Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Smart Dogs, Dumb Choices: Part Two

After reading my post on smart dogs, Peter remarked that I should have written about Caper, the second dog of the life we had in Wheaton. He's right - Caper totally qualifies for the "smart dog" designation and I don't write about Caper with the same frequency I write about Kodiak.

Kodiak was MY dog whereas Caper was Peter's dog, so I feel a little funny writing about Peter's dog. More to the point, he's not our dog at all anymore. When we started the search for new homes for our animals, a friend of Peter's sister fell in love with his picture and now Caper is living the life of luxury and indulgence in California. I've never even been to California but my ex-dog lives there. Kodiak is still a part of my family, albiet my extended family. (Sometimes, on our weekly phone chats, my dad runs out of things to say to me and puts Kodiak on the phone.)

So, today is about Caper, since this is the anniversary of the day we adopted Caper - 22 February 2003.

Caper was everything I never wanted in a dog – smart, young, and high-energy. He was a blur, a force of nature, forty pounds of pure energy, a truck that hit us head-on.

We wanted a companion for Kodiak and Peter had his heart set on a Blue Heeler. We set up a time to check out a two-year-old Blue Heeler mix who was listed on a web site as obedient, a good listener, and good with children and cats.

On a blustery morning, we drove 80 miles to a small shelter. The attendant brought the dog into a cramped office to meet us. He was in motion the entire visit - jumping on us, the chair, the edge of the desk. Several red flags flapped in the small space, but we ignored them. He had a great face – expressive eyes under brown eyebrows and ringed by a black mask, the distinctive white blaze of an Aussie Cattle dog, endearingly floppy ears. We couldn’t say no to that face.

At home, it was readily apparent that the dog was not quite as advertised. He was just barely a year old He chased the cats with a gleeful vengeance. Commands were noise to him. He was only marginally housebroken. Kodiak spent the first night staring at me with doleful eyes, the thought bubble above his head practically screaming, “What are you doing to me?”

I wanted to call him "Badger" because it's a funny word and he had a white-stripe on his head, but it soon became apparent that "Badger" and "bad dog" were far too closely related. We christened him Caper after the playful way he pranced and frolicked.

Do you get the dog you want or do you get the dog you need, even if he’s not what you think you need? Dogs work in mysterious ways. Despite the accidents on the carpet, Caper improved our lives. He kept Kodiak and us active. The rigorous training he required forced us to become better handlers. The pure joy he displayed bounding around the backyard reminded me to take the time to enjoy the simple things. The athletic way he moved made me appreciate the job his breed does.

If I’d known the truth about Caper, I would never have agreed to even look at him. But I’m glad that we did. He added a spark and excitement to our lives and I miss him.


At 23 February 2006 at 22:15, Blogger weese said...

nice positive spin. here is a question tho. did Kodiak eventually come to enjoy Caper?
we keep thinking of getting a pal for our dog. but the last thing i want to have happen is for her to look at us as if to say...why did you do this :o)

At 24 February 2006 at 17:59, Blogger -Ann said...

"Enjoy" is probably too strong a word. Kodiak did come to tolerate Caper. They were never curl-up-together sorts of dog-brothers, but they did peacefully co-exist. They also romped together.

If Caper had been closer to the age he was meant to be when we got him (2 or 3) instead of like 11 months, it would probably have been a smoother transition. Caper was way too puppy for old-man Kodiak. But Caper was easy-going and respected Kodiak's top-dog status, so it was all good after the initial introductions were worked out.

Dogs are pack animals and, for the most part, I think they prefer to be at least in pairs. (Especially if they're home alone a lot.) As long as you know your dog's personality (and know your dog is okay with other dogs), you can probably find a good match. Just beware of stray dogs in shelters - not because there's anything wrong with them but because they are often not as advertised.

Good luck!

At 24 February 2006 at 18:42, Blogger Terri said...

We also had to leave our dogs behind when we moved to Ireland. It broke my heart. As for choosing a dog - I sometimes think it's more a case of the dog chooses you.

At 24 February 2006 at 22:19, Blogger weese said...

ah...two good pieces of advice. I will go with Terri's for now, and just wait for a dog to choose us :o)

At 25 February 2006 at 01:52, Blogger Mirty said...

When my Lab was a year old, I brought home another pound puppy. The two of them hit it off very well. I guess that's just luck. I brought home my third puppy about a year later, and Meiko (female) immediately went into Mommy mode and adopted the little furball. Now the three of them are bonded together very well.

But then I moved in with Ted, and his dog, a Basenji, has never melded with my dogs. She's quite aloof.

At 27 February 2006 at 18:39, Blogger Arbusto said...

Badger badger badger badger badger oooh a snake, a snake ooohh. badger badger.

I am going to have so many pets when I'm finally able. Screw paying back student loans.

At 28 February 2006 at 21:43, Blogger Cormac said...

Tá mé chomh dúr le slis.

At 1 March 2006 at 11:39, Blogger -Ann said...

Arbusto - when we have our own place again, I've been promised a pack of dogs. :)

Cormac - if I'm understanding you correctly, that was our Kodiak through and through. Caper just never applied himself.


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