Monday, June 14, 2010


The problem with adopting a full-grown dog is that I know nothing about her habits, her past history or her quirks, which feels, at times, as if I’m sticking my foot into shark-infested waters, waiting to see if anything will snap off a toe.

All I knew about Raven when I adopted her last month was that she was a rottweiler stray from Virginia and was 25 lbs. underweight and about a year-and-a-half old. Whether or not she was spayed, housebroken, had a past history of shredding pant legs attached to UPS deliverymen or liked fillet of cat rump for a snack, was a complete mystery.

The minute I brought Raven home, we learned two things about her…she wasn’t housebroken and she was obsessed with food.

When I was cooking dinner that first night, she circled me as if she were a vulture waiting for something to kick the bucket. When I dropped the spoon I was using to stir the soup, she swooped in so fast and grabbed it, only the breeze told me she’d been there.

I decided to offer her a bowl of dry dog food. Before I even was able to set the bowl on the floor, Raven pounced on it, knocked it out of my hand and spilled it everywhere. Then, like a turbo-suction vacuum cleaner, she inhaled every bit of food within one-tenth of a second. Afterwards, she picked up the empty bowl in her teeth and flung it, as if attempting to knock more food out of it.

Calming Raven’s obsession with food has been a constant challenge. Whenever my husband and I try to eat a meal, she sits in the kitchen doorway and stares at us with wide, unblinking eyes…and drools like a rottweiler waterfall.

“She’s going to come pounce on us at any minute,” my husband said at the dinner table the other night. He crouched down and turned his head away from her as he shoved a forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth.

Even when we’re not eating, she stares at us in the same way.

“She makes me nervous,” I said to my husband during one of Raven’s recent unrelenting stares. “I swear she’s picturing me smothered in gravy!”

When I brought her to the vet’s for her physical, I learned that she had an upper respiratory infection. She also tested positive for heartworm. And as far as being spayed, a surgical scar couldn’t be found anywhere on her abdomen.

“The vet told me to wait to see if she goes into heat before we spay her,” I told my husband when I got home. “I’ve never had a dog that went into heat before. How am I supposed to tell when it happens?”

“That’s easy,” he said, not looking away from his TV program, “she’ll probably go down to the local bar and try to pick up sailors.”

I decided to look up the information on the Internet.

The one good thing about having a constantly ravenous dog is that she’ll do just about anything for food. When I was housebreaking her, I would give her a treat every time she did her duty out in the yard. After she caught on that going outside to empty her bladder instead of doing it on the rug meant a treat, she’d go to the door every 15 minutes, urinate one drop outside and then run over to check my hand for a cookie.

The first time I took Raven for a walk, I didn’t know what to expect. If we met another person, or heaven forbid, another person walking a dog, would she attack? If people tried to pet her, would I have to dig their fingers out of her teeth?

Sure enough, we walked past a house where a dog was sitting unrestrained on the front lawn. Raven stopped and looked at him. He looked back. I tightened my grip on her leash.

The other dog trotted down his driveway and over to Raven. They sniffed each other. He wagged. She licked his nose. I breathed a sigh of relief. The dog’s owner then came down the driveway to retrieve him. She extended her hand to Raven. Raven licked it, which was a good sign…or at least I hoped it was. The thought did cross my mind that she might just be sampling the woman so she could decide which condiments would taste best with her.

I have witnessed only one incidence of aggression since bringing Raven home. Our other dog, Willow, underwent leg surgery two weeks ago and came home with one of those big plastic, megaphone-shaped collars on her head. She had trouble maneuvering around with it, crashing into walls and furniture. She whined. She pawed at it, trying to get if off. She whined some more.

Raven sat and quietly watched Willow suffering with the collar for about an hour. Then, without warning, she pounced on her, grabbed the collar in her teeth and ripped it right off her head. She spent a few more minutes shredding the plastic, then trotted over to me, dropped the mangled collar at my feet and walked off.

I had a really hard time keeping a straight face.

I’m pleased to say that Raven is doing really well. She’s completely housebroken, has gained over 10 pounds, is obedient, isn’t destructive in any way (other than the plastic collar), has recovered from her respiratory infection and is very affectionate. I even, without thinking, took a rawhide bone out of her mouth the other night and didn’t end up needing a fingernail transplant.

The food obsession, however, continues. I swear she can zero in on a crumb of food at 200 yards. And when she hears me anywhere near her dish and thinks she’s about to be fed, she gets so excited, running, jumping and dancing, you’d swear someone had slipped her some puppy uppers.

This week, she will have her first heartworm treatment, and I must confess to being nervous about it because it’s a pretty brutal regimen and will take its toll on the poor dog. During the treatment, the vet said she will have to be kept perfectly quiet for about six weeks.

If that’s the case, I think the vet had better hook her up to an IV for all of her feedings because the mere sight of food will make her do back flips.

I also think (solely for the sake of the dog’s well-being, of course) that my husband and I should go out to eat every night.