Often, when people ask how many dogs I have they think I’m a little crazy when I tell them three – now they think I’m nuts. Last week we chose to take in a fourth pack member, a husky mix named Charlie.
Charlie lived in a home where he was well loved, but there wasn’t enough time available for his care. He is a high energy dog and without an outlet was over excited and difficult to manage. However, he is also extremely intelligent, quick to learn, and has a wonderful temperament. Recognizing his potential I offered to give him a spot in our home, as long as he and Luna got along.
Luna, being the wild card she is, had me a little nervous about the introduction. However, as it went with Ella, I had little to worry about. The two (and then three of them once Ella joined in) were chasing and playing with each other happily about 15 minutes after Charlie arrived.
Charlie is adapting quickly to life at our house, he acts as if he’s always been part of the pack. He and Ella love to wear each other out, which actually gives Luna and I more of the one on one time she craves. Luckily, he gives Boots the space she needs and has not been overbearing on her at all. The only one having trouble adapting to the extra four paws is the cat.
Back to the craziness of four dogs – it honestly doesn’t feel that much different than three, in some ways it feels even easier. Walking them all at once can be a bit of a challenge, but that’s what having a good strong heel and walk are for. While he is still learning, Luna and Ella on the other hand can be walked together with ease.
As soon as classes start up again this spring Charlie will be heading in with me, his toughest hurdle is going to be learning to focus on his handler rather than all the other dogs he wants to play with. Once we get past that one I doubt there is going to be much this guy can’t do.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Recently there was a post on Facebook circulating about what your dog’s sleeping position means. I don’t know how much of it is fact, but it was interesting and it got me thinking about dogs’ sleeping habits, as well as my own.
Since having my first dog (family/childhood dogs not included), Miley, I’ve always allowed my dogs to sleep with me. Miley had her own pillow next to mine, but after I got married and time progressed she started to simply share mine. My next dog, Sprite, never chose to sleep with me, always preferring the floor, even though he had the option. On the other hand my third dog, Ari joined Miley on the bed, always sleeping at the small of my back and under the covers unless it was cold out. On those nights she would burrow down to my feet.
Unfortunately, as they grew older I had to move them both to the floor for safety reasons. The separation was difficult. I felt guilt as if I had abandoned them and it was harder for me to sleep without them. I told myself that I would never allow another dog in my bed…famous last words.
Boots was already old when she came to live with us, so we emigrated her to the floor next to the bed rather easily. When Luna arrived we maintained a strict “no furniture” rule unless you are invited, which included the bed. (A rule we still abide by – mostly.) Gradually though nighttime cuddles were replaced with permanent residence and once Ella arrived and graduated from sleeping in her kennel there was no going back.
I had forgotten how much better I slept with my girls with me (don’t get me started on how hard it is to fall asleep when I travel) even when Luna has to jump on and off the bed several times in the night to “check on” the cat. While I know I will have the day when she can no longer stay with me, I would never give up the time I have.
So where do your dogs lie at night?
I know that many people look a little sideways when I mention that my dogs get gifts at Christmas (Ari knew and loved how to unwrap her own presents - and sometimes 'helped' with mine) but the raised eyebrows really come out when I mention that I have Easter egg hunts for my dogs. I suppose people think it's odd to do something for dogs that they can't really understand and when I was younger I think I did it more because I didn't have children. Now though it just seems natural, my stepchildren are 13 and 16, far too old to hunt for eggs but just right to hide them; and as for the dogs, it is instinct for them to 'hunt' for food - especially Luna.
It was the first hunt for all three of our dogs and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I knew Luna would be game; she had even been practicing balancing the plastic eggs on her nose the week before and was already treating them like a (supervised) toy. Once she could smell the treats inside she would be all over the yard hunting. Ella’s always up for just about any game, although I worried that even if she found the eggs her mouth would be too small to open them. As for Boots, well her eyesight isn’t what it used to be and she stopped playing with toys a while ago.
In the end all three of them took to the idea on one level or another. I was right about Luna, with little effort or encouragement from us (after the first egg) she was on her own and certainly found the most. Ella went crazy and would run around the yard with one in her mouth until it popped open and then run around some more (I’m still not sure if she even bothered to eat the treats). Boots needed help ‘finding’ the eggs, but once one was in front of her she opened it without a problem. The kids had fun too – and I got some amazing pictures!
Here’s some helpful tips if you want to host your own hunt next year:
I have the suspicion that Luna didn’t get out much in her old life. The first time I ever took her in the car after bringing her home I made the mistake of running into a store for under 5 minutes (it was plenty cool out) and returning to find her in a pure panic that I had left her. You can’t leave a parking lot with 30 pounds of dog in your lap and she wouldn’t budge for several minutes. Needless to say, it wasn’t a mistake I made twice.
We do plan most of our outings with our dogs, as I prefer to take them with us and get them out of the house. My older dogs weren’t able to get around much in their later years, aside from a neighborhood walk, and as I originally had them in southern Utah I’m now searching for places to take Luna and Boots up north.
Our first hike was out to Bridal Veil Falls, located just south of Salt Lake City in Provo Canyon. Living in Utah most of my life I’ve passed through this area many times, but I’ve never taken the time to drive up there before. They are one of the most impressive falls around, so one Sunday morning we piled the kids and dogs into the car and headed out that way.
The parking lot is located only 3.5 miles up the north of Provo Canyon but we had about a 45 minute drive from our house. By the time we reached the parking lot all the ‘kids’ were eager to get out and stretch their legs.
There is a small park next to the lot with tables and plenty of shade trees for picnicking – but be aware it isn’t maintained well. The garbage cans were overflowing so if you have a dog that’s quick to forage be wary. I would also recommend planning to pack out anything you bring in, just so you don’t add to the clutter. There are also no plumbing, portables only if you need to use the restroom.
The hike to the falls itself is short, only about ½ a mile and an easy walk. We went early and the trail wasn’t busy, but it’s easy to see that it would be later in the day. It’s frequented by hikers, bikers and families that are simply out for a stroll.
It is a quick payoff, the falls are gorgeous and although the water is cold there is a small wading pool at the base. Luna was hesitant to get even get her paws wet, but Boots, ever the Border Collie tomboy was in the water right away. Once I was in Luna’s hesitation was gone and it only took her a minute to find her footing.
My husband climbed a bit up the mountain, but the kids and I stayed below with the dogs. Boots was eager to follow, but the rocks are slick and I wouldn’t recommend the climb for anyone who isn’t experienced or for canines. There is a second trail that will take you to the top of the falls themselves, but the day was going to get hot fast and I had no desire to get the dogs away from the water or on a long trail.
We played in the pool for quite a while, Luna enjoying a game of catch (ball straight up) rather than fetch since they were on leash. (There is no off leash area.) She had completely forgotten her earlier qualms about the water. There is also a small off limits area where fish are stocked if your dog likes to watch, although neither of ours were interested.
Overall it was a nice morning trip, great view and the dogs were tuckered out and happy. We didn’t bring lunch in and I don’t know if I would in the future. I think we will stick to the early in and back out plan to avoid the crowds. The whole family enjoyed it enough that I smell a return trip once the leaves change and maybe even again when the falls have frozen over this winter.
How Life Got Loony
When Ari, our Jack Russell Terrier of 13 years passed in late May I told myself the last thing I wanted was another dog. It had been a rough year. She was the third pet we had lost (all of them elderly) and the second dog. The loss of our American Eskimo, Sprite, had been hard, but it was
nothing compared to Ari who had always cuddled with me at night and was one of my ‘girls’. Several people told me right away to bring another dog home, but I brushed them off. It felt like I would be betraying her somehow – and besides, I still had two dogs.
One is the second of the two girls, Miley, a terrier mix of 17 years. She’s completely blind and sleeps most of the day, and although I love her dearly she hasn’t been much of a companion for several years. In fact, the day Ari died was the first day I had been able to get her to sit in my lap in at least two. She never sits still when she is awake and being off the floor seems to make her nervous. The other, Boots, a Border Collie that was once my dad’s before he passed is sweet and loving, but she is devoted to my husband. For someone that had been used to having that needy, unconditional love waiting for you when you walked through the door it almost felt like no dog at all.
Then I caught myself ‘just looking’ on petfinder.com. I had said for years that the next dog I wanted was a water dog – either a Standard Poodle or a Portuguese Water Dog. I wanted a larger dog, nothing close to a Jack Russell, a sporting breed, and narrowed it down to those two because they don’t shed. I’ve always adopted or taken pets in that no longer had a home and so of course I planned on doing the same this time around. I told myself it would take forever to find one of these breeds through a rescue or at a shelter so I might as well do the research and start watching for one in my area. Never mind that I began to search for anything remotely close to what I wanted. I believe my eventual search was female, young (no puppies please), and medium to large sized, not at all specific.
This continued for about a week when I saw the face of Lilith at our county shelter. Eyes bright and looking up at the camera with a face something reminiscent of a Brittany and the body of an Australian Cattle Dog. It was a face I spent several days trying to get out of my mind, but finally allowed myself to move from Petfinder to the shelter’s website itself. I needed to know more about her and was shocked to find that she had been there for two months. That was enough for me, I had to meet her and was petrified by the thought that she could be put to sleep after being there for so long. (I didn’t find out until much later that the shelter is now one of the many no-kills throughout Utah).
I called, set up an appointment for her to meet Boots (Miley rarely leaves the house), and made my husband swear to me that he would not let me bring her home if he thought she would be too rambunctious around Miley. When we arrived it was easy to see why she was still at the shelter. A sensitive dog, Lilith was backed up against the wall of her kennel, frightened by the people standing outside of it and ‘grinning’ – a slight bare of her teeth without the sound of a growl.
Despite her initial impression we stayed long enough to take her outside away from the barking, yelping and confining cage. Outside she relaxed with her handler, but remained almost indifferent to us, there was no immediate joy, no head in the lap staring up at you with adoring eyes, but watching her fetch and run back and forth to her handler I somehow knew she needed to come home with us.
It took my husband a bit longer to warm to her – after all, it was his job to keep a steady head throughout the process – but once she met Boots (more indifference) he finally agreed to take her home.
I was asked by the staff, “Why her?”. It was difficult to answer, you can’t tell someone because you just know. I found out that she had been returned once for jumping (bringing her total amount of time in the shelter up to three months) and they were nervous about letting her go into a home that was not prepared for her activity level. I explained I wanted an active dog, one that was smart and could excel in obedience training and eventually agility. It wasn’t about a specific breed for me (who needs a dog that doesn’t shed?). Most of all, I didn’t bring dogs back, I wasn’t going to give up on her. Once an animal comes into your home it’s for life.
Before we reached home the two year old Australian Cattle Dog/Pointer Lilith was rechristened Luna, and had a new collar and shiny tag to prove it. The indifference towards me melted away as we rode together in the back seat, that “knowing” only intensifying. I commented that it was unbelievable that anyone had ever taken her back, and my husband stated the obvious, it was because she was waiting for us.
She had been waiting for my precious Ari to move on, for me to find her and for her to help me heal. Today Luna rarely leaves my side and every day I am more amazed at how much it feels like she’s always been a part of our family. It doesn’t make the loss of Ari any less painful, but it helps to know that if she was still here the two of them would have loved each other. In fact, I’ve often remarked that if Ari and Sprite had had puppies they would be Luna in personality.
I’ve also learned a lot since she came to live with us, first that the crazy jumping was real. She’s almost broken of it, but get her too excited and she’s jumping right in your face, mouth open. I had forgotten how much energy a young dog can have, but how much fun that energy can be. She keeps the whole house livelier. It’s clear she’s never lived with cats, and although she doesn’t chase them she still stares at them continually when they are in the room. Best of all, I hadn’t needed to worry about her with Miley, she came in knowing the unspoken rule of the household – Miley is the elder. They interact little, but whenever they are around each other Miley always gets a little submissive lick on the chin.
Luna is also the perfect dog to teach me basic training. It’s something I’ve never done in the past but she’s an excellent first time dog to run through it with. It never ceases to amaze me that when we are in class or simply out back running through the paces she turns into a working dog, completely focused and ready to please. Training has only strengthened that bond that formed between the two of us on that first day and I can’t imagine where it will take us.
Lisa (and Luna)