As I have previously written, we have 3 dogs. These have come into our life since we retired, although Browning was my husband’s retirement present. We had no experience with dogs prior to acquiring Browning. We were operating blindly, and Browning seemed to know this and took full advantage. He was a 10 week old bundle of energy and mischief. He lured us into a false sense of security when he took to crate training like Julia Child to cooking. I happily bought him a very nice (and expensive) dog bed for his crate, which he promptly ripped a hole into and then dragged all the stuffing all over the crate, where it looked like some kind of polyester convention. Haplessly, I bought him another bed and the same thing happened. Finally, I dug in and put a nicely folded comfy towel in the bottom and we reached a truce. Browning has always had a close relationship with what we now call “the dog cave” and does not tolerate redecoration by anyone other than himself. Once I tried to rearrange his bedding and he gave me a warning growl and laid his teeth on my arm. Message received.
As time went on, his antics got less enchanting. He leaned to take mail out of the mail box and shred it around the yard. The same with the newspaper. UPS deliveries didn’t have a chance. He ate eyeglasses, shoes , a hearing aid. One time he ate 1/2 of a large bag of M&Ms, after which, I hysterically called the vet to tell them he had eaten chocolate. She told me not worry, he was large enough that it probably wouldn’t hurt him. All it seemed to do was whet his appetite for more chocolate. Just recently he ripped open a box of chocolates, which were fortunately wrapped, so he didn’t eat more than two..
One weekend when I was seriously close to the edge, we ran into a woman who was the coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic GSP rescue. We stopped to talk to her and she said “aren’t they great dogs!?” She said that many people got rid of them because they were too smart and had too much energy. “If only they could wait for their 3rd birthday, they calm down”. At that point Browning was 2. We toughed it for another year and it turned out she was right. He calmed down. He was wonderful. Turned out that he really did learn his commands at the doggy training. And he developed a routine of tricks; but he had a strict policy that he didn’t do tricks unless there was a treat involved – a policy that has remained in force throughout his life. He became a great traveler and has been as far as Minnesota, and as far South as Florida, riding calmly along – picking up and leaving p-mails at the rest stops. And he developed a real craving for take out, particularly if it is a drive-thru. Browning remembers every place he has ever gotten a treat, makes sure he gets seen (not minding if he has to stand on the driver’s head to accomplish this) because he is sure that once they saw once how handsome he is, he might get a little extra something.
Now, he is an old dog. He suffers from some kind of skin problem that has left him with bald patches and flakey skin. He is lumpy and bumpy and is very thin. We’ve had him to every vet, including three dermatology experts, to figure out what is wrong with him. He is on very expensive dog food that is so pure we could eat it for dinner. Special treats too. He’s had an expensive thyroid panel and even more expensive allergy testing. Turns out he is allergic to us – or rather the dander from our skin and dust. But he still has a lot of zest for life. He still love the car and getting to go. He’s still very social with anyone coming into the house, particularly those who aren’t crazy about big dogs. If it is warm day, he’ll still go for a swim in the lake.
About a year ago, I was visiting a friend and a woman came down the sidewalk with a GSP on a leash. I could see this was a young dog. I told her he was great looking and I had one too. I notice she had a very weary look on her face. “Is he destructive?” she asked “This dog is so destructive and I don’t know how much more I can take.” I looked at her sympathetically and told her what I had been told – that he would calm down and be a great dog when he was 3. “He’s only 1 1/2” she moaned.
Until next time – Elsie