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



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.


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.


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?


posted by Jean Foster Akin

photos by JFA