|There is a dog in this picture. |
(But you may have to click through to find her.)
Hahahahahahahaha. Hahahaha. Hahaha.
Oh, sorry. Whew.
Where was I?
While Labs are the most popular breed in the world and odds are in their favor that the errant stray will carry some of their genetic inheritance, shelters really do have to do a better job at actually trying (or perhaps not trying at all?) to identify the breed that makes up their mixed-breed dogs.
Because, really, there is not even the remotest possibility that Bella is a Lab-mix. She does not retrieve. She doesn't even fetch. She can't catch anything, not even food, without an enormous set-up. She does not much care for water (we don't even know if she can swim). She is not impervious to pain. And, let's be honest, she's hardly of a mellow and tolerant temperament.
The second spoke in the wheel
In addressing Bella's aggression towards Jan, Dr. Dodman told us we needed to get her more exercise. I know it's trite but the saying "A tired dog is a good dog" has quite a bit of merit to it. It's tough to be on-guard and anxious about everything if you're just too pooped to putt.
And while I say that we were aware she had issues, I will admit we were totally unprepared for her exercise requirements. Heck, we went from having a 14-year-old, mellow, clingy, gentle, deaf arthritic couch-potato to a young, curious, ceaselessly energetic juvenile delinquent that the Energizer Bunny would be ill-prepared to keep up with. What we really didn't understand was just how much her energy needs would play into her behavior.
Despite her altercations with Jan, Bella is actually a very good dog. She doesn't get into the trash. She doesn't counter surf. She doesn't chew everything in sight. She doesn't get into mischief just because she doesn't have anything to do at any given time. (Well, unless she's deliberately trying to get Mom's attention and even then she just steals paper, socks or hair ties - she doesn't chew them.) The problem is she doesn't necessarily find any positive ways to release her energy either.
Of course, that's supposed to be our job.
But then, finding ways to exercise a dog that's reactive to other dogs, afraid of people and faster than lightening can be a bit of a challenge. I've shown pictures of our garden here on the blog before so it might be obvious, but we don't really have a yard that can be easily fenced in and dog parks are pretty much out of the question. We all miss the days of going to the Tufts Farm Field but the new dog park they put in is just too small for us to feel comfortable bringing Bella. (I really have to write about how/why that whole thing changed for us but that is for another day.)
Jan often takes Bella for long walks around the neighborhood but Dr. Dodman said that wasn't enough. We have several of the Nina Ottonson puzzles, any number of treat dispenser toys, numerous Kongs, puzzle balls and the squirrel house. She figures them out so fast, she gets bored with them. Like I said earlier, she doesn't fetch, she doesn't even catch so frisbees, balls and sticks aren't on our list of available options. She doesn't tug either. She likes to run, jump and wrestle. And in none of those activities is mom a worthy competitor.
So how, exactly, were we supposed to get the "one hour a day of unbridled play" Dr. Dodman said Bella would need to help her become a healthy and happy dog? The fact is, we weren't. It's just not a reality for us.
We were able to improve the situation. First, as you probably already know, we enrolled Bella in an agility class for reactive dogs. The class spends time addressing both reactivity and agility obstacles. Bella gets a huge physical workout and a tremendous mental one as well in the class. But the big reveal is: Jan built her several agility obstacles, including jumps and weave poles, so she can run around and burn energy on these at home as well. Score one for hu-dad.
The other thing I did (and in this case, I use the word "I" specifically because it took some convincing to get Jan on board with the idea) is I figured out a way to create a fenced in area in the yard without spending $25,000. (Seriously, that's a quote we got from a local fencing company of what it would cost to fence part of our yard with the type of fencing we wanted to use. Can you say "cost-prohibitive"? I think you can.)
Instead, I bought a bunch of X-pens I found on sale and, for about $250, a little ingenuity and some garden stakes, Bella now has her own little playground. It's not quite a dog park but she has enough room to run around (which she LOVES), play with agility obstacles and just generally explore.
Note: Pictures taken from inside her playground to show the fence.
Bella used to hide under the bushes when we would taker her outside with us (see first picture in this post for evidence). Now, she's getting more confident to explore further without us. She's even started lying out in the grass and not just under the bushes. She knows to come to us or go to the door to be let in whenever Bailey is out and about or the bugs start to frighten her. She is tuckered out right proper after a day of being outside with us even if she hasn't gone running full tilt for all of it.
If you're wondering how we as gardeners are coping, yes, she digs, her pee turns the grass yellow and her toenails tear up the turf better than any football player's cleats could hope to. But she loves it. And we can live with that.
|Queen of all she surveys.|