A post of doggery
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.
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.