Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You are such a good dog. Actually you're a rotten, terrible dog.

I have been wondering lately what makes a dog, a good dog.
My dog Roni is certainly not good by traditional standards. She is a dumpster diver, counter surfer, scrounger, poop eater, carpet pee-er, bed hog, sloppy drinker, not to mention epileptic, dog aggressive, probably brain damaged and able to leap six-foot fences in a single bound. Yet she is an incredible problem solver, extremely lovable and good for the soul.
Every time we leave the house, it has to be bear-bagged. Any trash can left in the open will be overturned. If the bathroom doors are left open, she will do one of two things. Option one: she will open the under-sink cupboards (despite the child locks) and eat and/or spread the soap, shampoo, q-tips, cotton balls, and toilet paper all over the house. How do you punish this? She already washed her own mouth out with soap. Second option: she will lock herself in the room. That requires turning and pushing in the knob simultaneously—without opposable thumbs.

If we so much as leave a backpack out with a granola bar zippered into a pocket, she will get to it and eat it. But she knows she isn’t supposed to be doing these things. If we are in the room, she’s an angel. The only way to catch her in the act would be to pretend to leave and hide somewhere. Even then, if we caught her, what would we do? She already knows she’s being naughty.
Several times we have come home to a kitchen with every drawer and cupboard opened, including the dishwasher. Roni will usually be found happily running around the yard with a potholder in her mouth. One Thanksgiving she overturned the gigantic, city-provided trash can to get to the turkey carcass. Now we have to bungee cord it shut.

Before we learned our lesson, or in moments of forgetfulness, she has pulled down from the counter or out of the garbage can and eaten (on separate occasions):
• 5 pounds of carne asada.
• 7 dozen chocolate Christmas cookies. This required a trip to the vet for induced vomiting. Wag, wiggle, barf, wag, wiggle, barf.
• A dozen rib bones. Another trip to the vet. Stomach x-rayed. We decided not to operate. She had white chalky poop for a few days, but luckily no tears or blockage.
• 1 bottle of vitamins including part of the glass bottle. Another trip to the vet for induced vomiting.
• 3/4 can of ground coffee. This time we induced vomiting at home with peroxide.
• 3-5 lbs of raw pork out of the crock pot.
• 1 bottle of rancid oil (from the fry daddy). She carried it onto the couch, chewed off the cap and spilled it all over the cushions.
• 1 tub of rotten salsa and sour cream. Again she carried it to couch and smeared it all over the couch and rug.
• 1 package of scone mix. There’s a story there.
• I could go on, but you get the idea.

(I left a package of red vines in my nightstand drawer)

The scone story:
Corey and I went to dinner one night and when we got home Roni did not greet us at the door with a toy and a wiggle like she normally does. She came in from the back yard a few minutes later wiggling her butt, her face and paws were covered with an off-white, frothy substance. Roni has epilepsy and when she has a seizure, large amounts of drool and foam come out of her mouth and nose. At first glance, we thought she just had a seizure—except she normally is quite out of sorts and certainly not happy and wiggly when she comes out of a seizure—and this foam looked thicker and gloppier than normal.
Corey bent over to get a closer look. "It smells sweet," he said. Then I realized that the bag of raspberry scone mix (just add water) that I had put on top of the microwave and planned to make for breakfast in the morning was gone. Roni had managed to get it down from the microwave, carry it into the back yard, rip the top off and eat more than half the bag of powdered mix before we caught her. What was left of the bag was sitting on the patio. She'd eaten about 6 scones—a week's worth of breakfasts. And she was damn happy about it, covered in the sticky, gloppy, sugary mess. Damn dog! At least she didn't have seizure.

It was about that time when I decided to try to keep a running list of all the bad things Roni does. The week after the scone incident she somehow opened the door to the office (haven't figured out how yet), and dragged the box of food I thought was safe into the living room. She tore open the box and ate two or three granola bars, a bag of chips, and three or four containers of powdered soup— the kind you peel back the lid, add hot water, stir and eat. And she didn't eat it neatly, there were wrappers and powered soup all over the couch, the floor, her bed, her paws, her face. At least the granola bars weren't chocolate. A few days later we came home and the 50 lb bag of potting soil we had left on the back patio had been torn open and spread all over the patio. Apparently she had played with it AND eaten it, because the next morning her poop was black as potting soil. Essentially she pooped three dirt clods. After that it was more dumpster diving, plastic eating, getting kicked out of agility class, peeing on the rug, so on and so forth. I'm just a sucker for that sweet face when she curls up next to me and rests her head on my lap. Dumb dog.

Then there is the $200 fart story. Roni and I were home alone one night when Corey was out of town for business. Roni began pacing the yard, dry heaving. After several hours I began to get worried that she had the bloat—a condition large-chested dogs are prone to that causes the stomach to twist over on itself. It can be fatal. By this time it was after midnight. I called the emergency vet and explained the symptoms. They told me to bring her in immediately. Across town we went. They poked, prodded, x-rayed, but could not find anything wrong. She had since stopped the dry heaving, so they sent me home with a $200 invoice and told me to watch her. We got home around 2:30 and went to bed. At 3 she woke me up with more pacing and dry heaving. I was about to make another call to the vet when she suddenly stopped pacing and cut the longest, loudest, juiciest fart I have ever heard in my life. It must have gone on a full minute. But then she circled three times, lay down and slept the rest of the night. Yep, it was naught but a case of extreme gassiness.

When she first began having seizures we took her to the doggie neurologist for a cat scan to be sure the seizures weren’t caused by a brain tumor. It turned out she is missing a small part of her brain. We blame the missing piece when she does things dogs aren’t supposed to do, like eliminating or defecating on her bed. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often but it does happen. But she is trainable. We took agility and obedience classes for several years before her dog aggressive tendencies reared their ugly head. She even passed her Canine Good Citizen test.

Despite her damaged brain, her problem solving skills are amazing—easily opening doors, drawers, zippers, etc. Perhaps the best example happened when we first adopted her. We tried to keep her in the kitchen when we weren’t at home because she was not yet house trained. I said yet. Ha! She still pees in the house if she doesn’t feel like going out, but I digress. The kitchen had two entrances, one pocket door, which we closed, and one arch way. We put two chairs in the arch way with boxes of books (we had just moved in) under the chairs and on top of the seats. The arch way was thoroughly blocked. We came home to find that Roni had chewed the side off the boxes and used her paws to pull the books out. This created a tunnel under the chairs which she promptly crawled through. Freedom!

The thing is, despite the fact that Roni is clearly not the model of canine obedience, she is sweet and gentle and loving. She will patiently allow us to trim her nails, dress her up in funny sweaters when it’s cold, flip her on her back (for belly rubs), take “food” out of her mouth, and essentially do anything to her without complaint. She accepts treats extremely gently (probably because of her boxer underbite), gives kisses freely and is a joy to have around. I couldn’t possibly love her more. Isn’t that truly what makes a good dog?

(My parents painting the brown spots on Roni.)


Katrina said...

I love Roni, she sounds like she has the skill and ingenuity of old dog Gemma. We have just had a new member of our family by the name of Bonnie and she is showing skilss when it comes to anything to do with food. She opened a box with peanuts in it yesterday, she keeps trying to scale the bookcase in search of treats. We're taking her to visit my mother in law this weekend who lives next to a farm, things may not end well.

Michele said...

Audrey, that story made my day! Not only because I have been there to witness some of Roni's antics in person but because the wonderful way you can tell a story! Roni is truly a special loving dog and we love our "kids" despite the mischief they may get into :)