Friday, August 29, 2014


The other day I was thinking about how each dog I’ve owned over the years has had some unique or unusual personality trait – some good, some bad, and some just downright weird.

The first dog that comes to mind in the “weird” category is Panda, a little black and white shih-tzu.  Panda had a habit that drove both my husband and me absolutely crazy. She liked to suck on rugs and blankets. 

At the time, we had wall-to-wall carpeting in just about every room. Panda would start at one end of the house and suck just about every inch of carpeting all the way down the hallway. She did this every day for three to four hours straight, and nothing I tried to distract her with helped. I could have dangled a roast in front of her nose and she still would have chosen to continue sucking. In retrospect, I probably should have named her Hoover.

Nights were even worse. Panda wanted to sleep with us, and if we refused, she’d cry outside the bedroom door all night. So inevitably we’d give in and let her in. She’d jump up onto the bed and immediately start sucking the blankets. Then the next morning, she’d hack up a lint ball the size of her head.

I asked the vet why Panda acted that way and how we could stop the habit. The vet said the dog obviously had been weaned too soon. That explanation might have made sense when she still was a puppy, but when she was about 12 and still doing it, well, it was just plain strange. The vet suggested we spray the carpet with bitter lemon. She said the taste of it was so bad, it would make Panda never want to put her mouth anywhere near carpeting again.

As it turned out, Panda learned to love bitter lemon.

Then there was Molly, the Doberman. I got Molly when she was eight weeks old from a breeder who lived out in the middle of the woods near Rochester. The first thing I noticed about the puppy was she had bumps all over her body.

“Oh, those are nothing,” the breeder told me with a wave of her hand when I asked about them. “They’re just puppy pimples. They’ll go away.”

When I took Molly to the vet for her first wellness exam, the vet immediately touched the bumps on her.

“Oh, those are just puppy pimples,” I told her.

The look the vet gave me clearly told me she thought I’d stopped at several bars on the way to clinic.

“Those are flea and tick bites,” she said. “I’ve never heard of puppy pimples!”

After Molly reached adulthood, something strange happened. Suddenly, every dog we came across tried to attack her. Whenever I took Molly for a walk, the poor dog usually would end up being bullied and pounced on, sometimes to the point of needing stitches.

And it didn’t matter how small the other dog was. One time, we passed a woman who was walking her pug. The pug took one look at Molly, tore the leash out of the owner’s hand and went straight for Molly’s jugular.  The woman just stood there, her mouth hanging open, and said, “I’ve never seen Pugsie (or whatever the dog’s name was) act like that before!”

It got to the point where Molly would see me getting out her leash for a walk and she’d run and hide. I guess I couldn’t blame her. I don’t think I’d have liked to go for walks, either, if it meant getting beaten up all the time.

Once again, I asked the vet for an explanation. “Molly’s getting a complex,” I told her. “Other dogs take one look at her and attack her, yet she gives them absolutely no reason to. I mean, she doesn’t even so much as glance at the other dogs.”

The vet was puzzled. She said maybe Molly was producing some kind of scent that incited aggression in other dogs and made her smell like a threat to them.

So I bought a can of doggie deodorant and sprayed her with it, hoping it would mask her attack-inducing scent. It didn’t help. Even worse, it attracted mosquitoes.

There were more unusual dogs over the years: Brandy, the Lhasa Apso that used to run around in circles out in the yard until he passed out from exhaustion; Sabre, the rottweiler that couldn’t swim and sank like a boulder, yet loved the water so much, she’d jump right into it (even off the end of a pier); Shadow, the rottweiler that absolutely refused to walk on shiny surfaces like tile or linoleum, and finally, my current two rottweilers, Willow and Raven.

This is how Willow sleeps!
I could write an entire book about those two. For example, Willow taught herself (and then generously shared her knowledge with Raven) how to open doors. And she greets people by head-butting their crotches. Willow will climb up stairs but will not, not under any circumstances, go down them – even if there are only two or three.

Raven growls at everything – the kitchen chairs, the lamp, the toilet – and for some unknown reason, is terrified of trash bags and the sound of drawers being opened. Also, every time she urinates, she buries it - like a cat. My yard has so many holes in it because of her, it resembles a land-mine field.

And that’s just for starters.


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