The question in this instance is “What didn’t the dog eat”? Duncan was a challenge from day one. I got him as a pup of about three months old. He was covered in fleas and full of energy. He starting giving me challenges from that first day when I struggled to give him a flea bath. He thought I was trying to drown him and struggled accordingly. If I had known what was to come, I might have given up on him right then. As he grew he was loads of trouble and constant challenges. Thank goodness I did not know what was to come because out of the ashes of our many turbulent times, rose the Phoenix. Out of great challenges come great rewards. Over the years he became my best friend and we grew into bonded souls. A greater gift I have never had.
But the early years, oh my. He was in constant motion. The only time he was relatively still was the time he spent chewing Nylabones or ripping apart toys. If I turned my back for a minute he was into something. And this was after walking 3-5 miles each day. I struggled with rather to crate him while I was doing things like cooking dinner, running to the washer, and other household chores, or let him be loose in the house. If I crated him, it just made for more energy and mania later but I had to do chores sometime. And if he was out of sight there was trouble. Sometimes when he was in sight, there was trouble! I had paw prints at shoulder height about 5 ft. up the wall from him using it as a spring board to turn as he was running in the living room. The coffee table had one of its corners chewed off. Toys lived short lives in those days.
Luckily Duncan was always a happy dog that was submissive to humans. He never did give me any trouble in that regard, he just wore me out. A few times I tried putting him in the attached garage for just an hour so I could get some work done but he could still get some exercise. That resulted in the seat being chewed off a bicycle, the pull handle being chewed off the lawn mower, and other assorted things becoming covered in tooth marks. Then there was the day he started chewing through the drywall of the garage, trying to get back into the house, so that he could be where I was. That was the last time he spent in the garage. After that I leashed him to the coffee table so that I could work in the kitchen. The leash suffered some gnawing and the coffee table lost another corner but what was one more?
When Duncan was about 3 years old we moved to a new house, I got remarried, and we had a new family. Every time someone asked what happened to this, the answer was, Duncan chewed it. Until finally when anyone asked what happened to this, they would say, never mind, I know, Duncan chewed it. When he was around 5 years old we started him in obedience with the 4-H group that my daughter was in. I usually handled him while my daughter used one of our other shelties. His behavior did start to improve at this point. His offenses became limited to things like eating multiple hair scrunchies, socks, and underwear when he could find them. He had a remarkable constitution and was able to pass everything that he took in. He would get in the trash and eat it, even the can I got with a lid. We had to put the trash can up high.
This new house I moved to has about 1/4 acre of fenced land that we call “the pasture”. The dogs get to go out there and spend time in it when one of us is home. Weather permitting, they can spend a number of hours a day there. I think this helped Duncan more than anything. He could burn off steam by chasing cars along the fence line. He was happy because they always went away and he was safe because of the fence. When he was 7 years old and had regularly gone to 4-H obedience sessions for about 2 years, Duncan passed the test and became a therapy dog! I was thrilled. The dog who had caused so much trouble became a joy. He shared that joy with others too when we went on visits to nursing homes and residential homes for profoundly disabled children. He visited because it made me happy and that was his greatest goal in life. He liked it because we got to spend that time together. After he had been visiting for a few years, I could point where I wanted him to go and say “go visit” and he would.
At some point during these years, Duncan and I became best friends. We were highly in tune with each other and could communicate well. I think without the early trials that our bond would not have been so deep. When you put that much effort into a relationship, you forge a deep bond. That’s not to say that Duncan was without fault in his later years. He still got into a few things and had that gleam in his eye. Even when he was 12 years old he would still get into grandma’s kitchen trash can. It had a button that you had to push and the lid would pop up. Duncan learned how to push that button and could get that can open in seconds. When we went to visit, the trash can had to go on top of the refrigerator. I must admit, by that point, I was rather proud of his cleverness, rather than upset by it. Thus ends installment two of What the Dog Ate. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately as this means dogs ate more unique items) there will be another installment to follow.