Monday, January 23, 2012

The Prestige: My Home-Schooled Dog

I am an accidental dog owner. Although I didn't happen upon Mazzy Sarah Maclachlan pitiful, covered in mud, whimpering in an alley somewhere and take her in or win her in a white elephant auction or foolishly enter into some foggy business transaction with a non-English speaking Gypsy and have her foisted upon me, I did become inextricably her Alpha Dog in nearly as significant a what-the-fuck-just-happened kind of way...although much less altruistically than in the Sarah Maclachlan scenario.

In retrospect, I was sort of cattleman Shanghai-ed; rancher magic tricked. I had a buddy who had an uncle who had two working Australian Cattle Dogs and those two ACDs did the deed and wound up with a whole litter of adorable little part Dingos. My buddy expressed an interest in owning one of the puppies and asked me if I'd like to drive out to his uncle's property with him to pick up his new dog.

"Sure," I said, "But I'm not going home with a dog."

"No problem," says he, "We'll only be there for a bit and I'm pretty sure all of the dogs are spoken for already."

I now know this to be the first part of a magic trick. The Pledge.

We rolled into his uncle's dirt driveway and immediately laid eyes upon a whole gaggle of rambunctious ACD hellions wrestling in the mud, nipping one another's recently docked tails, and moving in all ways like atoms being shot around a super-collider.

When I first saw Mazzy, I won't say it was love at first sight, but it definitely wasn't disinterest. She was the only she. She was the only one whose tail had not been docked, and she was staring up at a plane flying overhead. This is sort of the single guy's equivalent of walking into a coffee shop where a bunch of girls are comparing Coach purses, talking about Jersey Shore, preening, and then looking over to see a naturally beautiful woman reading A Death in The Family quietly by herself.

This is the second part of a magic trick. The Turn.

My buddy was trying to corral his new puppy and talk to his uncle while Mazzy and I shared a moment. She was energetic but not manic. She was playful but not dopey. She was inquisitive but not clingy. She was...

"She's yours if you want her," my buddy's uncle said.

"Ha! I'm just along for the ride," I replied. "I can barely take care of myself, much less a dog." Seriously. This wasn't just Texas banter. I liked to stay up late, sleep late, drink beer, come and go as I pleased, and lead a decidedly dogless life.

I might as well have said, "I love her! I have to have her!"

"My daughter wanted her, but she's being wishy-washy. Hang on, I'll call her," was the rancher's reply.

After a brief phone conversation (it easily could have been a dial tone on the other end of the line) in which the rancher's daughter decided that she could not take the dog, I found myself driving home with a puppy riding shotgun. How'd he do that?

This is the third part of a magic trick. The Prestige.

I'd be inclined to applaud, but my furry little prestige has continued to appear at the foot of my bed every morning for the last six years. Energetic has become borderline manic. Playful has become occasionally dopey. And inquisitive has most certainly touched on clingy.

For those unfamiliar with ACDs, they have energy for days. These are dogs who herd cattle, not bitchass sheep. They're rugged, athletic, tough as nails, and loyal/protective to a fault. Every time Mazzy and I see another dog on one of our runs (these runs are a necessity to bleed some of that energy), Mazzy goes all Regulator from that Warren G song and starts repping her hood. She's handy with the steel and she's damn good too. Mostly, this is an annoyance as it serves to nearly send me ass over tea kettle more often than not and, if she's ever able to get to the other dog, her Regulator attitude quickly devolves into licking and butt sniffing.

Additionally, she's way too smart for her own good. If I make a move to the drawer in the dresser with the running shorts in it, even if it's just to fold said shorts and put them away, her ears perk up and her tail wags and she goes to her leash. Once we're outside, she drumrolls the ground with her paws until she hears the beep on my watch and then barks and bounds joyfully for the first fifty yards or so of our run. And these aren't token runs to get her blood flowing a little bit. These are five to ten mile seven and a half or eight minute mile pace runs in all weather.

Her head is about to explode here. And yes, I'm wearing tights.
For a long time I thought the more we went on regular runs, the more she would mellow out a touch. Such is not the case. I've recently become aware that I've been training a world class athlete and she's only getting stronger and therefore more capable of the bounding, barking, chasing mania I was trying to defeat in her.

Now, before you go all Cesar Millan on me, understand that the kid has structure, discipline, and affection. In the house, she's an angel. She sits and waits and doesn't get on the furniture or tear up anything. It's only outside that she goes ape shit and really only when we see another dog. Essentially, Mazzy's home-schooled. She's a social retard. I've sometimes handled this patiently and philosophically, and I've sometimes thought about tying her in a pillowcase and throwing her in a river...or mailing her in a box to Sarah Maclachlan. Not really.

But really.

My question to the dog owners out there is this: Any advice on how to rewire a wired, home-schooled, socially retarded, genius athlete? Clearly, my six years of effort have failed to hit the mark.

Also, be careful with how generously you proffer your advice. I've been studying magic tricks and I'm pretty sure this was The Pledge.        


~dave. said...

You're going to hate this answer....

Get a 2nd dog.

No joke, works like a charm. My heeler/chow mix Lefty was the same way. herding dog with boundless energy. when emily and I first started dating, she would bring her dog around, a manic, destructive 3 year old lab/pit mix who had a taste for $300 boots. Now they're inseparable, they chew on each other, wear each other out running and playing in the back yard, and are much cooler with other dogs.

Fair warning though, 2 is the magic number. Any more than that and you've got a wolf pack on your hands.

Pancho said...

You're not lying. I kind of hate that answer. There are two words in there that shoot the double down on the dog scenario right in the back of the head Old Yeller style for me. "Back" and "yard". I've got a basement storage unit though!

Rachel said...

OK, then an even worse answer. What worked for Abby (you know her, but: Australian Shepard, frisbee prodigy, rug and shoe chewer, online scam artist): get a CAT. It's such a slippery slope, though-- boxes of shit in your house, moods, hair enough to make four more pets. But seriously, that was the beginning of her mellowing out to the point where if I were sure no one would ever find out, I'd leave her to watch the baby...

Alternately, get thee to a dog park, and pop a valium before you go. Abby got all stabby in dog parks until I finally figured out it was me she was cuing off of. I'd get nervous that she'd freak out and cut a bitch, and then she'd pick up on that and, well, cut a bitch.