I had a fright the other day; I trusted Luke but he decided to escape. I knew he would sooner or later, but the first time you lose your dog is always traumatic.
I’d let him outside on his 30-foot chain for several minutes, but since this is December and it’s chilly or worse, I don’t want him out there for too long. I went to get him; I thought we had a pattern established, that once he’s on the deck-patio within a few feet of the back door, I could unleash him and he’d bound up the steps to the door. This time he decided to take off.
I chased him around the yard but then he scurried off across the street. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him in the roadway without my protection. I couldn’t possibly catch him as he chased down the boulevard median, green grass and no obstructions; fortunately, no traffic. He was off.
I went back inside and worried. Part of me was rational; I control the food supply and it’s cold out there. The other part of me paced from window to window, hoping to catch a glimpse. I finally decided to relax and wait him out. I’ve worked hard to teach him where home is and I’m pretty sure he knows. But I’ve only had him for two months and we’re still learning to live together.
In a few minutes I tried again and saw him across the street, at a house we often pass on our walks. I went outside to fetch him but he wouldn’t come, no matter how loud I shouted his name and clapped my hands. He took off again west, then turned north up 2nd Street. I was only wearing a sweatshirt, not a jacket, and I yelled, “I’m not dressed for this,” as if a little divadom would help. But he was gone again so I went back inside.
The whole escapade only lasted 15 minutes but I was concerned. There’s very little traffic in this town but he’s a little dog, 10 pounds, a foot high. And he’s a rat terrier, the kind who loves to race and chase things, and he could easily dart out into the street before a driver even saw him.
Tick, tick, tick. Luke, come back!
Well, he did, of course; I control the food supply and it was cold out there. Terriers are athletes, no fat on their bodies, and he doesn’t like cold any more than I do. By the 15-minute mark he was nosing around the backyard.
I got him inside, didn’t chastise him and locked him up. His cage (called a “crate” in marketing-speak, because who would want to put a beloved pet in a cage?) contains a nice warm blanky he just loves to curl up under. I was very upset with him, but I was also calm. Dogs need to run, especially terriers. I don’t blame him, or myself; instead I wish I had an enclosed estate where he could sprint till he was fagged and dragging. Or a dog park, which this little town doesn’t have.
Every time I let him out of his house, he jumps and runs around in circles, until I indicate it’s time to come to the kitchen, in which case he chases off at 60 miles an hour from the living room through the dining room into the kitchen, where he invariably crashes into the appliances. He’s hilarious.
Then he will sit on the rug under the sink, a rug he’s managed to move several feet askew, where he waits for me attentively, all eyes and ears. Food? Outside? Pee? Playtime? Anything, Pops, just show, don’t tell, I no speaka ze English.
When I finally get there (my human walk takes eight seconds tops), he’s ready for anything.
I’m learning to tell whether he’s hungry or thirsty; once I get there, if he heads to his food and water twin-dish, that’s one thing, but if he doesn’t, he wants to go outside. If I move toward the back door, he races to it and sniffs his leash, then sits on the doormat with that same intense concentration. Outside, outside? He doesn’t mind the snow, sleet or rain until he does.
Once I bring him back indoors, he very politely consents to let me dry him off with a paper towel. When it’s really cold and windy, he’ll even let me put a sweater on him.
Amidst all this we’ve had toilet training issues; I used to let him run free in the house, but then I regretted it. So he spends most of his time lately in the cage with that warm blanket. He used to poop when we went on walks (as well as in the dining room) until I learned to stake him outside and leave him for 15 minutes. I haven’t had to do the paper towel-and-plastic-bag routine with him since, because I learned to stop teaching him that walks are for pooping in other people’s yards; now he goes in ours.
It’s still a lot of restriction for his life, full-time in a cage or on a leash or a chain. I hope to ease up soon. I want him with me, not downstairs in a cage. But I also want a dining room I can serve food in.
The learning process is mine more than his. I no speaka ze Dog, but I can learn his body language. Boy needs to stretch his legs on a regular basis; terriers are born to run. Maybe I’ll buy a bike next spring and tie his leash to it.
A few weeks ago when he was still free inside the house, I tried to teach him to bring me his leash when he needs to go out; didn’t work. He won’t take it into his mouth, any more than he’ll chase a ball or go fetch something; I thought all dogs will chase a ball or fetch, but Luke gives me a look like Jack Benny, “Oh, really?”
This two-month relationship means we’re still new. I’m as clueless about ze Dog as he is about ze English. But we’ll get there, I think, it just takes time. I can tell you this: he is as loving an animal as there ever was. He thanks me all the time for his food; at only 10 pounds he’s never going to put a dent as he crashes into the stove. Boy just needs to run, that’s all, and to have rules we both understand.
I had the loveliest dream about him the other night; dreams are crazy, a visual word salad, one tangent after another, but amidst the chaotic reverie of something or other, I looked over and said, “Is that my dog?”
It was, and we held each other as he collapsed with joy; he’d been afraid I was run over by a car, and was overcome when I found him again.++