I think I’ve mentioned in passing that the three of us lady pirates are accompanied by some equally as salty, trusty, canine counterparts. For those of you who are interested, I wanted to take this opportunity to stray from the usual narrative of the trip and introduce them to you. [Cat people need not read on. dogsrulecatsdroolkthxbye]
5-year old Beagle/ Golden Retriever mix
Likes: LOVE. Running. Making funny faces. LOVE. Being pet and touched LOVED and licking your legs. Did I mention she’s a lover?
Dislikes: When A leaves the room. A leaving the room. Anytime A is not directly next to her.
Fun facts: Galen is our resident southern belle. Originally from Georgia, Galen was adopted by A from a trainer and so she has great manners. She was adopted only a few short months before we delivered Black Powder up from FL, and her first boat trip was when she accompanied us on the final leg of that trip from Atlantic City. She got seasick within 15 minutes and I can’t blame her. She hasn’t been seasick since.
Herreshoff aka Herry
6-year old Dachshund
Likes: My mom. Treats. Whining. Barking at people who walk by. Barking at people who drive by. Barking at dogs and birds and sounds and wind. Barking at literally everything. Whining. Getting his way. Sleeping in the sun with his face on the ground with his little ears all over the place and his adorable chubby paws framing his face. Table food. Begging for table food. Getting table food.
Dislikes: His bark collar. Cats. Rats. Children. When my mom leaves the room. My mom leaving the room. Anytime my mom is not directly next to him.
Fun facts: My mom adopted Herry as a puppy from a family who had lost the little girl they bought him for. At the time, they had just purchased RBG Cannons, the signature model of which was the Herreshoff. Aptly named. Spoiled little brat but god is he cute and god does he love my mom.
6-year old Mini Schnauzer/Poodle mix
Likes: Adventure. Exploration. Knowing everything there is to know about a particular room. Securing said room. Hunting flies. Belly rubs. Inexplicably scaling 3-ft stone walls, opening doors, and opening the car window to stick his head out. Intimidating new people. Intimidating new dogs. Bullying his brother. Biting the heels of new people and the hands of new people who think he’s cute and want to pet him. Teaching people a lesson about how cute he is. Generally just being a dick.
Dislikes: New people. New dogs. Being told ‘no.’ When we leave the room. Us leaving the room. Anytime we are not directly next to him. [Sensing a pattern?]
Fun facts: We adopted Copernicus from Louisiana a year after we adopted our other dog, Einstein. I had always had two dogs and wanted Einstein to have company. Plus you can’t have an Einstein without a Copernicus duh. [Yes they are named after Doc’s dogs in Back to the Future and yes when my husband met Bob Gale he showed him a picture of them and told them their names and that man threw his head back and belly laughed and has never been happier than in that exact moment.]
Copernicus was born into a household with an animal hoarder who had 40+ other dogs in the house when she was finally found out. He was 6 months old and was one of only 10 dogs that could be saved and adopted. [Sadface]
While our intentions were good, we really bit off a lot more than we could chew with this pup. When he came to us as a puppy, Einstein wanted NONE of it and was immediately over him and super pissed at us for even THINKING he would stand for sharing our attention.
This was really surprising to us. Einstein and Herry were adopted around the same time, and they got along very well. Einstein was also regularly socialized at daycare, and only had problems with dogs larger than him, which we originally thought was because a Rottweiler attacked him while he was in shelter. [Now, we actually believe that it is more likely he started it. He likes to talk a big talk and snarl at other dogs, and then whines and cries when they return the favor.]
Einstein’s aggression definitely compounded the problems that already accompanied Copernicus up north: namely, his possessiveness of toys, his need to hole himself up in small places, and, even as a puppy, his need to assert his dominance in constant school yard scuffles. [He was put into time-out very frequently at daycare.]
We assumed that they would work it out as dogs do, and they would adjust to living together and would be best of friends and snuggle all the time and then when one of them was on their death bed the other one would climb in with him and they would pass away quietly in the night like in The Notebook.
Wrong. They got to a point where they were comfortable ignoring each other, which, we learned, was the best it was going to get. They continued to have the occasional scuffle, and, while we originally blamed it all on Copernicus, we soon learned that Einstein was actually just super sneaky and very dramatic. He quietly snarls at Copernicus and then screams BLOODY MURDER if Copernicus comes anywhere near him. We’ve got his ticket now.
Anyway, as Copernicus got older we noticed he was becoming increasingly aggressive to other people in our house. It started when he was crate training and we discovered that he likes to have a safe, enclosed place to go to when he gets nervous. This was all well and good until someone walked by his crate and he promptly snarled and jumped in their direction, immediately assuming the likeness of a hosed-down Gremlin.
There were several instances where someone made him anxious reaching for him or just walking by him and he bit them. Blood was drawn. It got worse and worse. We would constantly find excuses for why it was happening—someone was near his bone, someone reached too quickly, surprised him, he was possessive of his space, etc, etc.
One day, my husband was lying with him on the bed when he decided he was grumpy and suddenly turned around, biting him on the bridge of his nose, narrowly missing both of his eyes. Up until then, my husband and I had not had any serious instances of him biting us that we hadn’t passed off as puppy nibbling, and he had never drawn blood from us.
We decided to bring in an expert, who recommended clicker-training. He also pointed out that Einstein seemed to be the instigator, which is when we started to realize he wasn’t the little angel he pretended to be. We discovered that while Einstein is the epitome of the old dog who can’t learn new tricks [or at least doesn’t want to], Copernicus responds very well to positive reinforcement and, through that, we were able to regain his trust and start to trust him ourselves. We learned to read his signs of anxiety and to know when to tell him to go to his spot to calm down.
We learned that perhaps the largest part of keeping him happy and others safe is to educate those who come into contact with him. He is really annoyingly adorable and people, understandably, just want to squash his little face. All he wants to do is SQUASH THEM RIGHT BACK AND EAT THEIR FINGERS FOR BREAKFAST. NOMNOMNOM
We learned that this dog will most likely never be completely broken of his tendencies, and the most we can do is keep him obedient to us, and react appropriately to his behaviors.
It’s funny. I remember being a kid and always being told to ask someone before approaching their dog. If you didn’t, and the dog bit you, it was your fault. I once tried to take a toy away from my babysitter’s dog and it bit me. Uh, duh. These are animals. Did my parents sue her? Uh, no. THESE ARE ANIMALS.
Today, if your dog is even a little bit aggressive, well first off, you are an idiot or a terrible pet parent. I mean, all you have to do is watch The Dog Whisperer and you’ll learn everything you need to know. Everyone knows that. Second, if your dog bites them or growls at them, even if you have instructed them not to approach, they are INCENSED. If your dog growls at their dog after you’ve told them they do not interact well with other dogs, and they still allow the dog to approach, they are INCENSED.
It is amazing to me how stupid people are when it comes to this. I was walking Copernicus in the park near our apartment one day about a year ago and had this exchange with an idiot:
Idiot Lady: “OH MY GOD HE’S SO CUTEEEEEE.” [approaches Copernicus]
Me: “Yes he is but he gets nervous around new people so please don’t touch him.”
IL: “Oh that’s ok, I love dogs. Dogs love me!!!” [idiot giggle, still approaching]
Me: [Pulling Copernicus behind me] “No, I’m sorry he’s really not friendly.”
IL: [Ignoring me, approaching him, hand towards his face]
Copernicus: [snaps, growls] “Damnit, I missed!”
IL: [Pulls her hand away, looks at me like she just witnessed me slapping a baby.] “YOU NEED TO CONTROL YOUR DOG!!!!!!!!!!”
OK then who the hell is going to control YOU YOU EFFING IDIOT.
Anyone who knows us well will tell you they have seen Copernicus come leaps and strides from where he once was. He warms up to new people much more quickly, and lots of friends and family who were once afraid of him now are comfortable sitting with him and playing with him and sleeping with him when dog sitting. We have had very few recent instances of him actually biting someone, at least without their acknowledgement that we properly warned them [although his new thing is to nip at new people’s heels like he’s herding sheep].
Such are the challenges of rehabilitating a rescue pup. But this process has not been without its rewards. Once he warms up, he is incredibly sweet and gentle, and god is that dog way too smart.
My husband and I decided it was too much for him to leave both the dogs with him for so long. [I mean, he’s already the superhero behind me, the breadwinner, not to mention the cool one.] We also decided it was a bad idea to have dogs out-number people on this trip. And while Copernicus truly is bonded more to my husband than me, we decided that the best decision was for me to take him and to leave Einstein. Einstein is chill, he will sleep all day, love you when you get home and demand your constant attention. He will do what you do, he will walk if you want to, he will Netflix and chill if you want to.
Copernicus suffers from serious separation anxiety and gets too lonely without Einstein. So, I took the problem child. [My mom was THRILLED.] Hopefully, the time apart will be therapeutic for both the dogs, and they will be happy to see each other come August.
So far, he’s adjusting well. He and Herry always just ignore each other, and, despite a few scuffles in the past, I imagine that he and Galen will become good pals by the end of this trip. [Fingers, toes and paws crossed]