Dodger, a crazy fantastic dog
When a pet is so much more than a pet
Did you know that owning a pet is actually extremely beneficial to your health? Studies have shown that the very act of petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure (a good thing because they certainly can do things to your house and belongings that can send that blood pressure back up). However, pets are more than just good for your health, they can bring a level of fun to any household and a measure of comfort to those who might otherwise be alone or depressed. They help most owners be more social and get more exercise, not to mention they are great to curl up with on the bed on a cold winter night. I would like to tell you the story of Dodger, the rescue dog who became so much more than just a pet in my house.
Sometimes getting your puppy is half the battle
For 30 years I have lived without pets in my family, not due to any dislike for animals but simply because my family traveled and it just was not fair to put an animal in boarding each month. But the thought of a dog had been present ever since getting my first apartment at age 21. Yet with travel and other commitments there was not much chance of getting one until I hit my 29th birthday. Then suddenly I had more control over my travel schedule not to mention living with my future wife who could share in the responsibilities. Now here was my chance! But now all the logistic questions came up, the most pressing is what type of dog to pick. There is no lacking in articles talking about which kind of dog might be best for you based on your life style, where you work and how big your house might be, but at the end of the day it all comes down to a personal choice. What kind of dog do you love? I chose a German Shepherd for their loyalty, their energy and their intelligence.
But just when you thought you had nailed the toughest question, a flurry of new ones quickly appeared, where do you get one and how old should they be, how about male or female. First, the question of buying a dog from a breeder versus a rescue is quite important. While you might have your own opinions based on what you are going to do with your pet, for me I really wanted to rescue a dog. What I soon discovered is that there are rescue societies for almost every breed of dog and cat. They will take any pets from humane society that fit that breed, find foster families to take care of the animal until they can find permanent homes. I went to a German Shepherd Rescue group to hopefully pick up my future dog. Unlike many humane societies or breeders who will give a dog to virtually anyone, most rescue societies are a bit more selective to ensure that they are giving good dogs to good homes. I had to have two interviews, a house visit (during the Super Bowl) and wait over 5 months. I know we all live in a society of instant gratification, but give rescue societies a chance; they just want to make sure you get the best dog for you.
For my first pet I knew I wanted a puppy. Yes I knew that it would be much more work to train a puppy, yet for my first experience I wanted to live it all. So I waited almost 6 months until the rescue group took in a pregnant German shepherd who gave birth to 9 puppies on Christmas Day. In honor of the holiday each puppy was named after a Reindeer with the last one being named Tinsel. I got the call a week later that if I would like to adopt one of these puppies I could. How could I say no? On Valentine's Day they were finally old enough for adoption and so we drove up to the foster parents to pick out our future puppy.
They brought them out one at a time so we could play with them and decide which one we wanted. Keep in mind that 9 puppies are extremely hard to keep track of especially when they are not potty trained. So picture yourself standing in someone's kitchen with these puppies running around, all with dried poop on them that they rolled in over just the past few hours, and being told to pick your future child. If the term deer in headlights means anything to you, that was me. How do you spend 5 minutes with a puppy and know it is perfect for you? Depending on which one took a nap they might have more energy, yet normally be a very calm later in life. No one knows. At the end of the day we picked one that grabbed our hearts, held our breath and filled out the paperwork.
Now I have read every book on how to raise a puppy and was committed to doing this correctly. I held that puppy the entire drive home (~2 hours) and once we got home was told to take that puppy directly to where you want them to go to the bathroom and wait until they go so they start to learn. 20 minutes later we got nothing. So I bring him into the apartment and two steps onto the carpet he pees. I now grab him and bring him back outside where he stands on the grass and looks at me as if to say, ‘you realize I am done now, why are we out here?’ So we go back in and while I clean up the carpet he confidently walks to the other side of the room, finds a nice place on the carpet and proceeds to empty the rest of his bowels in the largest pile of diarrhea I think I have ever seen.
This was my first day with a dog that would capture my heart completely.
When teaching your dog, they teach you far more than you ever teach them
After that first day we both learned about each other. What could melt the other's heart as well as drive them crazy. For three nights I trained him to sleep in his crate by placing him inside and sleeping in front of it with my arm inside the crate for him to sleep on. Many thought me crazy, and yet to this day he loves to sleep in his crate. We made almost daily trips to the pet store where he rode in the cart as we picked out new toys to hopefully save furniture and other things he might find appealing to chew on.
But one thing was missing...his name. I checked out websites with popular dog names yet none seemed right for him. I kept watching him to see what name would jump out of his personality. Finally while walking through a library it hit me. As a rescue dog that hopefully will help others later in life, what better story to consider than Oliver Twist, the story of an orphan who was helped from starvation and injury by a tough and tumble yet kind orphan named the Artful Dodger. Thus my puppy was officially named the Artful Dodger or Dodger for short.
Dodger turned out to be incredibly loyal, painfully energetic and one of the most lovable dogs I could ever have imagined. Dodger literally lives to please others and will approach any stranger with a wagging tail and a very wet tongue. So happy will he be that any glass or plate on nearby coffee tables is at risk of flying off by the sheer force of his wagging tail (which has happened several times). Other puppies that come up to him will get a full tongue bath before they know his name. And coming home from a long day at work, be careful as this 90+ pound dog can knock you over with the sheer excitement of seeing you after missing you all day. Yes this is one happy dog, but this dog has also taught me so much more about life and if I may, I would like to share a few of those items:
* When your dog destroys something in your house, just remember things can always be replaced. The thing that cannot be is family (and yes dogs count as family).
* Dogs will do silly things all the time, find a little humor everyday in something they do to bring laughter to your life.
* Boys will be boys and dogs will be dogs. Being angry at a pet is like being angry at a child, most times they didn't know what they did. Show patience and restraint even if you are incredibly upset.
* Remember when life is hard or terrible things happen, be thankful for this ball of fur whose only goal in life is to make you happy.
Take a moment and share some love even when you are feeling your worst. It just might help.