By Phyllis DeGioia
February 21, 2009
Like most dogs, he’s been a blessing and a pain in the patootie. Three months or so ago I mentioned that he had stopped humping other dogs at the dog park. Note to self: Never display such stupid hubris, and never announce something like this aloud, much less publicly. That day he went to the park and humped a dog. He humped my cat the next day, and two dogs the day after that. We went into back to the training drawing board. He’s been great about not doing it lately, but never again will I state that he doesn’t do it anymore.
The other change at the dog park is that he used to go far, far away from me while running off his anxiety. Now he stays fairly close to me, something I hadn’t realized until someone mentioned it.
I’ve pondered the vast difference between the abandoned, anxious, andÂ scared dog he was and the happy-go-lucky boy snoozing in front of me. He would run crazed in the back yard and chew lattice to burn off his anxiety. Now he runs around declaring that the back yard is his, but there’s no anxiety that I can see except when we visit the vet. I hate it that he is still hand shy when I move my hand towards him to pet the side of his head; it’s an almost unconscious action of mine. Ginger eagerly leans her head into my hand, and I hope Dodger will too someday.
His hip joints stuck out when rescue took him in, and he was only there for a week. Putting weight on the anxious Mr. Finicky was tough – being anxious burns a ton of calories – and I missed the subtle changeover when his anxiety subsided. Now his ribs are a bit too padded. When the snow and ice melt, The Blur will return and he can run it off.
The characterization of an English setter as mischievous is dead-on accurate. When the snow in the back yard melts in the spring, I will recover some underwear. He likes to chew paper, used tissue in particular (“Good thing you have allergies, mom, because I like dried snot”), but magazine inserts, pay stubs, and grocery lists are good. Someday I will have to confess to a client that “My dog ate my check, can you reissue?” Dodger’s attention-getting maneuvers generally include “I have your sock/paper/bra/dishtowel/yarn/etc.”Â Neener neener neener. I wish he didn’t like underwear so much, but I like my new ones. And yes, if I was neater he wouldn’t get so much stuff, but that’s not going to change.
His favorite activity, other than running at high speed,Â is disemboweling stuffed toys and methodical destruction of non-stuffies. Balls are fine, particularly when they belong to another dog, but disemboweling is highly preferred. I buy stuffies when I see them in clearance bins because it makes him happy to shred them. A boy has got to do what makes him happy (that does not include being a bully and humping other dogs).
I chose Dodger to share my life because I thought he might make a good therapy dog. That remains to be seen in the next chapter. Now that we’ve turned the corner in terms of anxiety, he knows he is truly my boy and this is his home, and that’s what matters the most.