Friday, May 27, 2016

Lessons From a Little Dog


This is Claire.  Cute, huh?  She's a West Highland White Terrier/Cavalier King Charles mix.  She has a classic Westie body, but her ears look as though she was sired by Yoda.  They're flexible and very expressive.  She's six years old, weighs 20 pounds, and is badly in need of a trip to the groomer's.  You probably remember that we adopted her from a neighbor when our 13-year-old Husky mix went to her reward.

Ron and I have always had large-breed dogs, but the last week of Cheyenne's life convinced me that while I can still run up and down stairs (they're everywhere in this house!) I can no longer do it carrying 100 pounds of dog.   So my neighbor's offer of a small dog seemed like such a good idea.

Wow.  It's amazing how wrong you can be about something and still fight to turn it into a positive.

In the house, Claire is a dog-owner's dream.  She loves Ron and sits on the sofa or in the recliner with him and doesn't care what he watches on television. Unlike me, who has had enough of CNN, and all the election experts, and what I fondly call The Bug Channels.   The programs don't really have to be about bugs, but they're usually on National Geographic or similar channels, and feature little known facts about things natural or scientific.  I tend to think they're little known facts because no one cares about them, but Ron is interested in everything, so he cares.  And, apparently. so does Claire.


She's made friends with the two tabbies who also live here because they also protect us from tiny critters and she considers them part of her staff.


She loves to sit on the back of the sofa and look out the window.  She doesn't bother me while I'm working, eats whatever you give her, and wags her little tail all the time.

But the minute we leave the house, she turns into twenty pounds of albino psycho.  She runs down the front steps with a growl in her throat to let the neighborhood know she's on duty.   She wants to attack everything she sees - big dogs, little dogs, low-flying birds, big insects, and certain people.  I never know who.  I fully expect to end up in the ER one day with a Pit Bull attached to my face because she attacked it.   The leisurely walks Cheyenne and I had, enjoying our gorgeous views, she sniffing the grass to learn what other dogs had passed, and me, meditating and plotting, are a thing of the past.  Now my walks are a matter of survival.

Fortunately, I've walked around here so long that I know every trail and back alley and can avoid confrontation if Claire doesn't see them coming first.  If she does, I have to drag her behind me or pick her up to keep going while she barks in angry detail about what she'd do to them if she could only get there.  I'd hire a doggie shrink for her, but I'd need one first.

The moment we're home, she morphs back into the perfect family dog.  I hear you asking why I don't just put her out in the yard rather than walk her.  Firstly, she barks at everything that moves so our lovely neighbors would soon hate us, and, despite her killer instincts, her size makes her vulnerable to the racoons that travel in packs, and the eagles that fly over on their way to fish the river.

Living with her reminds me of how I felt when my oldest son was about 12.  I didn't think I'd survive him, but now he's a fine citizen with a lovely wife, a thriving business, and loving concern for Ron and me.  So, maybe there's hope for Claire.

On the good side, adversity usually has a positive effect on us.  I'm determined to solve this problem, and though research seems to indicate that terriers are hard wired to be aggressive because they were bred to catch rats, mice and other critters, there has to be a way to teach her the difference between what's a threat and what isn't.  So, it's made me study, taught me even more patience than my life already requires, and to remember that everyone and everything that crosses our path in life has something to teach us.

 In researching, I ran across a term that explains small dog behavior, and now, of course, can't find it.  As I recall, the term means they have an inability to see themselves in relation to the rest of the world.  In other words, they have no idea they're small because inside, they're giants.  Isn't that an attitude we can all get behind? Fear nothing!  Even though your legs are only three inches long, nothing is too big to take on because you feel invincible.  Act tough.  Look scary.  Pull like the lead dog in an Iditarod because your job is vigilance and you're excited to do it well.

23 comments:

  1. Claire is simply adorable and very fortunate to have found such a wonderful, loving forever home with you and Ron. I'm betting that with your love and guidance, Claire will become the perfect all-around family dog!

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    1. Oh, I hope so. I'm working so hard to channel all that aggressiveness in the right direction. It may be a little better already, but we have a long way to go. Thanks, Kate, for putting in my photos for me! You're such a pal!

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  2. Muriel, She is such a cutie, and looks like a good companion for Ron while you do you're plotting new stories in another room. But as someone who loves my morning walk, because it lets my thoughts roam free, I commiserate with you about her behavior. At least she's not big enough to yank you along after a Pit Bull or raccoon. Have a good holiday weekend.

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    1. thank you, Roz. Maybe I'll send her to visit Auntie Roz for a weekend sometime. What do you think?

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  3. My mom has a Cairn terrier named Cosmo (the same dog as Toto from The Wizard of Oz), and he acts the same as your little Claire. My mom's brother lived next door to her and had a big, mean looking German Shepherd Pit Bull mix named Pebbles, and Cosmo always tried to rule her, growling at her and barking when they played together. When Pebbles had enough she'd just lay down (lie down??) over Cosmo to calm him down. It was the funniest thing. They were good friends. Now that my mom has moved my uncle said Pebbles goes next door every day looking for Cosmo, her little bully friend. Claire sounds like a cute little dog that may give you lots of book inspiration. ( :
    I love the picture of the dog and cat together.

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    1. That's what I need - a sweet-tempered German Shepherd to calm her down. (I never remember that lie/lay thing, either. I always have to look it up.) Claire is a honey in so many other ways, we just have to figure out how to deal with other dogs. That cat lived in the basement for a month when Claire arrived, then finally braved the living room and Claire bumped noses with her and all's been well ever since.

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  4. Awwww! What a fun post and thank you for sharing so much of your LIFE with us. Claire is adorable and I, too, once the lady with 10 Golden Retrievers and usually no less than two at a time, have grown to love small dogs. And the article you mentioned is true. I've read that about small dogs many times over. I'm also addicted to the Westminster Dog Show on television every year. A WHOLE lot better than watching the bug channels. Give Claire a hug from all of us who have fallen in love with her from afar!

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    1. Love Goldens. Ten would certainly surround you with lots of love, and lots of hair! We love Westminster, too! That's always so much fun. Thank you for the encouragement. We're all already well bonded, so we'll figure this out.

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  5. Dogs are really special. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. Thanks for joining the conversation.

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  7. I must have a relation of Claire's in our little Tally. She's 15 pounds of don't mess with me when we go outside. She has a standing date to walk with a neighbor and her german shepherd 1x a week and this has helped. But I can't fault her attitude - the world is my oyster, don't mess with it!

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  8. You're right, Mel. Something to be admired in that self-assurance. We have a Basset across the street that she likes, but everything else is fair game.

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  9. She's a terrier all right. What a cutie. But you're right, terriers have no idea they're small, or maybe they think enough attitude will convince the rest of the world they're not. They say it's not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog, and terriers have it in spades. I have a fifty pound terrier mix who's almost impossible to walk.

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  10. Oh, Beth. My sympathies. At least Claire is small enough for me to carry away from trouble. What do you do with 50 pounds of aggressive dog?

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  11. Claire is so cute! I can't blame you for getting a smaller dog. Mine are 55 lbs and 75-80 lbs. I can't budge the bigger one if she's being stubborn and doesn't want to move. Which is quite often.

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  12. Claire is adorable - thank you. And it is nice to be able to pick her up and walk away. I never use a retractable leash anymore because she can get too far ahead of me, or around a corner before I can catch up with her. I came to that decision when a little Maltese took except to her. The dog was on a retractable leash and was around the corner before her owner. She leaped on Claire, who made her regret it, but before it was over a Lab joined in (just playing, I think) and I was holding Claire above my head and was completely hogtied by all the leashes. Will make a great scene in a book someday.

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  13. Muriel, Claire looks like such a sweetheart and she is lucky you have adopted her. Sorry to hear you're having trouble on your walks. I'm a terrier fan myself--wire fox, to be exact--I'm now on number 8 and wouldn't have any other kind--but, yes, they can be feisty and willful. I hope you can find someone to help you with Claire so that you can enjoy your walks.

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    1. I'm in the process of trying to find someone. We're her fourth family, so heaven knows what other issues go along with the terrier qualities. I love her to pieces and so does Ron, so we're going to make it work. I had a fox terrier when I was a child.

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  14. Muriel, checking the blog late today, but I'm so glad I did. Your posts always make my day. And if I didn't already love you, I certainly would now! I have a wiener dog named Lucky who has similar issues (also a rescue dog). He's eleven pounds of pure attitude with no concept of his size. After fifteen years he still acts like he wants to kill the neighbor (yet he tolerates the guy delivering the treadmill who he's never met before.) Good luck with Claire. I know she has plenty of love to see her through these "issues."

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  15. Thanks, Carol! I love you, too! And you've survived 15 years of that attitude. Amazing what love allows you to do. Well, if you're still sane, there's hope for me.

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  16. I'm a day late, but gosh, I love your stories! I hope Clair gets the neighborhood pulled into line so that she can know she's keeping you safe there. Loved the pictures.

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  17. Hi, Liz! Being a day late is better than being a dollar short! She's trying so hard to gain control. In the house, she's a gentle despot. Outside, not so much, but we're working on it. Happy weekend!

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  18. Claire is precious! Thank you for sharing the pictures.

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