August 08, 2007

Passing the Torch

It happens, when you have new dogs move in. Inevitably one habit, one you were happy to see extinguished in a current dog, will raise its head in a new dog. Or, sometimes a characteristic behavior in a dog you've loved and lost will echo in the behavior of a new dog. We've got both going on at Kaos right now.

Remember Blaze, the Demolition Man who felt it was his sworn duty to help Daddy remove drywall, even the new drywall? Blaze, after some serious drywall removal, gave up that habit. Whether it was the gallons of Bitter Apple we sprayed around the edges of the exposed drywall (and, by the way, in a 2800 sq ft house, with NO baseboards reinstalled after the Great Re-Tiling Caper of 2006 there are a LOT of exposed drywall edges) or the hours of "Blaze, QUIT" that did the trick, we'll never know...but he stopped.

Yesterday Grandma reported that Robin found a tasty piece of drywall. The odd noise got Grandma's attention immediately and little damage was done. This morning, as I stepped out of the shower, I heard a noise I'd hoped never to hear again...sort of a scraping the front teeth of a dog scraping at drywall. I glanced in the bedroom to see Satinka, Frosty, Max and Lacy lazing, innocently, on the bed. Another step into the room and I saw Robin, over in the corner, busying herself. "That'd better be a nylabone" I said in my most impressive Mean Mom voice. I should have saved it. She didn't care. She looked up from her demolition project as if she didn't have a care in the world. I found a nylabone, handed it to her, showed her the inside of the crate and shut the door to continue my morning. Great, another Demolition Dog. This time Sean says if she destroys drywall, I'm going to learn to repair it myself. Might be easier to train the puppy.

And then there are the echos of dogs loved and lost. Tasha, whom some of you may remember, was a Grumbly Guss. At first we thought she was simply aggressive and were, quite rightly, cautious. As we got to know her, we realized she was simply a talker...a street-wise trash talker to be more specific. Walk by my crate? Grumble, grumble..oh, you're not impressed, fine. Get in my face? Grumble, grumble. Ok, let's go play. She was all noise. I can't recall that she ever even snapped at another dog or person. Of course, time may have dulled those memories, leaving only the good ones...but that's time's job, right?

Enter Abby. A couple of months ago she was a "save this dog" rescue post. Neglected by her owners, she had maggot infested open wounds. Knowing that Kaos wasn't a good place for her at that time, I forwarded the e-mails to some other folks who might be able to help her and put her out of my mind. Thinking about all the dogs you can't help will make you crazy. But Grandma's don't forget. Then she found out that she was with Chris, a local rescuer who got her out of the shelter, got her the needed vet care and was fostering her, looking for the right home. The right home wasn't a "we have one dog and it needs company" home, because Abby (well, she was Sheena then) wasn't super fond of having another dog roughhousing with her. She'd been separated from Chris' dogs for a few weeks, becoming accustomed to them by the separation and safe space of her own run. But she never, really, left Grandma's mind I don't think. I didn't think Kaos would be her place. We have a lot of dogs...a lot of active dogs who I knew wouldn't leave her alone. But Grandma wanted to try.

Enter Abby. Oh, I said that already, didn't I. But, no, really...Abby entered. She met Katie and didn't hate her on sight. Then she came to visit at Kaos. It's temporary, we'll see how she works out. She was a grumbly girl, not really timid, but not accustomed to the rough and tumble of Kaos. She'd perch up on the couch and growl at every dog who walked by, letting them know they were invading her space. I had my doubts she'd settle in, that we were going to be a happy home for her. Grandma had her doubts. Sean had his. We must have talked to Chris a million times the first few days "Abby's doing this, is this normal?" We expected a lot from Abby, too soon, was the consensus. We gave her space, she got the double run to herself while we were gone, getting used to the rest of the dogs in a safe space, where Blaze couldn't chase her into the dog house to play, where Katie couldn't play bow and leap at her to instigate a game of chase...where Robin couldn't simply pester her in an attempt to wear down her defenses.

But there was something, so we kept watching .... and then Satinka walked by and somehow her face ended up in Abby's mouth. That was Abby's last free pass from me. She didn't bite, she just held and released, much to my relief (and probably Satinka's too). She was sweet, engaging and made me smile, but my first responsibility is to the dogs who live with me...tough talk, eh? In the 10 days she's been her, Abby has won my carefully guarded, I don't want any more rescues 'cause they break my heart when they get sick so soon, heart.

She's got issues, she's not fond of having her space invaded. She guards the couch a little too much, so she's not allowed up there. You try to tell one dog why they can't be on the couch and everyone else's TOUGH. Blaze drove her crazy, with his insistance that she play with him...he wore her down. Abby learned it was easier to play with Blaze for a couple of minutes than to tell him to go away. She has her snarky moments, but so do the rest of us at Kaos, two and four legged. She's learning that our hands on her body won't cause pain. Whether its remembered pain from the open sores or some other pain that hands caused her in her past, she's slowly forgetting that and welcoming the scratches and belly rubs.

She's got cataracts, so her field of vision is a little fuzzy. I guess that means we won't rearrange the furniture often, so that when her vision goes, she knows where things are.

Every time she grumbles I think of Tasha, my summer girl, her big blue eyes and mangled foot. Every time she cocks her head, looks up at me with those laughing eyes, I melt a little bit more.

Passing the Torch or Echos of the Past? I see a little bit of the dogs who've been through Kaos in each of the dogs who are here. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me cry. Sometimes it makes me wonder how to hide the drywall damage from the husband. But each time it makes me realize how vulnerable I am to those furry faces, those smiles, those sweet doggie kisses and hugs.