Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My little boy is all grown up...

The Beast is in the final phases of puppyhood. In June, he will be 2 years old - or 14ish by human standards. In other words, he will be a teenager.

I've been warned that, when it comes to the teenage years, dogs are not so different than people. They are obnoxious, they test all boundaries, they flagrantly disobey rules and practically dare you to do something about it, and they outright rebel against your status as head of the household.

Since the Beast already does all of the above in spades, I'm not particularly worried about his teenage-hood. Heck, by the time he celebrates his birthday, Hubby and I will be old pros at handling the worst of his obnoxiousness. Or we will at least be experts at ignoring it...

Still, the march towards his teenage years marks the end of puppyhood, and I am forced to accept that my little pooch is growing up. Already, there are some noticeable differences between the Beast at 11 months and the Beast at 21 months. For starters, he is developing actual peach fuzz on his snout, and I swear that it was not there before. (No one told me about doggy puberty! What's next? Will his bark start to crack?) And he is actually starting to slow down at the park. When he meets a younger dog who just wants to jump all over him and run and play, he kind of stands there and looks at him with a "WTF is your problem" look on his face, even though he was that puppy a few short months ago. And he can no longer run the laps around the park that he used to when chasing another dog. Now he just kind of stops, lies down, and waits for the dog to come back towards him, rather than wasting his precious energy on a never-ending loop. Don't get me wrong - he still has a tonne of energy - it just ain't quite what it used to be.

But how do I really know that my little pooch is growing up, leaving behind his puppy-ish ways and knocking on the door of adulthood? Well, forgive me for this TMI moment, but...

...it's all in the way that he pees.


Yep, you read that right. I can tell he is all grown up because he finally pees like a boy.

You see, when the Beast first came to live with us, he peed like a girl. As in he'd just squat there. Wouldn't even bother to lift his leg. And although every single dog I ever had growing up was a girl, I still know that boy dogs are supposed to lift a leg when they pee.

And so, like any normal dog owner, I wondered what was wrong with my little guy? Why was he squatting? Was he gender confused? After all, he had been neutered... Would all the other boy dogs laugh at him at the park and call him names if we didn't get this fixed?

Well of course they would! Which is why I frantically sought the advice of Google my vet and dog trainer. And thanks to Google these lovely ladies, I learned something new: all dogs squat to pee for the first year or so of their lives. Leg lifting among boys is merely a learned behaviour, one that they will generally only start after they see other dogs do the same thing. It is also a sign of dominance - the higher your pee on the object of your choice, the more your scent carries over the scent left behind by other dogs. So lifting a leg is actually more about aiming as high as you possibly can to show off your scent above all others. And it turns out that some male dogs will never lift a leg to pee because they aren't dominant.

Bottom line, said Google the professionals, the Beast might remain a lifelong squatter, and there is nothing wrong with him for it.

Well to that, I simply said "Ha!" If leg lifting is indeed a sign of dominance, than I knew that it was only a matter of time before the Beast figured this out and mastered the art of raising a hind haunch. And I was right.

It started slowly. One day, he and I were at the park, and he started sniffing around, stopping at every urine soaked blade of grass he could find. And then suddenly, he stopped, and gently lifted his rear left leg. I kind of wanted to cheer, until I realized that he was peeing all over his own front paws. He'd figured out the leg lifting part, but not the aim part. Which brought back tortured memories of my college days when I lived with two guys who could never hit the toilet bowl but sure did hit the seat. Every. Single. Time.

But practice makes perfect, and practice he did. Every chance he got. Even in his own backyard, where the only scent to cover up is his own. Lift leg, pee, soak front paws, repeat. Delightful.

Eventually, he got tired of soiling his front paws and realized that the whole point of peeing was to leave his scent behind on the outside world, not on himself (or tracked onto my living room floor, for that matter). And soon, he mastered the leg lift without the nasty (and wet) side effect. But he still didn't realize that maximum pee impact could only take effect if you started peeing on upright objects, and aimed as high as possible to cover all the other doggy scents. In fact, he didn't even really realize that he should be peeing on upright objects at all, contenting himself with every square inch of park land and back yard instead.

Then one day we were walking downtown, and we came to a traffic light. We had to wait a particularly long time for the light to change, so I let the Beast break his sit so that he could have a sniff around. And that is the day when he realized that lamp posts were the mother of all scent receptacles. Hell, every dog in the neighbourhood probably came to this particular lamp post, because there was a WHOLE LOT of sniffing going on. And I could literally see the little light bulb go off in that little brain of his - the exact moment when he realized that he was to leave his mark on this lamp post as well, so that everyone would know that he, the Beast, had been here too.

And so he lifted a leg, and peed.

Right beside the lamp post. Not one single drop actually hit the post itself, let alone masked the scent of the other umpteen dogs who had better aim. But hey, that's progress, right?

And then this past weekend, my sister was visiting, and she and I took the Beast out for a walk. She had to stop at an ATM machine, so the Beast and I hung out on the sidewalk outside of the bank, casually strolling up and down the street and checking out the Sunday morning goings-on.

When all of a sudden, out of the corner of his eye (or I guess that should be nose, because he sniffed it out before he saw it), the Beast caught wind of one of these:


And he just had to take a closer sniff. Sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff, a rapid succession of frantic, short, sharp inhales as his olfactory system kicked into hyper drive. He danced back and forth around that mailbox, nose glued to the ground, for a good 15 seconds. And then...

...he stopped...

...lifted up his rear left leg...

...shifted his pelvis up and over...

...and peed. All over that mailbox. A good 8 inches off the ground, letting it trickle down the side and over every single trace of dog pee that was laid down before his arrival.

It was disgusting. But he was so proud. And as I watched the passers-by look at me with utter disdain for the fact that I allowed my dog to soil the mailbox and leave behind a pool of yellow all over the sidewalk, I have to admit that I couldn't help but feel just a tiny bit of pride myself. Because after 21 months, the Beast had finally figured out how to pee like a big boy.

My little boy really is all grown up.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Adventures in babysitting

When I was about 6 years old or so, my family moved here

Look closely and tell me what you see...

...

...Switch to satellite or Google Earth view. You'll see it better...

...

Do you see it? That's right. A whole lot of wide open space. You gotta zoom in real close to see buildings.

When I lived there, you could count 14 houses, a railroad track, a curling rink and 2 grain elevators (one of which my father managed which is how we came to live is such a tiny prairie hamlet). In other words, really 'effin small...

I am sure that you are asking yourselves - and rightfully so - what the hell is my point.

Well, in this town of 14 households - as well as in the surrounding farmsteads - there were many families with young children. And when I hit the age of 12, I became a very in demand babysitter. Not particularly because I was very good at it (although I did take a "Babysitter Safety" course to learn how to give kids CPR and the Heimlich maneuver). But because I was the only kid old enough to babysit all the others. And so it was that every single weekend and entire summer vacation days, I was at someone's place watching their kids. For the low, low price of $1/hour.

And then we moved away to a booming prairie metropolis of 1,000 people when I was 15, where I knew absolutely no one and where there was already a booming babysitting industry. So I hung up my babysitting hat and went to work in a raspberry orchard.

Seriously.

Anyway... back to the part about babysitting. With the exception of the odd time that my sister has left her children with me while she runs errands, I haven't looked after kids in a long while. No one asks me. Probably because I am infamously known as that weird lady that doesn't want kids. And truth be told, if someone did ask me to watch their child, I'd probably freeze up a little and stutter my way through some excuse as to why I couldn't possibly take time away from my busy, er, um... stew-cooking day or something equally lame...

I do get asked, often enough though, to look after people's pets. And I always say yes. I don't have a huge client base, but it's consistent. There is my brother, who leaves his dog Toby with me from time to time. There is my friend Ali who once left her two cats with Hubby and I for almost a year (and I am pretty sure she will never leave them with us again because we threatened to never give them back to her). And recently, I got a new client; my friend JJ and her darling 6-month old kitten, who I will affectionately refer to in this blog as Princess Kitty (or PK for short).

The difference between this babysitting job and previous ones is that it is the first time that I had an eager helper (other than Hubby, of course). In the furry, four-legged, half-pricked-eared shape of the Beast.

I forgive all of you who know the Beast and/or who read this blog for the collective gasp, followed by the "Are you crazy?!??!?" Given my descriptions of my overly-sensitive, high-strung, excitable, loud monster of a dog - whom some of you have witnessed - how could you not wonder what on earth I was thinking when I told JJ that I would gladly take PK off her hands for a few days. Hell, even I'll admit that as I was making the offer, I was nervous as hell that she would say yes, because, well, the Beast is bat-shit crazy most of the time!

But it was too late - the offer was made and JJ was in a bind. And so take her we did (after a 24 hour trial run to make sure that no one would die).

And...

...

...well

...

...no one died! Yay!!!!

In fact, the Beast fell head over in heels in love with PK. I now have a deeper appreciation of the term "puppy love" after watching the Beast devotedly follow her around everywhere that she went...

The more I think about it, it was kind of like watching an episode of Pepe Le Pew. You remember that skunk, right? Pepe would try to woe that silly cat with the white stripe down her back. Convinced of his charm and of her inability to resist him, he just kept going back, never quite able to understand why she ran away and always fooling himself into believing that she was simply playing hard to get. God I loved that cartoon!

Well, that pretty much sums up the Beast and PK. He pulled out every single one of his best moves to charm her and to get her attention: he sniffed her bum, he bowed to her to invite her to play, he lay down beside her to watch her play with a piece of string, he pricked up his ears in his most attractive of poses, he softly barked or whimpered - only once - to get her attention, and he let her drink from his water dish.

And what did she do?

She batted his nose. Which is how I know that he really loves her. Because if a dog at the dog park did that to him, there would be teeth and growling. But not with PK. No, he just stood there stoically and accepted her smacks, as though he was convincing himself that they were taps of love. Then he'd follow her off to the next room and repeat his professions of love.

For seven days straight. We really thought that at one point he'd tire of her and just say to himself that she wasn't worth all of this effort. But no. He remained utterly devoted to her the entire time that she was here, following her from room to room to room and waking up the entire household in the middle of the night as he frantically searched for his girlfriend.

And now that she's gone? Well, I won't say that the Beast is sad, because there are too many things to love about life to make him sad. But he is looking for her. I catch him sniffing around in all of her favourite places in our house. Like under the ironing board where she would play with that little piece of dangling string. Or in the spare bedroom where she would sit right in the middle of the bed so he couldn't get to her (I think she figured out that he is not allowed on furniture, and placed herself j-u-u-u-u-st out of his reach to taunt him). Or in the laundry room, where she couldn't get any private kitty litter time without the Beast sitting there watching her.

And so, dear readers, I was sure that my week-long adventure in babysitting would end up being a gong-show, which would in turn generate some hilarious stories for all of you. But alas, all I have to tell you is a love story, complete with that epic theme of unrequited love...

It's a good thing that Beasty is so handsome. Surely there will be another girl out there who will fall for him as hard as he fell for PK.

And now, some pictures of this too short love affair...
Day 1 - Please play with me
You can't resist me up close. Look at how handsome I am!
Sun-bathing together
Watching t.v. together. Why won't she cuddle with me on my bed?
Please look at me?
Why does that string mean more to you than I do?
I'll give you anything, even my water.

Please come back soon, PK.