Chapter 1. My Peanut Butter Cup
- She came to me in the spring of 2003. She was just weaned so when I took her to the Vet's office the next day so we used six weeks earlier as her birthday. That would have been the first day of June.
- She was so small, she was barely more than two handfuls. She needed a name, of coarse, and since she looked like someone took a big Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and crushed it up, a tiny mix of orange and brown, my mind went straight to names like Reese, Peanut and Buttercup. Because dogs are not complicated creatures, we give them the simple names we do. So I called her Chocolate. My furry little ball of brindle.
Chapter 2. At Home in Her Bed
- As soon as she arrived you could see she was home, and she knew it. We were made for each other. We marched right over to the house and she went straight for the bed, front paws up on it, doing a little hop and kick with her hind legs, in a vain attempt to jump up on her bed. Being, at most, ten inches, if that, from her little button nose, to the tip of her tail; it wasn't happening. Quickly coming to that conclusion herself, she stopped hopping, her front paws still up against the bottom of the bed; turned her head to look at me as if to say, “What are you waiting for fool? Help me up.”
- Somehow, knowing that it was one of her new possessions, in her new life, she immediately laid claim to it; so, I helped her up onto her new bed. Of course it helped to keep her out from under foot, but she knew that it was going to be where she would spend most of her time when she was in her new home.
- She would spend the next fourteen and a half years snuggling up next to me in that bed. Keeping me warm on cold nights, using me for a pillow; or spend her time lying there, eyeing me obsessively, watching to see what we were to do next, and of coarse, she could tell just by what I was doing. She knew if it was time for dinner or bed, time to take a walk or run an errand. She could even tell what it was we were going to do.
- Now, having to share the bed, it wouldn't be long before I was woken by her squealing at me, because I had rolled over on her. That's when I knew my sleeping habits were going to have to change. It was the beginning of waking up in the morning sore and stiff because I wasn't used to sleeping without thrashing and rolling around. I had learned some time ago that if you wanted to get sore and achy just stay in one place, in one position for any significant length of time. I learned that lesson working in the cannery for a season. I soon found out that it would be easier to walk twenty miles in a day than to stand in one spot for eight hours; even if it is on a rubber mat. After sleeping with her, I found out the same goes when you're lying in a bed. But it's OK. I could live with that. The trade offs were worth it. Between her warm little body and mine we never needed to sleep under anything more than a sheet, even on the coldest of nights.
- So she would sleep, tangled up in my legs, me lying there as still as possible so I didn't hurt her. I'd be waken up in the middle of the night from her fluffing me like a pillow. Also, she was a dreamer.
- Now, I was given to believe that when we dream our bodies go into a state of paralysis so that we couldn't thrash around and injure ourselves as we dream. Now, I've seen video of people thrashing around in the throws of night terrors, but I don't know if that's the same thing. At any rate, dogs never got that memo. She would wake me up because I could feel her scampering away, like she was going to run for miles. Huffing and a puffing and barking away, although it was more like squeals or squeaking, than actually barking.
- One night I woke up, and I thought I was having a nightmare. It took me a moment to realize it was her having one of her dreams on the back of my neck. Once again, she was scampering along, squealing and barking, with quite a bit more exuberance than she usually expressed during one of these episodes. After I had time to get a grip on what was going on, and I could appreciate the comedic value of the situation I immediately had a vision of that commercial where the kid walks in the door and his mother asks him, “How was your day son?”, and he got that reflective look on his face; and then a herd of goats came crashing through the door across the entryway behind him, with a monkey riding one of the goats like a jockey. It was just like that.
- I don't know if that was the funniest thing she ever did in bed though. There was the time, early one morning, I was shaken out of my warm comfortable place in that blessed realm of sleep by a bump up against me. I could feel it was morning and I was coming out of a restful nights slumber, and I thought to myself, 'What the Hell?'
- Now, she would get up and make herself more comfortable during the night. Don't forget, you've got to move around in the night to stay comfortable so I didn't think much of it. This was a little more than just the usual making herself more comfortable. 'What the Hell?' I thought. Did she get up and lose her balance, and fall on me? Even when she was young and strong, walking around on a foam mattress was a tricky proposition. But, then it happened again. Then again. That's when I knew, she was doing it on purpose.
- I realized that the little tramp was done with her beauty sleep and it was time to get up, so she was nudging me to let me know, 'It's morning, time for us to get up.' I just lay there enjoying the humor of it. I didn't get up. I didn't want to set any precedent by responding.
- I was wrong. I should have gotten right up and took her out to do whatever she wanted to do. We could have spent quality time together and she would have had the experience of knowing that I would be there to respond to her needs whenever she called on me. In the end it was just another missed opportunity that I would look back on and regret. You'll never regret that one more walk around the block. You'll regret that, one more walk, you didn't take.
Chapter 3. My Adventurous Little Klutz
- Chocolate was an energetic creature as little puppies are wont to be, but it took our first trip to the corner store to find out what an adventurous animal she was going to be. I pulled in and parked, leaving her in the pickup with the windows rolled down. I got out of the truck and went into the store and as I was walking past the cashier he said, “You're dog just followed you into the store.” As I was turning to see I thought to myself, “You've got to be kidding me, my little puppy is in the pickup.” But there she was, limping after me. She had jumped out the window and came after me. It was also the first indication that she wasn't going to let me go anywhere without her if she had anything to say about it.
- Now, I figured that since the jump, or fall, out of the open pickup window had sprained her leg, at least enough to make her limp, she would have learned the pertinent lesson; little puppies no bigger than a petite ladies shoe shouldn't be taking a four foot leap out of a pickup window. But, lo and behold, the very next day we're off to the store again, and passing the register, once again, “Your dog followed you into the store again.” Not limping this time, it appears the only lesson she learned was how to jump out of the window without injuring herself in the process.
- It also was the first indication of how fearless she was going to be. The kind of fearlessness born of not knowing any better, I think, more than out of any bravery. Actually, she would turn out to be quite the sissy. It was one of her more endearing qualities and it was more than okay with me. I didn't need a bad dog. I do the heavy lifting. She was just a lover; and, she loved everybody.
- Another incident that took place on another trip to the corner store illustrates what I mean clearly. As I've said,we had taken one of our trips to the store and as we pulled in to park, one of our buddies, Jerry was walking up. He saw us pull in so he started walking over toward us, on her side of the pick-up, and as he walked up to her door he threw up his arms like he was going to give her the grizzly bear hug. She immediately turned around and started barking at him to the high heavens, all the while backing up until she was in my lap. She then, proceeded to unload everything she had in her bladder all over my lap. It was a sign of things to come, because she never outgrew her little nervous puppy bladder. Anytime she got excited, she peed.
- It also wouldn't be long before there was an indication of what a klutz she was. We were lounging on the porch, her lying there next to me. She started shimmying around on her back; you know, the way happy dogs do. Like a worm wiggling around. She was right at the edge and she went over just before I could catch her. She fell off right onto an upturned brake drum sitting there like a bowl. She landed right on the lip of the bowl. I had visions of her breaking her back or some ribs, but she just bounced off it, like she would do so many other times in her life and got up and went on her way. I could see it knocked the wind out of her and she did something else that would be a recurring theme in her life; when she had one of these moments she would try to act all nonchalant like nothing happened, and she wouldn't look directly at me, she would look at me askance, kind of out the side of her face, to see if I had seen her in her moment of folly.
Chapter 4. Attack of The Alien
- Then there was the attack of the Alien. That was an episode that demonstrated what a numb nuts a dog could really be.
- Well, one day we were lying around and she jumped down from the bed and went to the door. Now, she was good about that. She didn't even have to be trained to do it. She just knew that she wanted to take her business outside, whatever it may have been. As a matter of fact it would upset her if she should have an accident in the house.
- I got up to go let her out, but I was too late and she started retching. By the time I had gotten to the door she had thrown up so I opened the door and let her out, and I turned around to grab a rag to wipe it up. As I turned back around I was stopped dead in my tracks. Something was growing up out of the puddle of vomit; literally, as I stood there and watched it. I thought to myself, ' What the Hell just came out of my dogs body?'
- Now, this puddle of puke looked perfectly normal when she puked it up. Orange-brownish. Could have been a puddle of puked up dog food. But, as I said it was growing into something that was no longer a puddle of vomit. I backed up. I had visions of some little alien creature scampering around the house after me, trying to invade my body somehow, and reproduce monsters destined to take over the world.
- So, from what I considered a safe enough distance I just waited and watched to see what the Hell was going to happen, and what the Hell this thing was going to turn into, or turn out to be. It continued to grow until it was about the size of one of my fists. It stopped growing, so I eased a little closer, carefully, to see if I could figure out what the Hell this thing was. Just about then it became quite clear. It was a piece of foam.
- You see, I used to collect foam and leather in case I needed to do any upholstery. But of coarse to her, it may as well have been the bouncy whoopie cushion pen at Chucky Cheese; and to boot, as I was soon to find, it was something for her to dig in and chew on. No doubt, to make it more fun to roll in. Now, I don't know how she ever was able to actually swallow that thing, but she did. I guess her stomach was wise enough to know it had no business being inside her and just sent it back up her throat and out her mouth. I can't even imagine why she would want to eat a piece of foam, but she did. I guess she learned the lesson. She never did it again.
Chapter 5. Her Obsession
- It wasn't long before it became evident that she was obsessed with the creatures she would be able to chase for her entertainment. Cats, squirrels and rabbits. She appeared to figure out early that birds weren't going to be worth the effort since they cheated. The nerve; taking off into the sky like that. How is any self respecting hound supposed to chase varmints that would do such a thing.
- Chasing varmints also became a source of many trips to the vets office; owing to the fact that, the creatures she chased, that didn't fly away, ran underneath things for a reason. It would have been nice if she accepted that once they went under something, it meant it was time to stop chasing them. It would have saved her from a lot of injuries. That's the kind of animal she was though. That would never change.
- I must say though, one of the couple times she actually caught a squirrel it made the mistake of scampering under the nearest bush instead of down it's hole. She went right under that bush and drug it out. The chase being over I intervened and we let the squirrel go back to it's business and we moved on. The only other time was when a youngster, probably venturing out of it's hole for the first time, wasn't quick nor aware enough to get back to the safety of it's hole. I shook her off of it, and it went back underground, hopefully to venture out more carefully the next time.
- Apparently, she fancied herself a hound dog. Actually, I got to watch her teach herself how to be a hunting dog. Most people, I think, mistakenly believe little predators are taught how to hunt by their mother while they are pups or cubs, whatever the case may be. That was the old dictum we were all told and I certainly believed; until I saw somebody comment on one of the nature shows that it wasn't the case that they're taught by mom, mom just takes care of them while they are passing through this helpless and, as yet, uninformed part of their life. They actually use this time to learn on their own by trying and failing, and of course, eventually succeeding. Which isn't to say the mother doesn't have a part to play in the process. Observing her skills and successes, I'm sure, plays an important part in the process,but ultimately, it involves learning by doing.
Chapter 6. Medical Insurance: A Good Idea
- Now that I've had the privilege of watching her learn how it's done I see that they are right. I watched her go from thrashing through the bushes to hiding and stalking, and waiting and watching patiently while she observed the situation. She did this all herself. Nobody taught her any of it; and, that was without the advantage of watching an experienced practitioner of the art do it properly. Even with that, she couldn't resist ultimately careening off after them smashing into the things they would scamper under and around.
- So, this also began the period of her life that involved myriad trips to the Vet's office. It was also about this time that I encountered an offer of medical insurance for pets from Petfirst Pet Insurance on the internet. So I looked into it. It sounded like a pretty good deal. It was well beyond that, especially with the accident prone, klutzy, scabby kneed little girl that my little pup turned out to be.
- The cost was very reasonable. It started out at about $350.00 or so a year. It had a $50.00 or $100.00 deductible. I think the payout was about $6000.00 a year. If you've ever taken an animal to the vet you can see how that would come in handy, especially if that animal was as accident prone as my little girl was. She was one of those dogs that the premiums from all the other little dogs, who didn't get sick or injure themselves, paid for. I should think if you did the math you would find that they gave her more money than we ever gave them.
- Being the crazy little hound dog she was; chasing any varmint that crossed her path, with reckless abandon, and not having the sense to even slow down, much less, stop when she came to any of the obstacles said varmints were intelligent enough to introduce her to. Needless to say, this was a period of time in her life that involved many trips to the vet to repair the damage.
- Now, if you should bring home such an animal, that's as lacking in impulse control as she was, constantly crashing through bushes, into vehicles, debris boxes, and the list goes on; I highly recommend you acquire a policy for them. It will save you a lot of money. It certainly did for us; and, it is important to do it as soon as possible. You don't want to wait. You'll want to enroll them as young as possible, after all, one of your first duties, when introducing them into your family, is taking them to the Vet.
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