Friday, September 23, 2011
Bad dog… Bad Dog!
It’s been a couple of months now since my old dog Stan died of heart failure, kind of strange since I wasn’t real sure he had a heart.
He was given to me 14 years ago by a friend who had a pure breed Kelpie bitch, his father, it was claimed was another pure Kelpie, it turned out that his father was in fact able to jump a 5 foot iron fence and that is all that is known of him.
Stan was your average nondescript medium black dog with tan bits here and there, his claims to fame would be that he could bite a tennis ball in half at will (he really could) and that he shed like a Buffalo. The winter coat would melt off him 2 inches thick and if you rubbed him vigorously it would fill the air like a hairy black cloud.
Even as a puppy he could chew a misplaced shoe in half before you realized it was missing and his favorite game was ‘Pull the washing off the line…and kill it.’ He cost me thousands of dollars in wrecked clothing before I gave up and fenced off the clothes line.
I should say right here that he was foremost a guard dog, though his idea of guarding was something that seemed to vary somewhat. I watched one day as a neighborhood cat jumped the fence and headed to his food bowl just a couple of feet from where he was laying in the sunshine. At first I thought the cat may have made a big mistake… but he didn’t even look up as the cat helped itself to his dinner then wandered across the yard to jump the fence into the next yard. Speechless!
I saw him another day with Sparrows perched on his sleeping carcass as they to helped themselves to his dry biscuits, hopping about and breaking up their spoils with not a care in the world. It occurred to me then that he got way less of his food than the rest of the hangers on.
People however got the wrath of his aggression and it’s been many years since I’ve trusted him to be around kids,* his ferocious bark and hackles up stance left no one in any doubt that they should stay well clear of him. A brave friend assured me it was all bluff and he proceeded to prove it by walking straight up to him with an outstretched hand to pat him… he was bitten on the hand and face.
With me though he was always the playful puppy he once was and despite his zillion drawbacks I still got along with him very well, he only bit me a few times… accidentally (so he claimed) while playing, but even that was enough to draw blood and hurt like hell.
His worst problem was his mastery of the yard, here was I thinking it was my yard…but I was wrong. Everything that came into his yard had to be pee’d on immediately, and frequently, and if he wanted (and he did want) to crap right in the middle of the path.. who was going to stop him?
He turned the once beautiful garden beds into wallowing pits and chewed trees off to the base, in fact it became a real battle between us to see who could win. Over a few years I planted well over 100 trees and shrubs, I currently have just 36 survivors. (nearly half of which are in the front yard where he couldn’t get at them) His ingenuity knew no bounds, he chewed, he dug and when I caged the trees he pee’d through the mesh until they shriveled and died.
Imagine my yard then, with high mesh fencing around the trees and vegetable garden, around the washing line and compost bins**. With urine stains all along the sheds, the fence and on my park bench, large holes dug here and there, strategically placed to catch you unawares and turn an ankle.
It’s been a couple of months now and the plants have never been more lush and green, the bottom 2 feet of every tree is now growing again and I’m on the lookout for another guard dog…a small guard dog…one I can master.
* Only this week my grand kids have explored my yard for the first time ever..
**He didn’t care much for his dog food but when it came to compost he would eat his fill then come to you for a cuddle…just him and his breath of death.
I am reminded of the first rule of dog training.
Rule one: You must be smarter than the dog.