Friday, September 25, 2009

The Canine Chronicles, Cast of Characters Part 1

I figure I have always been in dog love of one kind or another since I was a child and I longed for a dog. I seemed to be able to relate to them in a way that I could not with cats, though growing up, cats were a pretty good substitute; better than nothing! (Sorry all you cat lovers) I worked for a lovely lady who gave me one of her dogs when I moved away at the tender age of 13, little Mumu (I did not name her so take NO blame for that one). She was Pekingese and while I loved her to death, she was not what I truly longed for though she fit the bill very nicely until I left home at 17. When I was 20, I was living in my own apartment and decided to take it upon myself to get a dog and the most logical place seemed to be the local pound. Somehow I felt better about going to get a dog that someone was throwing away or that faced certain death but once there, I was overwhelmed; who to pick? It didn't seem fair that there were so many that needed me! Finally I settled on a puppy simply because I wanted the longest time with it and there were a lot of puppies this particular time at this particular pound. I settled on an Australian shepherd that was just beautiful; it did not seem to matter that my apartment did NOT allow pets. I just very calmly in typical Audrey fashion smuggled her in under my coat. The first thing I noticed right away was that something was definitely wrong with her eyes. They were both different colors and they had flecks of something in them. Scared half to death that I had adopted a dog who was blind or going to GO blind, I whisked Kyrie off to the vet right away only to have the vet examine her and begin to laugh. "You don't know much about dogs do you, honey?" Well, obviously NOT if I did not know that Australian shepherds have 2 different colored eyes! Whew, at least my illegal pet was not going blind. The next thing that I noticed was that I dropped something right behind her in my kitchen one evening and she did not even turn her head. This time, I was dead on. My poor little puppy was stone deaf! I promptly whisked her off to the vet yet again and this time when I told him what I thought was the matter, he really started to laugh and said "what are you going to come in saying next? That she can't talk?" Well, as it turned out, he wasn't laughing after he examined her because she was in fact tone deaf. People said I probably should just get rid of her; take her back to the pound, etc. Unfortunately, the love affair had already started and she was not going anywhere except back to my apartment. Shortly after I had gotten this little puppy, I met Bob. He helped me move out of the apartment after my very considerate manager caught me with said puppy and pitched a very well deserved fit. I moved in with a friend of mine and Bob and I continued to date though he spent most of his time over at our house as it afforded more room for the puppy to grow and play since my girlfriend had 2 other dogs. We lived in southern California and the nights and days of course were pretty balmy so we usually slept with the windows open for the breeze at night. Well, one particular night, Bob had gotten off work after a full day at college, and came over exhausted; we grabbed up our puppy and headed off to bed but as soon as we were IN bed, the smell was unmistakable. Since my girlfriend left her dogs out all night in the yard and they were usually right under our bedroom window, we figured that must be it so pulled down the window and went back to the process of sleeping! Too bad as the aroma is now 50 times worse and growing by the moment; it is in fact blowing right ON us from the fan at the foot of our bed. I am furiously nudging Bob to get out of bed and flip on the light to see what the matter is and of course, there is a lovely perfumed gift from Kyrie right in FRONT of the fan! I remember Bob muttering things under his breath about people really not NEEDING a dog; it was all a lot of work, etc. etc. and it wasn't even HIS dog. Then him scooping up the mess into a can from the trash with one of my spatulas (which went the way of the can) and thinking I had better keep my mouth shut if I had a brain left in my head! So began Bob's love of the dog. A few months before Bob and I were to be married (yes, in spite of all my quirks, he still decided to take that plunge, deaf dog and all), I began to think that maybe Kyrie was lonesome because she kept jumping our fence and running away. We always got her back or she would come home but being deaf, it was a very dangerous business. She did eventually get hit by a car, not once but twice. Neither time killed her thankfully but she just never got it through her head obviously. Where was that electric fence idea then? At any rate, I decided one day after I got home from work to just "go by" the pound and see what kind of dogs they had. Big mistake. I have since been banned by my husband from ever entering a pound or a shelter. He said that he cannot trust me to do the "right thing" and look and walk away. He is truly right! I walked in and again was overwhelmed by the number of dogs that needed a home. How could I leave without taking at least one with me? Sigh. When I left, I had another puppy in tow; this time a Dalmatian/pointer mix, Serena. Now I knew that the nuptials were coming up within the month and I also knew that Bob was probably not going to like this at all so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I pretended I did not know how the dog got into our backyard. When he rolled in that night, tired from yet another day at college and his job after that, he flipped on the light on the porch to motion to Kyrie to come in and lo and behold, there was another dog sitting there. He pretty much bellowed at me "what is that in the backyard?" To which I answered of course "what are you talking about? What is what in the backyard?" (Always was so good at lying) He marches outside to see not only another puppy but a very LARGE puppy with very large feet. He is muttering and shaking his head and I start to make up all kinds of ways that this dog just happened to get in the fence and is now lying by the back door, looking very contented I might add. He is just not buying it and just fixes me with his stare so finally I just give up and start to cry. I explain to him that once I was inside the pound, I simply could not leave without rescuing one of them. I'm sorry and all that, but what was I to do? Of course he says something like "you should never have gone there to begin with" but hindsight is always 20/20 as I have learned the hard way! So many times it seems! Graciously, he allows her to stay and he of course decides that since she is a very beautiful dog and she is a companion for the poor deaf one, it will be okay.

Well, we marry and months go by; we both just go about the business of life and are content to have our 2 pups and all that life offers for a young newly married couple. My sister, however, has gone back east with her boyfriend to supposedly go to college and somehow that falls through; they need a place to stay and are heading back. We graciously say that they can live with us until they get back on their feet. I then coincidentally find out that Ms. I Was Not Supposed To Be Able To Get Pregnant is in fact very pregnant. So we decide that our little duplex/apartment is going to be tough with all these events so we had better look for a house to rent at least for a while. We find a nice house in a lovely neighborhood with a beautiful backyard. I am still working and Bob is now going to school full-time. My sister and her boyfriend are both working but this living together stuff especially as newlyweds is not all it is cracked up to be! For many reasons, most of them just my personality and liking everything a certain way, I began to grow increasingly agitated with all the chores I seemed to have to do, including taking care of 2 or 3 cats, which I did not want to do considering I was pregnant. Serena had grown into a very large dog by this time and we had discovered that she must be part goat. She was the most delightful dog yet she had a taste for anything she could chew up and try to digest. She ate tin cans; she ate drywall if she was left in the laundry room; she ate bike seats. The list went on. Well, as I was becoming more and more pregnant, becoming more and more fatigued, and getting less and less help from my sister and her boyfriend, I was sprouting devil horns. I was wishing all kinds of blights on them and most especially her boyfriend. We had our dryer go out one day and I had come home, done laundry and hung everyone's clothes out on the clothesline, then hiked it back to work at the doc office I worked at. When I got home that evening, I could hear screaming in the backyard and on coming in the house, I could see my sister's boyfriend chasing Serena around the backyard. The dog must have heard my dark desires because Serena had eaten the crotch out of every pair of pants of his that I had hung on the line to dry! She did not bother anyone else's but all his lovely jeans that he was so fussy about now were ruined beyond repair. AND to boot she had eaten the bike seat off HIS bike. I hurried into our room lest my smile give me away. Who knew I had so much power? 

After we had our first child, we had by this time moved into a house by ourselves and had our 2 dogs (and 2 cats by now thanks again to me not being able to say no). We had decided to make a bold move and move back east to Michigan where Bob was hoping to get on with the government as an accountant. We were going to be living with his sister for a few months and so we were faced with getting rid of 1 of the cats and 1 of the dogs. We had a small Toyota station wagon at the time and we were putting all our worldly goods in a U-Haul and towing that behind with my plants and my dog and cat. Since Kyrie was deaf, we felt that we owed it to her to keep her as no one would probably understand what she needed or get rid of her, so we ended up having to find a home for Serena. It was the saddest thing watching this young fellow drive off with her in his truck, but he was a fireman and he was practically crying he was so tickled to have her. I always figured that was a good match and she must have been a fine dog; she eventually did get over the goat behavior though she still liked to chew on things! We set off on a September morning with the dog in the back of the car and the cat, our 4-month-old baby on the seat of the U-Haul and away we went. We certainly got some looks pulling into a motel at the end of the day with a dog that we were calling with hand signals, a cat on a leash, and a little baby boy bundled up between us. It was not a bad trip though and I think we made it in about 5 or 6 days though I discovered on about the third day that I no longer HAD plants; the animals had eaten them. And we discovered when we first went to use the car in Michigan that we also had no brakes. Apparently the dog had been lying on the brake pedal the entire way.

Life was good; we settled in and tried to make the most of life in Michigan. Jonathan grew and turned into a toddler and all the while we still had our deaf little dog. She was a great dog and never any trouble at all unless she got it in her mind to bark in the middle of the night. There was no way to make her be quiet save for getting up and going directly to her to touch her. We got some very strange looks though as I would take Jon out in his stroller or to the park with Kyrie in tow and all the while Jon would be motioning at her. They thought of course that HE was deaf, not the dog. It was too crazy. I never saw it coming either but for years, Jon thought that all dogs responded to hand signals! It took some convincing to assure him that other dogs or MOST dogs in fact could really hear a voice! She was a great dog though and we had her until we left for Chicago to start yet another chapter of our life. She was still running away and I had a very good friend who had a very large piece of property, so after thinking about it for quite some time, we decided probably the most humane and safest thing would be to let my friend keep her. She lived a very long and happy life so that was a good thing.

Our sojourn in Chicago lasted for 5 plus years and during that time, we had so many things going on and happening to us that we did not get another dog. Our second son was born and he was born legally blind; that consumed quite a bit of time in terms of training him (and ourselves) and preparing for what the future might be and then we had our daughter quite miraculously. We did begin to notice though that our son Patrick was becoming terrified of dogs, even the 2 inch variety. I of course was taking this all in at the time and thinking "the time is right; we must get another dog". Bob I'm sure was thinking "just what we need like we need a hole in the head". About 7-8 years of living in the midwest is enough to convince anyone, especially someone with California blood in her veins that it is time to head back out west, so luckily before I made the decision to get another dog, we moved again, this time out west to the Seattle area. We had not been there very long and were swamped with the day-to-day of raising a family and working, all the usual but I could not help but notice that we were missing that canine addition. I told myself of course that I was doing it for the kids; especially Patrick. I had to get a dog into our lives so that they could grow up with one and feel the joy, the love! So I began the search through a local Paws and Claws (since I could not go to the pound, I had to go somewhere). I had a vision of a certain dog in my mind, although it was not a particular breed per se. I made the fatal mistake of taking Jon with me when I went to look at one particular dog named Ky. She was a border collie and although she was very pretty and very "peppy" to say the least, she was not my dream dog. As I turned to tell the woman housing her that I did not think this would be our choice and to thank her for her time, I looked down to see my son rolling on the floor with her in a canine embrace! I wasn't going anywhere. Forty-five minutes later I walked out with Ky the wonder dog. I simply could not say no to my son who was so obviously in dog love from the moment he saw her. Of course in retrospect, when I think back on it, he like his mother probably would have fallen for any dog! At least Bob was not surprised with this addition! He was surprised that we ended up bringing home the first dog we looked at but he knew I had been lobbying for the dog and had decided it would be a good thing for the kids. Thus began the saga of Ky. Ky was a wonderful dog; she was fiercely protective of my kids while at the same time, she would let my friend's twin toddlers grab hold of her and roll all over the floor with them, never so much as flinching. She would walk the perimeter of our backyard and in effect "guard it" every day all day long. She was a wonderful dog to have in the house. I am convinced that she literally saved Katie and my life one night when we were home alone with no car and there was a string of burglaries all around us. I'm sure she heard the perpetrators on our front deck and alerted us; snarling all the while like a pit-bull.

The only problem little Ky had was that Ky liked to tango; with other dogs preferably, and mostly poodles for some crazy reason, although really any dog would do. She would be docile and well behaved and then the next moment, she would see a dog that just for some reason made her see red and away she'd go. There was no stopping her when she got it in her head that THAT was the dog! One day early on, I made the mistake of letting Katie walk her and she ran poor Katie into a parked car because she did not drop the leash; broke her wrist right there. The dog actually stopped what she was doing and managed to help Katie get back down the street to let me know and off we went to the hospital. That was the last time the kids were allowed to walk her! She just had this thing about getting loose and then making a beeline for someone's dog; I got to the point where I knew pretty much which dogs she was going to go after since she'd done it enough times but wow; were we every popular in our neighborhood! People do get a little ticked when your dog comes at their dog, picks it up and flings it around like a ragdoll. She never hurt a dog, never left a mark on one of the dogs, but just the thought of it really did not help us much. I took her to obedience training; we exercised her, played with her, took her everywhere. It just did not seem to be working! One weekend I decided maybe she just had trust issues. She was acting out because I did not trust her, so I took her over to the local high school and decided to just throw the ball for her and show her that I believed in her. Well, that was going pretty well; until 2 lady joggers ran past and Ky ran off right behind them. I am not a jogger by trade but I did kick it up a notch as I blasted after her screaming all the while for her to come back. She was distracted by something and the next thing I knew, I rounded a corner only to find her in someone's backyard, going after a CHAINED German shepherd. Now why was I surprised? Things had been going so well so far! I did not know what to do; I was frozen there watching this dog start to make mincemeat pie out of my stupid dog and the only thing I could THINK to do was scream. So I screamed; a window flew open, a woman leaned out and SHE screamed! We were both just standing there screaming when the door flew open and a very burly fellow yelled out "Killer, drop it". And thankfully he did! He dropped my stupid idiot dog like a limp rag into the dirt whereupon she came limping and crawling towards me. I felt like throwing her back to Killer. Every bone in my body hurt, my head was pounding from all the screaming, and then I had the arduous task of picking up my slimed dog and carrying her about half a mile back to the car where I proceeded to open the door and throw her in. She was lucky she didn't get the trunk! 

Luckily (?) she was not hurt. Bob loved the story; he was only sorry he did not get to see it! But we both decided something needed to give. The "regular" obedience obviously was not working so we began asking around for a trainer who dealt with hard to control dogs. She was actually quite manageable except for this one problem of chewing up other people's dogs. She had actually bitten a neighbor's dog under their fence and then the neighbor refused to speak to me because the only "bite" on the dog was its own tongue. I kind of thought maybe the dog bit its OWN tongue but there was no reasoning with the gal and she was really ticked at me. There were rumbles about people calling the humane society on her, etc. so I did know that it was not going to be something that was going to be happening very much longer. I signed up with this trainer Lana and we began to work. I went to a class and took Jon with me for moral support and so that he could also see what we needed to do. We ended up putting a choke collar on her, which I had never used before, and then Lana proceeded to set up Ky every 5 seconds so she could literally choke the life out of her. I am not talking just a wee snap "no" command; I am talking she just really wanted major G-force applied to this dog's neck to give her the message that this was not cool! I had a hard time with this; although since Jon had ADD and was just starting to become a pre-teen handful, I did warn him that if all didn't start going right, I was going to get one of those collars for him! (I didn't ever do it) Jon's eyes were big as saucers watching this lady try and train me to choke the living daylights out of my dog. She said that wasn't enough stimuli for her; we needed to go to the "scene of the crime", our neighborhood and confront some of the dogs she had been messing with and teach her what would happen if she did it again. I did not like this idea; I was already having enough trouble just choking the dog but I kept thinking, well, if it would work, we should do it.

Try talking to someone who isn't talking to you; and more importantly, try explaining to this woman that you have your dog trainer coming over and now you want her to let her stupid dog out (and the dog was truly stupid I have to admit so maybe Ky was on to something) and don't mind us, we're just going to choke my dog until she is half dead to teach her to leave your dog alone. Does that sound okay to you? I think half the block was out watching this, which did not help! I am shaking like a leaf as I do not like doing dogs violence. We approach the dog and Ky takes the bait so to speak and let the choking begin! Lana is standing there telling me what to do and I'm reprimanding her while applying as much force as I think I can tolerate and they are carrying on a conversation! Good lord; I was thinking "how do I get myself INTO these things" Too late, however; so we proceeded on down the street after that little session to the next enticement in Ky's book of bites and I go through the whole thing all over again. Finally after about an hour of that, and a few very distraught neighbors rushing over to ask me what the heck I'm doing, I've had enough. I just flat out told her I could not see myself doing this ever again and it was obviously not working because as soon as we finished the "lesson", she turned right back to the dog and wanted a bigger piece of it rather than a smaller! It was not becoming a deterrent at all. If anything, it was probably inflaming her! So I very gently told Lana that we were going to have to come up with something else. She says it's my call and go ahead, give up (I don't think I could have done it ever again to be honest) but she would think about it and let me know what solution she came up with. I said that was fine as long as it did not involve choking anything or anyone. 

Days later, she called with the perfect solution! She had given it much thought and what Ky needed was a companion and she had just the perfect one that had come to her attention. Would I be willing to try it out? She was 100% sure that this was going to be the solution to all of Ky's problems and we would be in doggie heaven upon adding another dog to our household! (I am a walking poster child for gullible). So of course I casually mention to Bob that I'm thinking about it and would he mind (yes he would!) but if that is what it takes, we MUST do it! If it doesn't work, we'll just not take the dog! (Oh fat chance of this happening, Audrey). Thus began the multiple dog scenario that has endured ever since in the Kirchner household. More tale to come.

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