The joy of a new dog

March 9, 2012

After our 10 year old dog, Cody, died a month ago, we debated staying with only one for a while. Sadly, I am a very boring animal to live with as far as a dog goes, except when we play ball, tug, go for a walk, give food or affection. Paired species are much happier has far as I’m concerned whether they are mated or not. After much talk, we decided having pairs of species is a good thing for that species as well as for the human owners.

It seems to be a fairly common course of action following the death of a pet, that a person/family gets a new one, whether it be a purebred pup or a rescue mutt. I rediscovered that truth when we decided to adopt a eight and a half year old Italian Greyhound named Indy. We haven’t even had him for a week and it has been a real joy.

Our friend, Rob, told us that we would have great karma for adopting an 8 yr old dog: few do that, so he said. We found that to be true when we took him in to our vet who gave Indy his first exam for free. Cool! I was beyond thrilled to find that as we waited to see the doctor, Andy went up to every dog that came in, ranging from a Newfoundland, a pit bull to an yappy little dog, and got along with all of them. Whew!

And, by the way, we decided to change his name to Andy after my late brother. Daniel tested the name on our two hour drive home from the foster parents: he responded instantly, so we went with it. Speaking of his foster family, he had originally been owned by an elderly woman who died. Indy had been with the foster family for almost five months before we adopted him. Something very cool happened just as we were about to leave: Andy went around and hugged [sic] the the kids and the parents, as though saying “good bye, and thank you” and then he came to us, knowing he was going to a new home. Well, maybe I read that into it, but it sure seemed that way.

A few notes about our first few day, especially for dog lovers:

Andy was a perfect traveller for our two hour trip home.
He has an amazing way of hugging you, rubbing his muzzle on each of your cheeks almost like a cat would.
Andy doesn’t sleep in bed with us, or at least he didn’t. His foster parents have three dogs, all Italian Greyhounds, and the alpha female, Pixel, wouldn’t let Indy in the bed: ever. So he slept alone in a dog bed next to the big bed, that had three IGs and two humans. Two nights ago, all of a sudden, he snuck under the covers around 4 am. He won’t sleep on D’s side of the bed as that is where Giaco sleeps and he won’t DARE invade his space.

Making dogs go away is always important whether it be for romantic reasons or cooking, you don’t want dogs hanging around. Our solution is to use the command SHOO. I taught it by taking a metal baking pan and a large wooden spoon and banging it loudly, saying SHOO! SHOO! They hate it. And they leave. And in the future, all you have to say is SHOO in a civilized but firm manner.

Today, to enforce the pack gravity, we walked around our yard multiple times at a vigorous pace as a pack. They were both very good about keeping even with me. They were puzzled as to what I was doing, but they went along with it.

This afternoon, our dogs realized that they have a great stretch in our upper yard that they can RACE across. Up in the corner, we have a grand old Monterrey Pine, Abraham, and lots of animals get on him. Well, now, whenever the dogs see a bird, squirrel, or rabbit up there, they BOLT out of the house, race across the upper yard and scare the living daylights out of whatever animal was there. The first time Andy did it, he flew into the fence, thinking he could climb it to get the squirrel. No, he didn’t get hurt, but it was hilarious. Just now I saw Giaco racing across chasing something. I went out and saw that Andy was trying to get something out from beneath the wooden platform. Then the dogs started going around the platform, obviously chasing something, when all of a sudden out came a rabbit. Both dogs TORE across the yard — picture the side of the Greyhound bus: that’s what they looked like. The rabbit got away, but they kept sprinting back and forth across the yard, getting in touch with BEING GREYHOUNDS and realizing what a very cool thing it is to be one.

Our last IG had an aversion to food: he would look at his meal as though he were certain we were going to poison him, and then he would gag it back. At the end he at less and less and wasted away. Andy had the opposite problem: he LOVES food and goes wild any time it is in preparation. We have done a pretty good job in cooling his jets in that department.

The continued joy of watching this dog get used to a new house, a new yard, a new dog pal and two new owners is exhilarating and has made me very happy. I’ve read that when people show affection to their pets, they both get oxytocin “highs.” People live longer having pets, and I see why. When Andy gives me his hug, I feel amazing. (Fear not: I have my limits, not it’s not kinky, it’s a very, very sweet affectionate hug — the likes of which I have never received from an animal who was not human.)

Italian Greyhounds are remarkably smart. They really understand words, and the gist of a string of words. Yes, I may becoming a batty old dog nerd, but I think it’s true. They are smarter than we know.

My most amazing accomplishment as a dog trainer, is to teach my dogs the concept of time. When they want something, say a walk or food or ride in the car or someone is coming over, I tell them that such and such is going to happen, they react and leap in the air, and then I say “but you have to WAIT.” When they hear the word, WAIT, their ears go down and they slink off and sit somewhere nearby. I really do that think they know it will happen, and that it is not the equivalent of saying NO.

Foster families was careful to give some but not too much affection to their rescue dogs. So it is the adopting family’s job to do that. But, as Cesar Milan says, only after exercise and discipline. All affection without discipline and exercise makes for a yappy, spoiled over-protective dog. So we go back and forth between giving the dog discipline, exercise, attention and affection, to ignoring him and making him figure things out for himself. His previous owner obviously taught him sit: and HOW! When there is food involved, we say “sit” and BAM — his little grey butt is on the floor. Hilarious. Such a good dog.

Ok, I’ll stop and get back to composing. Here is a picture of the dogs in the morning: it’s their job to find the sunniest spots. (Giaco is 10 and is white and grey; Andy is 8.5 and mostly grey.)

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