Monday, February 27, 2012

The Joys of Pet Ownership

As you know, or maybe you don't know, I am the proud owner of two hounds. Let me give you a recap of their story, and then I can enlighten you to my latest joys of pet ownership.

My family has always had a dog. Sure there were years along the way between pets, and some years with absolutely terrible dogs, but always there has been a 4-legged friend in my parent's home. In August of 2010 we had to put down our family Golden Retriever. It was I think the hardest decision that my mom has had to make. Brandy was the best dog. Seriously I know everyone thinks their dog is the best, but this dog really was top notch. She was smart, gentle, affectionate, and well behaved from the day my mom brought her home. And despite what I, my dad, or my brother may think, she was my mom's dog. But, she had gotten old, and her eyes, and hips had gone, and her last months were spent barely moving around and falling down the stairs on several occasions. Putting her down was the hard, but right thing to do.

I was heartbroken.

As we drove home from my parent's house that evening I told Ken. I need a grief puppy. I like to think he was in full support of this. I'm probably a bit delusional. :)

So I started the search for my grief puppy. Along the way Ken and I decided we should get two dogs, as we were both working full time and the dog(s) would be spending a lot of time home alone. Thus, having two dogs would mean each would have a friend. Next it came to choosing a breed. We made a list of the attributes we wanted (or didn't want) in a dog. Short hair was a must, a larger breed, an easily trainable dog, a working breed that has a majestic look. We also wanted a dog good with small children, that was somewhat territorial but not aggressive.

Our search led us to the Black Mouth Cur. Most people have never heard of this breed, and think our dogs are some kind of Boxer mix. That's a pretty good description.
 After some more searching I located a few breeders in the southern US. Mind you, we live in Missouri. After some feeler emails my hopes of getting a grief dog soon were plummeting. The earliest we could get on a waiting list from a breeder was for a litter they were planning on in July 2011. So we would have to wait 8 months to find out whether or not we might get the last pick of a possible litter. I was devastated.

Then I got a phone call. A breeder in Mississippi called to tell me that they had an unpublished litter that would be weaning soon. They hadn't sold any of the pups as they were breeding to keep some of the pups themselves and we could have first pick of the litter! A miracle. We picked our dogs from photos and I began the countdown. The only problem...the pups would be ready to pick up on October 15th...which would have been great except we were getting married on the 16th. That definitely wasn't going to work. So we asked the breeder to hold the dogs for another two weeks, and on October 30th we set off to get them.

We drove almost all night, stopped for about 6 hours rest in a hotel, got up early and finished our trip down on Saturday morning. We got to the breeder around noon, got our pups and turned right back around and headed home. With only a few stops we made the 10 1/2 hour drive and crashed into bed around midnight. It was a brutally long driving weekend. And after 20+ hours in the car it appeared the pups didn't even like us. But they were soooooo cute.
Now, Artemis and Apollo (names that we stewed over for a good 3 weeks...and by stewed I mean argued) are 18 months old. They are not the world's best dogs They bark and are loud and sleep on the sofa when they aren't supposed to. Artemis jumps the fence and Apollo never listens. But they are certainly still my favorite. And they still provide the joys of pet ownership.

As mentioned above Artemis has a nasty habit of clearing the fence in the backyard. Then she is free to run about the neighborhood barking her high-pitched bark and refusing to come back home. So as of late she has been on a strict leash regimen when outdoors. On Saturday I had her outside for an extended potty break. She had been cooped up for two days since it was cold here, so I thought I'd give her a little time to roam the yard. Apollo wanted to play, so I obliged them both. Artemis however pulled a little hard on the leash when I wasn't expecting it, and I lost my grip. She was free, so to speak. She didn't seem to notice and I thought she might stay put. I was wrong. It took all of 5 seconds for her to be out of the yard. Normally I would let her roam, but I was worried that the leash would get caught and she would hurt herself, so I went inside to get Ken. I put on my coat, shuttled Apollo back inside and headed out to the back. Artemis was tearing full speed through the common ground behind our fence and into the woods. As I reached the back gate and started after her she reemerged from the woods. She came slightly towards me at my call, and then stopped to turn back and pick something up off the ground. I assumed it was trash. People are always throwing trash in the common ground.

I walked slowly towards her, trying my best to coax her back to me. Then I realized: she didn't have trash. She had a bunny. Yes. A bunny. A cute little bunny. And she was trying her hardest to bring it to me. Well, I think she was trying to balance wanting to bring it to me and wanting to play with it. *shiver* I started yelling for Ken, who was still in the house getting his boots/coat on. As he headed out the back gate he looked to where I was standing, maybe 15 feet from Artemis, and said "Get her." I simply replied "She has a bunny." Enough said for Ken. He knows me well enough to know there's no way I'm going any closer if I don't have to.

So after maybe 2 minutes of Artemis picking it up and dropping it repeatedly while sort of running in our general direction with it, she dropped it close to my feet. I walked over to it, not looking down, and stood next to it. She came over and sat down in front of me, looking as proud as can be. Chest puffed out. Eyes squinting shut. I swear she was beaming and smiling. Oh Lord. I told her good dog and gave her praise, and Ken picked up the rabbit and told her he would cook it for her.

I think at this point we both assumed she had just found the thing lying in the grass. As I began to point out the nasty points of dressing a random rabbit she found in the woods Ken paused and we had the following conversation.

Ken : "I'm sure it's like a month old...wait...maybe not."
Me : "What do you mean 'maybe not'."
Ken : "It just peed." He touched it (yes with his bare hands) and continued "It's still warm. Hot even."

I just walked on towards the house. I was so grossed out! Before we went in the house Ken declared his determination to learn how to, and then dress the rabbit. And he stopped to take a picture, so people might actually believe us.

And Saturday evening as we sat inside I realized: Artemis is a hunting dog and so as far as that goes she did good. I just hope she doesn't do good anymore. :)
*Note - The dog is really bigger than the bunny. The camera angle was just off a bit.*

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