Monday, April 6, 2009
Ours At Last
So now we had a puppy. The first and most important thing we had to do was house break her. We started taking her out every couple of hours. After only one or two accidents, she knew that she was to only go outside. Many of our other, previous dogs would wander around the yard aimlessly, taking their sweet time, which was not much fun late at night in the dead of winter, especially during an ice storm. Our yard is not fenced, and ours is a busy, main street, so letting her out alone was out of the question. But Rigby is a fast learner. Very quickly, she learned what we wanted her to do when we took her out to a certain spot in the yard. When we snap on the leash and go out to the yard she immediately goes to one of two spots and does her business quickly.
By the time she came to live with us, it was time for her to be spayed. She came from the shelter with a discount coupon, but the veterinary practices that would honor it were almost two hours away. The thought of spending hours waiting in some strange and distant vet's office, and then driving her home over that long distance, after her surgery, in an uncomfortable crate didn't set well. If I brought her to my vet here in town, I could drop her off in the morning and pick her up after work. Plus, she would need follow-up appointments. It just made more sense to stay close to home.
The initial surgery went well, but there were complications in the healing process. Her incision became infected and didn't respond very well to the antibiotics precribed for her. The scar was an angry, lumpy, scabby, red and brown gash running the length of her tender little belly. After several weeks, several prescriptions both oral and topical, and several office visits, the doctor made the decision to recut her abdomen and clean it up. I was devastated that she would have to go under anesthesia again, but it seemed necessary. I cried when I dropped her off, feeling that I had somehow let her down, even though I knew full well that there was nothing I could have done to change things. This time she healed up beautifully, and today you cannot even detect a line in the clear, pink skin.
As she grew, so did her hair. The vet told us she had hair, rather than fur and it would continue to grow. After six months, she had thick, wavy hair curling off her back and down over her eyes. Off we went to Petco for a haircut. She seemed to have a lot of terrier aspects about her, so we went with a cut similar to the kind given to Westies or Scotties. Now she had reached her optimum cuteness.
The next hurdle would be integrating her into a home ruled by cats. I held my breath at first, fearing that she would lose an eye to one of them. When she chased them, we squirted her with cold water, but it only worked if we were watching and could grab the bottle in time. After a few months, the war zone experienced an uneasy truce, but even today there are still skirmishes from time to time. At times, Rigby will bring her favorite toy, a squeaking rubber ball, and drop it at Cat Boy's feet, then stare at him, as if waiting for him to play with it. He responds by getting up and walking slowly away, but Rigby is undeterred. She will follow him, whining and poking her nose into his side until he tires of it and swipes at her.
Cat Boy has learned some valuable things from Rigby, most importantly, how to beg. Neither of the cats had ever shown any interest in human food before Rigby arrived. Rigby never begs at the table. She sits or lies quietly a few yards away until we finish eating. But when I am preparing food, she is at my feet waiting for something good to fall. Having learned by observing, Cat Boy now joins her, and the two of them sit, side by side, waiting for scraps like a couple of old hobo friends. Things are not as good with the other cat, Ceecee. She is cranky by nature and has a low tolerance for everyone. If the dog gets within a few feet of her, she starts hissing and her fur stands on end. Rigby cuts a very wide swath around her at all times.
After the first few nights, we decided that Rigby should have her own bed and sleep in it at night, instead of on ours. We brought a crate into our room and put a plump, flannel covered cushion and a few of her toys in it. It seemed pretty comfy, but she was very unhappy and cried most of the night. On the second night, we caved in. Luckily, she is small, so we are not too crowded, and I bathe her frequently. Now she begins each night tucked into a tight ball between us. After a short time, she stretches out and works her way down to the foot of the bed where she spends the rest of the night. We are her pack, and she needs to curl up with us at the end of the day. Mac and I are so used to it now, that we would feel something was missing if she were not there.
Rigby's assimilation would not be complete without training. She took beginner classes and quickly learned to sit, lie down, shake hands, roll over, stay, come when called, and a number of other skills. She is now in a second session and is the absolute star of her class.
Our only dilemma now, is what will happen when I am again employed full-time. When the weather is good, Mac works from dawn until dusk. My daughter is living here until the fall, but she works in the city and is away from home as long as Mac is each day. My son has floating shifts and is sometimes here during the day if he works a night shift, but has to sleep. When no one can be with her and she can't come with us, she has to be crated and she hates it. She barks and cries endlessly. There is a dog daycare in town, and I have a few people in mind who might be able to come over around mid-day and take her for a walk. I'm hoping to have something figured out soon.
I'm so glad to have Rigby in my life. She is the best gift anyone could have given me. There have been days since I was cut adrift, when I don't think I would have had the impetus to get out of bed, but for her. She is always there waiting for me. She needs to be fed and walked, and I won't let her down. She gets me up and moving and out into the world. I think that God worked through my daughter to bring her to me. I never would have taken it upon myself and gotten a dog while I was working and He must have known that. But I think He also knew how much I was going to need her, so He made it happen. I'm forever grateful that He did.