A post of doggery

February 9, 2012 at 12:00 am 6 comments

Since Eva was so nice as to request such a post and because my new canine buddy Millie is the thing foremost on my mind, I now present LT’s first ever dog post! In the interest of staying true to the blog’s mission (so to speak), this is not just a “hey, meet my dog, y’all!” post. It’s also a series of short reviewlets about dog books I’ve read in the past few months.

Those of you who have met me in person have probably noticed that, in addition to my propensity to try and steer any conversation towards books, my love of dogs comes up in pretty short order. Maybe there’s a dog taking his or her walk I must gasp over while we’re talking. Or maybe there’s some vaguely relevant story about a news-worthy dog I’m able to (gracefully, of course!) slip into our conversation. Or maybe I’m totally tactless and just start yammering on about a cute dog I saw or how something reminded me of my old dog earlier or just wouldn’t it be great if I had one and what do you think of these breeds?

My mother informs me that I’m quite the broken record.

Suffice it to say, I’ve wanted a dog for a long time. My dearly beloved childhood pet, Posie, died during my junior year of college, an event followed by much general heartbreak and sporadic weeping. Apart from the specific tragedy of Posie no longer being in my life (no more seeing her skip, no more getting frustrated with her continual herding of all members of the family into one room, no more effusively/insanely happy greetings at the end of the day), it was like a blow to my personal sense of identity not to have a dog. I’m Corey. I like reading, baking, and general historical randomness and I have dog. That was me.

But suddenly it wasn’t. It felt odd and empty not to be able to say that. Since her death, I’ve thought about getting another dog a lot. Obsessively, some might say. But up until this past September, I was not yet in a position to get another dog, even though I was desperately sure I wanted one. Either I worked too far from home or I was on the verge of moving to another country or I just didn’t have the free time. Something or other made me pause and not rush into things.

Cut to my current life: I live 10 minutes away from my job, which is as steady a 9-to-5-type job as can be (no overtime, no evening and weekend commitments), and I am not planning on moving to England anytime in the near future (sad, but true). The time seemed right, finally. I started haunting Petfinder and Adoptapet.com even more avidly than I had for the past five years.

In the end, things happened very quickly. After months of perusing the online pet adoption sites (and researching some breeders, too, after having no luck with adoption), one Monday afternoon I wrote to a rescue group to inquire about a raggedy little mix, part poodle and part schnauzer they thought. What followed was entirely whirlwind, but some internal debate, communication snafus, and carpe dieming later, it was suddenly Saturday and there she was, after an entire day of driving up with 40 other dogs from North Carolina, in my lap: my dog. I’m Corey. I have a dog. At last!

I named her Millie after Amelia Edwards, the prominent lady Egyptologist who inspired my graduate studies. (Posie being named after an American Girl character, something hugely important to me when we got her, it seemed appropriate to pick something important to this life stage for Millie’s name.) She was born in October 2010 and is thus just out of her puppyhood proper. I’m hoping this means she’s more amenable to training than not.

We’re still not sure what breed Millie is (so far various professionals from the rescue group to the vet to the groomer have suggested that she is part poodle, part Maltese, part schnauzer, and/or part Yorkie, which explains why she is so much tinier than I expected her to be), but that hardly matters since she’s proven herself to be an exceptionally good little rescue dog, regardless of her breeding. She was housebroken within 48 hours of arriving at home (a fairly remarkable accomplishment for a dog formerly entirely unacquainted with a leash, a collar, or the outside), remains almost entirely silent (ideal for an apartment-dwelling dog), and likes nothing better on earth than to sit in a lap—ideally mine, but she’ll take almost anyone’s.

This isn’t to say she doesn’t have a lot to work on: she’s still pretty terrified of her daily walks. She’ll go and do her business, but she clearly doesn’t enjoy it—she shakes and cowers a lot outside, particularly when there’s a big dog, horse, jogger, or old man in the vicinity. She also still needs to learn to love her crate. Again, she’ll go and hang in there during the day, but she always tries to squirm out when I put her in and she has made Houdini-like escapes from it (still not sure how!). She could also be a little less obsessed with following me around (I should have named her Shadow, not Millie, to judge by her behavior) and eat a bit more than she currently does, but on the whole I think I really lucked out in terms of rescue dogs. She’s agreeable, calm, and totally non-aggressive. And, in my totally biased opinion, she’s super-cute.

She might be cute, but she is not easy to capture on film!

So I’m alternately freaking out about if I’m doing everything correctly and thanking the lord for the plethora of online dog forums, blogs, and websites that simply weren’t available when we got Posie back in 1994. For the most part, reading various dog and puppy books made me feel a bit more prepared, but, as they tell you about children, all your reading goes out the window when you’re dealing with an individual and your unique situation. Googling specific issues has often proved more effective.

That said, here are some of the books I referenced before and directly after getting Millie, with some short thoughts about each:

Before & After Getting Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar
I read this first and was terrified. He’s a bit over-the-top and alarmist for me, but his basic methods were revolutionary when he first started writing and his books are highly recommended by just about everyone. A good first read.

The Puppy Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Guide to Early Training and Care by Paul Owens and Terence Cranendonk with Norma Eckroate
Very similar to The Dog Whisperer, also by Paul Owens, so I didn’t bother reading both. I liked them better than Dunbar since they seemed a little less concerned with getting it right all the time. You’re only human, new dog owner, you’re going to mess up sometime!

The Puppy Primer by Patricia B. McConnell and Brenda Scidmore
This very short dog book pretty much sums up and/or reduces everything you’d find in Dunbar or Owens. This might be helpful if you’re in a rush to soak up dog-related knowledge, but I would take the time to read the others if you can. I found it not very helpful. As a specific example, the authors advised never putting a dog’s crate by a window since all the activity will apparently drive them crazy during the day. So Millie spent a week and a half in her crate away from all windows, unhappily craning her nose through the bars trying to see something other than the kitchen floor. We moved her crate to a window and voila! A calmer, happier dog with something to do during the day other than wig out about being alone. (Points for a super-cute cover dog, though.)

Petfinder.com: The Adopted Dog Bible by Kim Saunders
Totally invaluable. This book was amazing. Everyone who is thinking about adopting a rescue dog (or already has) should check this out. While most dog books assume you’re getting a brand new puppy, this book is really terrific at exploring the major differences you’ll encounter when adopting a dog after it has already had its own experiences and life elsewhere. It also provides really detailed suggestions about what you’ll need to stock up on, what to do during your rescue dog’s first few days, and what is (and isn’t) to be expected of your new adopted dog. A really great resource.

There are plenty of dog books out there, so this is just a sampling. On the whole, I’d recommend reading as many books as possible so you can synergize what feels right for you and your dog. What I’ve learned is that Millie is quite unlike most of the dogs I read about, which is alternately challenging and a complete delight.


Entry filed under: Musings and Essays, Non-fiction. Tags: , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Julie @ Read Handed  |  February 9, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Congrats on your dog! Millie looks a bit like a Caryn terrier. She’s adorable!

    • 2. Corey  |  February 10, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Thanks on both counts! I’m enjoying her tiny-ness a lot more than I expected. :)

      And I’ll add Cairn terrier to list of possible breeds!

  • 3. Eva  |  February 9, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Awwwwwwww!!!! Can you hear me squealing all the way from Texas? How big is she? Thistle was 9 lbs when I got her and now she’s around 10.5-11 (still smaller than our cat, lol). Her personality sounds a lot like Thistle’s too (except Thistle tends to get spooked more inside than outside, but then her past history is being left in a yard all day, so she’s used to outdoor stuff)! The rescue group I adopted Thistle from thought she was a poodle/yorkie mix…I’m sure she’s some kind of poodle/terrier cross but who knows which one? Now that her fur’s grown in, whenever I take her out somewhere w a crowd I inevitably hear one ‘Toto!’ comment, so Julie’s mention of Cairn terriers made me smile.

    And now I’m going to seriously stop my incessant rambling. I’m a huge dog person and wasn’t able to have one for years (my parents are not dog people), so finally having Thistle makes me just want to talk about her/dogs in general all the time!

    • 4. Corey  |  February 10, 2012 at 10:48 am

      I thought I heard a happy noise yesterday morning … ;P

      I’m really glad to hear that Thistle gained some weight after you got her. (Any words of 1-year-in wisdom from your rescue experience are much appreciated!) Millie is hovering around 6 lbs and was just skin and bones when we got her. I think she ought to be in the 8-10 lb range (I was expecting 15 lb dog!), so I spend a lot of time trying to entice her to eat more. She isn’t particularly motivated by food, weirdly, so she can’t be too easily coaxed.

      It’s so funny that Thistle is spooked indoors! It must be very nice to have her be calm and happy outside, though. And she seems to enjoy a good lap-snuggle, judging by your posts featuring her. :)

      And don’t feel compelled to stop dog-related ramblings! I am exactly the same way and can never find people to ramble to, so we can both have an outlet! My ramble for the day: I was really pleased yesterday when Millie had her first happy-tail outside moment. Normally her tail is either lowered or firmly tucked between her legs in abject terror at the big world around her, so when she randomly started wagging her tail outside yesterday, I was completely jazzed. Tiny victories!

    • 5. Eva  |  February 14, 2012 at 5:01 am

      Thistle is v food-motivated, so I didn’t have a problem getting her to eat (in fact, my problem is slowing her down because she inhales her food so fast I’m afraid she’ll get that twisted stomach thing). But rather than give her extra food to help her gain weight, I just added some olive oil on top. maybe you could try that with Millie? Poor pup: I hope she puts on those pounds soon! And she must be tiny: I can imagine your surprise if you were expecting essentially ‘double’ the dog! I was confused when I picked Thistle up because in the video she had longer, terrier fur, and when I got her they’d just given her the most unflattering poodle cut imaginable. lol But at least that wasn’t a health risk!

      She’s all about laps & spending as much time as possible in them. :D And she’s definitely gotten a lot better about dealing with loud indoor noises over the past year; I mainly just made sure she was exposed to them & that nothing else strange/out of the ordinary happened when she heard the noises. I’d love to eventually have her be a therapy dog, because she loves laps & is very calm, but considering all of the big/noisy things in the hospital, that’ll probably take another year or two to socialise her more (at least we have a PetSmart & PetCo close by, so I can take her other indoor places to practice). And I only want to do it if she enjoys it too. :)

      Congrats to you & Millie on her outdoor tail wag! That’s awesome, and I bet now that she has you she’ll progress in leaps and bounds! I can’t think of any general ‘wisdom’ to share (lol), but I’d be happy to do my best to answer any specific questions. :D

  • 6. On balance and reading | Literary Transgressions  |  September 3, 2015 at 2:04 am

    […] for fun. I’ll leave school and compensate for the lack by reading like a fiend. I’ll get a dog and be too tired to do anything let alone read. I’ll move to a place with an amazing library […]


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