Doggie Adaptations

In all of the adaptations we’ve had to make here in our country home, the most subtle one has affected our dogs. It’s subtle because its full import has taken this entire year to become obvious.

We have three dogs-city dogs, of course. The most citified is the little one, a six-pound toy with long hair. When we gained her from my son in late 1999, she wasn’t fond of investigating the back yard and her coat dictated frequent grooming. The other 2 dogs are actually hunting breeds, one, a beagle mix and the other, a golden retriever-basset hound mix (yes, I know that’s weird).

Once we moved out to the back of nowhere, the silence was wonderfully deafening at first. The dogs were quieter—there was less to bark at. No passing folks on foot, little motor traffic, no other dogs close by, no visitors to the door. I was thrilled but as time has gone on, they have adjusted and now find barking to be a great activity. Let one of us slam a door in the house or let the wind blow and all three dogs jump up ready to fend off intruders!

Other long dormant traits have made themselves known in the months since our move. One of the most shocking was what I call “the murder.” I had actually planned on writing a column about the incident without mentioning until the end that the perpetrator was a female dog, but along came the discovery of a body in the area and the subsequent arrest of a female suspect. Oh, well.

The tale involves an early morning altercation in the yard just after I let the dogs out. The noise was at first raucous and then I heard the high pitched shriek of what I thought might be one the hawks that dive bomb our yard rabbits. I looked outside and saw the big dog, the basset mix, hovering over something. Now you have to understand, Micky has the smallest brain and the largest heart of any dog either of us have ever owned. She hasn’t a mean bone in her body—she just wants to be loved

Well, my sweet, lovably dumb animal had a rabbit. It wasn’t dead so I removed it out of the pen in hopes it would hop away. It died.

I went back inside and immediately heard another outcry. Looking out again, I saw nothing. Later we found dead rabbit number 2, now sporting only 3 legs. I was astonished and slightly appalled.

My reaction was that of the usual response on TV to discovering one’s neighbor has been arrested: “She just couldn’t have done it, Mr. Reporter; she’s seemed to be such a nice person.” Micky has continued on being her sweet self and has never repeated her crime.

Just recently I discovered one of the reasons for the barking. I caught sight of a domesticated animal taunting our animals—my closest neighbor’s Maine coon cat. He was haughtily pacing in front of the pen. He must have been laughing at the foolishness of the idiot dogs barking away. He also sprayed my porch that week just under my living room windows. Whew! I like cats, but he better look out; I own a killer basset hound I could turn loose.

Our latest dog escapade has kept us amused and bemused for weeks now. The former owner of this house kept Labradors who have left us with man-sized holes. Our dogs, however, have never been diggers before now, so we have watched with great interest the sudden excavations taking place in our back yard.

Both the beagle and basset have dedicated much time and effort to tracking down whatever they thought was underneath the ground. We figured there was probably a mole or they were just bored and getting dumber. We’ve had to endure dirty noses, dirt clods between doggie toes and all the accompanying ick and litter involved. The beagle (smart alpha dog named Dusty) has been insisting on staying outside in all sorts of weather and she does like her creature comforts due to her arthritis.

Finally, she showed up at the door with a prize. We’ve had her bring in pecans and bury them and bones in the sofa or chair. This time she was waiting patiently to “bury” that which she would not eat—a mole! A very dead, cold, frozen mole. We relieved her of her prize immediately. The vet’s office tells me dogs and cats refuse to eat moles, that they aren’t considered palatable. Is that a relief? Danged if I know.

Hopefully, that is the end of the digging for this year. Hopefully, the crime level will remain low. Now, I just gotta figure out what to do about the little one, the princess, who has decided that the call of the wild (backyard) is the ultimate thrill and who keeps returning to the warmth and comfort of house and (our) bed, dragging smelly dirt and straw.

Oh, yes, we’re all adapting quite nicely to our country home. Does that mean I can revert to a simpler rusticity and quit housecleaning?

Boy, I hope so!