Live and Learn

Sometimes in life, we make a decision that we think will solve a problem only to find out that it creates more problems. And so it was with our enthusiasm to get a dog.

Let's start with the fact that neither of us has ever owned a dog before. Cats are pretty easy creatures to live with most of the time. They're independent and don't require a lot of teaching. Dogs on the other hand, need a lot of training to be creatures that blend seamlessly into the family. When you have to learn how to train a dog at the same time while you are attempting to do so, and learning how to read a dog's behaviour and nuances in expression, it becomes a full time job. And so it was with the lovely fellow we had for a week.

Enter Bane, a sweet pit bull that was brimming with love and good temperament. At 2.5 yrs old he was young and came from a rescue group in New Brunswick. He had an autoimmune disease that gave him a lot of skin issues, and because he spent the first part of his life so very ill he nearly died, he was still a puppy in his head. Albeit, a 45 lb puppy that didn't know he was a little large to be exuberantly climbing into your lap. He was a bull in a china shop that knocked everything down. I couldn't take my eyes off him for a moment lest I find him into something like eating cat poop out of the litter box. Not a good thing for a dog that is on special hypoallergenic food. He couldn't bear to be alone and so any efforts to leave him outside or shut him in a room for a while resulted in the most piteous of crying and howling that could wrench even the hardest heart. But he was sweet and loving and so we fumbled along watching dog training videos and asking advice from dog owning friends.

Day two was probably the most traumatic day, as much for him as it was for us (mostly me). Pouring rain coming down in torrents, out I went to tend to the chickens (part of my morning chores). I let him out to do his business but since he was always trying to be joined to my hip he naturally followed. I left him outside the pen as I reached into the coop to set food down and collect the eggs. He howled and cried like a baby outside the pen not eight feet away. I had two lovely eggs in my hand when a gray streak shot over my shoulder and into the coop. His tail wagging and full of excitement to have found me he had no idea the pandemonium that was ensue. Chickens shrieking and flapping all over, 3 sneak out the door and one gets cornered. She's flapping and freaking and so he goes to grab her and I reach for his collar to yank him back. The collar comes off in my hand and Bane has Dottie's back end in his mouth. Although he is surprisingly holding her delicately she is understandably in panic mode after her near brush with death in the grip of a fox just a few weeks ago. Since Bane's jaw is open fairly wide in his attempt to hold her gently, I was able to reach my hand in his mouth and tell him to drop her. He does and I toss her out.

Now the chickens are out and he wants to jump out and join them to play with them! Due to the pouring rain we are both soaked and covered in pine shavings and without a collar to grab he is slipping through my arms. It's like trying to hold a greased pig so my only choice is to close the coop doors and lock him in. Now he's crying again, three chickens have scattered and one is lying limply on the ground. I pick her up and look her over, there isn't a mark, there's no blood and examination of legs/wings/back show there are no broken bones. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with her other than shock. I place her in the workshop building where we still had a temporary pen set up for a sick chicken months ago. Off to find the others, two are quickly located and tossed in with her. They are standing guard over her and clucking when I go off in search of the last one. I find her in the bush deep under a fir tree, so on my hands and knees crawling through the branches and brush to get her. By the time I get her in with the rest and run to the house for some Remedy for the shocked chicken I arrive just in time to see her expire. Poor thing basically died of fright. I laid her to the side while I fixed up a makeshift coop in the workshop since there was no way to clean up the mess of broken eggs and smell of dog in the coop with the pouring rain. That settled I went off to get the dog to the house.

Now I have a leash that I wrapped around his neck and hooked onto itself in order to walk him to the house. My sweat pants are now so sodden with the weight of wetness that they have stretched beyond the length of my legs and with a tugging bull dozer on the leash I literally tripped and stumbled to the house. Once inside I told him I was SO not pleased and he clearly knew. I locked him in the mudroom while I got into some dry clothes and a glass of wine to calm my nerves. While normally there would be a half hour or more of crying he just sat there in silence and not a peep came out of him all afternoon. Even during the visit by a friend who came for moral support, he was quiet as a mouse. When Todd got home and let him in the livingroom he did nothing but wag his tail and try to 'kiss' us to death. So we were off to a shaky start already and learning just how much work training a dog can be. To his credit the next day when he wanted to walk over and investigate the flattened fence at the coop, he stopped and returned when his name was called. Progress! So we figured we'd hang in there.

On day 3 I noticed that he seemed to be sleeping peacefully beside me on the couch at bedtime and so rather than shutting him in the mudroom and listening to the howling I locked him in the livingroom leaving him on the couch. He looked at me as I closed the door but not a peep out of him. This was wonderful! So the next evening we did the same. However, with all the stress and change of food, during the night he had diarrhea. Little did I know when I came into the room in the morning that he had deposited a pile of poo the size of a cow pattie right in front of the door. I opened the door, stepped in the middle, slid and nearly landed on my backside. Poor fellow had been very good with holding his business until let out but understandably this was a difficult circumstance. My back which was already giving me grief didn't fare well after the slipping and flailing to avoid landing in it, but how could I be angry at him?

On day 5 I decided to take him for a car ride as he was always running for the car. I stopped the car at a tourist spot to make a delivery. I opened the back hatch expecting to put the leash on and let him toilet but he shot out like a cannon and took off down the road and around the corner. Now I'm in panic mode again screaming his name and fearing I've lost him. After about 6 attempts to call him back he comes halfway back and stops to peak around the corner at me. Thankfully a jingle of keys and a wave of the treat bag brought him the rest of the way back. Then while I left him in the car with the air conditioning running to make my delivery, he cried and howled so loud I felt like everyone in the parking lot was staring at me wondering what I had done to this poor dog.

We had mild successes in training but he was such a clown it was hard to get him to take us seriously. I'm sure he spotted us as a couple of soft natured newbies and figured he'd have a little fun with us. Teaching him to lay down sort of worked except he'd lie on his back with feet in the air with a big grin on like he was teasing us. We got a crate which he would obediently go into....and then turned around and come back out as soon as he got his treat for going in. You could throw a ball and he would run and touch his nose to it and then come back without it. On two separate occasions he saw fit to pick it up and bring it back but mostly he just left it lying there for you to retrieve. When I tried to wipe him down with the special shampoo spray he came with he refused. 'Nooowoowooo' he'd say and back away hiding his head under the bean bag hassock or under his front leg. No amount of soft coos or treats would convince him.

Introduction to the cats went well from his perspective. He lay peacefully and quietly to allow them to check him out but as soon as he stood up to move lazily over to sniff they panicked and ran knocking down anything in the way. His sheer size and imposing large pit bull head made him seem intimidating even though he was really just a marshmallow by nature. And so they lived mostly upstairs. He loved to sit and watch Einstein when he was whistling and talking. But mostly he followed me around the house from room to room lying down at my feet and making me trip over him a dozen times a day. He loved nothing more than to lie beside a human on the couch resting half in your lap and looking at you with the most doleful eyes.

Between walking, training, general care and watching him every second of the day to keep him from getting into stuff and listening to the howling and crying whenever we tried to get a respite from him, we found that having him was a full time job. By the end of the week we were both exhausted. Todd said it reminded him of the early days when his son was an infant and there was diaper changes, night feedings and rocking a crying baby to sleep only to have him start up the minute he stopped rocking. My eyes didn't just have bags under them, it was a full set of luggage. The laundry had piled chin high, the house was a mess, vegetables that should have been picked in the garden were getting over ripe, and the stock for my skin care business was nearly depleted. I got nothing done all week because the dog took every minute of our time and energy. We finally raised the white flag and decided to send him back to the rescue group. We cried a little because at the base of it all, he was a good natured dog and had quickly worked his way into our hearts. But we were not the right owners for him, and he was not the right dog for us. We needed a dog who loved to be outside watching over things and he preferred to be in the house. And so with heavy hearts we drove him back to New Brunswick. Because of his health issues we felt terrible at the thought no one else would give him a chance as they had been trying to place him for a year and half. We were relieved to be assured that he had a place with the foster home or the organizer regardless. After spending $5K in vet bills to save this dog, they were not going to fail him even if it meant keeping him themselves. He is definitely a loveable character and we won't soon forget him.

The organizer suggested we would do well with a senior dog from the Humane Society and she would help us choose one. We think maybe we'll put 'get a dog' on the back burner for a while and see how we feel after we get caught up and get the house back in order. After having a day of peace and serenity in the house again we are thinking that we aren't cut out to be dog owners after all. And so as they say, 'live and learn'. On to the next adventure.


  1. What an adventure you've had! Bull terrier with separation anxiety is not a beginner dog but you gave it a good try.


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