I never wanted her in the first place.
Such was my thought process in the early days of coming to terms with our destructo puppy, Lexi. My wife, Jo, came across a photo of this Labrador/German short-haired pointer (GSP) cross in the winter of 2008 from the RSPCA (dog pound).
What the above photo doesn’t show is the pound attendant’s arm being pulled out of its socket by the strength of this dog or the fact that the photographer won Time Photo of the Year for making it appear as if Lexi was in fact standing still, which never actually happened until she was past 3 years old. (This photo narrowly beat out ‘the one with the elephant swimming’ and ‘that cool one where the flock of birds looks like a bird’. But I digress…)
Dogs and me
I am a lifelong dog lover. My first and only dog before this one, Jordan, was a loyal Jack Russell terrier and ten-year family member. Smart as can be, obedient, playful; the whole package. The first thing Lexi did upon entering the family home was to launch her big wet body onto our couch, refuse to leave the premises on a nightly basis and proceeded to hit up a pretty impressive destruction list, including –
- A prized wedding photo of Jo and her maid of honour
- A local possum, and
- Our iPod
You are eating something that I want
Pat me while I stand here and do nothing
Needless to say, her and I did not bond in the early days.* (*Early days = one year and five months.) I liked to play wrestle; she liked to assert herself via utter domination. I wanted her to sleep outside; she did not. I preferred her not to sniff the crotches of total strangers; this was how she learnt about people. ‘There’s a reason why this dog was given up at the age of 2,’ I’d often lament to myself.
It wasn’t until the Summer of 2009 that I realised something was up. Lexi was very quiet, by her own standards. The craziness had dissipated. She was doing what we asked (generally!). I assumed cancer. I wasn’t kidding. We lost our Jack Russell this way.
‘No,’ my wife assured me; she’s fine. Lexi was getting used to us. ‘Settled’ was the crazily unfamiliar word to apply. And so the real bonding began. Play wrestles became playful. Pats became more friendly. We managed a way of getting her outside whenever we wanted – in a related story, Lexi will wash your car in return for a couple of dog dries.
The best thing
Part of being a ‘responsible dog owner’ is the daily walk. For someone with multiple sporting options to watch of an evening, this initially was a pretty big inconvenience. However, not only is this great for the dog in question – exercise, fresh air and multiple opportunities for socialising, there are upsides for the owners – exercise, fresh air, and um, opportunities for socialising! Part of being outside for 30-60 minutes every day means that you are out in your community. Every. Single. Day. While there are days when you resent the responsibility, more often than not, it’s far more rewarding than how you feel after watching Man U vs Blackburn, On The Couch or a random AFL game you already know the result of.
Dogs are a great conversation starter; ‘How old’s your one?’ ‘What breed is that?’ ‘How do you keep it so shiny/sleek/fit??’ Like kids, they are a perfect social softener. You have an in. What you do with that ‘in’ is entirely up to you.
An awkward beginning
We never did end the crotch sniffing.
Many of our friendly conversations start with an apology due to Lexi’s overt enthusiasm or interest. Meeting Zara and her owners was one such scenario. A crotch was sniffed, apologies were made, dogs were compared and a friendship was born.
Lexi and Zara are great buddies and are walked together multiple times a week. Their owners share dinners and their lives. This isn’t some false ‘wave to your neighbour as you walk back down your driveway’ type of situation. This is genuine friendship and community. Their wedding is being mc’d by yours truly later this year. (Why type ‘emcee’ when the letters of the alphabet will suffice. ‘Teevee’ anyone?)
I didn’t want a dog because I couldn’t be bothered looking after it, walking it and having something else mess with my down time. There were games to watch, recaps to analyse and web sites to surf. I understand when people think we’re nuts and wonder how we would want to embrace a ‘dog’s life’, with all its messiness and inconveniences. I’m at the same stage with kids. You can’t chuck a little ‘Pete & Jo’ out in the garage with a bone when we want to go out and grab some food and a movie.
Now? I wouldn’t give her back for anything. She’s part of the family and has brought me further out into our community. The absence of sport means that I am looking to be outside even more, open to opportunities to engage with the people around me, led by crotch sniffer #1. This overbearing, unwanted pound dog is having her own impact.
Even as I type this she is teaching my two beautiful little nephews that dogs are not to be feared and are fun to play with.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.