no barking…he’d known it was me before I’d even pulled into the driveway. I miss him walking beside me on the road, both of us so quiet, casting warm glances at each other every now and again. He never tugged the lead; he’d turn and tap his snout against my thigh every few steps to check his bearings. I miss his warm head and sympathetic brown eyes and velvety ears, pressing against me insistently when he knew I was upset about something. He’d bump his face against me until I wiped my eyes and wrapped my arms around him. Somehow he knew what to do in the presence of tears.

The other morning, when the sun bathed the glass patio door in golden light, there were no nose smudges for me to Windex away. I miss that dog.

photo by Twindaughter