"That didn't take long" I said to Nikki when she handed me her phone. She was getting ready for work and I was barely awake.
"I know, she's pretty cute isn't she?"
I knew we were all in the second I looked at the photo. Damn.
Less than 24 hours earlier we made the excruciating decision to put our beloved Bella down. It was the right thing to do, but it was still devastating. We were working on processing the emotions and dealing with a dog-less house for the first time in 19 years. Empty. Everything felt empty.
I took a closer look and the adrenaline I felt completely surprised me. I knew we would get another dog eventually, but I didn't think I could feel this excited about a dog so quickly. No doubt it was the resemblance that reeled me in. The puppy looked eerily similar to Bella when she was young. Within an hour I had the required adoption forms completed and I told Nikki as she left for work, "I'm gonna go get her."
"Olive", she said, "Let's call her Olive."
According to the rescue agency (The Dog Spot Rescue), Olive's mother is a Treeing Walker Coonhound and the father is unknown. She was one of a litter of 9 puppies, living outside in squalid conditions, arriving at our house having been treated for giardia, kennel cough, and various parasites. The owner didn't speak much English, but the staff was able to convince her to give the puppies up for adoption. All indications were that the dogs would have been given away to people in the neighborhood, or grocery store, or whatever, all sickness included. The odds against her survival were long. She wasn't off to a good start in life.
Prior to adopting Olive I had never heard of a Treeing Walker Coonhound so I immediately set about learning more. Through diligent reading I've come to find out I'm in for a mess of shit. This breed is known for being very intelligent and stubborn. Both of these traits have been clearly manifest in our brief two weeks together in her actions and (dog) words. We're working on coming to a resolution.
Her intelligence was at the forefront of our initial interactions. Hell, within a matter of days, Olive appeared to understand the concept of going potty. She begged to go out, then promptly did her business and ran back inside. "I can't believe how easy this is," I thought. Then, she showed the dark side of her intelligence: She used me as a springboard to get onto the couch, which she couldn't reach otherwise. "Nikki, did you see that?", I screamed. I had to read some more to find out if that happened the way I thought it did. I found this on Wikipedia:
"This breed is highly intelligent, and consequently they require absolute consistency of training, as they look for loopholes to exploit. They may attempt to negotiate, responding to human direction by offering an alternative course of action they prefer. They have been known to use objects as tools or to manipulate their environment to accomplish a task (e.g., moving furniture to climb over gates, using household objects to manipulate kennel mechanisms, etc.).
Uh-oh. If she had thumbs she'd be a primate.
In the next several days I saw all of these traits play out. The first day I put her in her pen we had a huge negotiation about her thoughts on this matter. She protested when I put her in the pen so I gave her my best alpha dog stare and used my deepest voice to put her firmly in her place.
"No!" I bellowed with an intense gaze.
She considered my offering for a brief second, then gave me a counter offer.
"HELL NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" she said emphatically, looking me directly in the eye the whole time. Then she sat and stared at me.
This was repeated several times.
The negotiation seemed to be going well. Both parties stated their case with equal vigor. I stated my position and she offered an alternative course of action. Wow, raising dogs is really rational and rewarding, except for the fact that I'm supposed to win. This conversation made me realize I needed the upper hand in the negotiations and I saw the solution in the form of a squirt bottle.
Initially, the bottle has an element of surprise to it that a puppy can't quite figure out. A stream of water magically appears from the heavens and startles them into ceasing the current behavior. This worked for a short amount of time until she figured out where the water came from. Then she got a gleam in her eye.
(Olive Digging a huge chunk of grass out of the ground):
Me: SQUIRT! No, stop digging!
Olive: (shakes water off of her head, looks at me out of the corner of her eye). KNOCK IT OFF!
Me: (SQUIRT, SQUIRT, SQUIRT).
Olive: (Shakes head again, butt in air) Seriously!? That's annoying. STOP! (continues digging)
Me: (SQUIRT SQUIRTSQUIRTSQUIRTSQUIRT).
Olive: (Hauls ass over to new spot and starts frantically digging) F*&ckin' thing don't reach over here does it, smart ass?
And so it goes, a battle of wills that I imagine is just beginning in this great adventure of raising a puppy.
I write this stuff down because much of it will be forgotten when she's mature and "normal" life has returned. I've never had kids, but having a puppy in my 40's makes me understand the irrational impulse to shake a baby. She's infuriating, frustrating, time consuming, and demanding. And she has me wrapped around her finger because she is absolutely loving and trusting. At the end of the day when she's tired and plops her head in my lap, she owns me. I'm all in again.
|Bella on the left at 5 and Olive at 3 months|
|Olive at the Casa Madrona hotel|
|She spends all day plotting how to get on the couch, but when I place her on the bed for a photo, she frantically tries to get down.|
|Christmas Table Center Piece|
|Looking guilty, although she hadn't done anything wrong.|