Jessica (my middle daughter) recently treated us to a trip to the Gentry Safari. Several years previous I had visited a wildlife park in Alexandria, Louisiana. This was similar, with fewer life- threatening species on the loose. I came away from the trip with much more than I intended.
I wanted an Australian shepherd. I had been talking about getting a puppy for some time. My daughters kept saying it was bad timing. I knew it was bad timing. I live in an apartment complex. I’m a poor writer. How can I care for a puppy?
She pointed to a kennel near the cage with the squirrel monkey. “He’s a boy,” she said. “He hasn’t been socialized very well and doesn’t have a name.”
He was cute. Blue eyes. I had read somewhere that Australian shepherds go blind at young ages. He was small, or seemed to be, before I picked him up. “You’ll probably have to carry him. He’s not leash trained yet.”
We went inside the cage and he backed away from us, ran to the corner. White, red and brown. Fluffy ball of fear.
My oldest daughter said, “I don’t know Mom. How can we keep him in an apartment?”
The middle daughter sighed, looked at me sideways. “He’s sooo cute. But Mom…” She shook her head. I think she knew I was taking him home.
“I think you should name him Dutch,” she said. Dutch was his name.
He was not easy to get into the car. He would not follow on the leash. He lay down and made me drag him a couple of feet. Then I picked him up. It felt clumsy holding him. He lay his head on my shoulder and I carried him to the car.
I didn’t think he liked me very much. He ignored me when we arrived at the apartment. Followed my oldest daughter around, watching her with those big blue eyes.
When she left he was stuck with me. He watched me for awhile, but didn’t follow. He peed on the carpet and I showed it to him, put the leash on.
Again, it was a clash of wills. He pulled back on the leash and I drug him out on to the grass. “This is your pee spot,” I said.
I took a nap while he watched. Then my youngest daughter came home. “What’s going on with the dog?”
“Someone at the Gentry Safari gave him to me. He’s an Australian Shepherd,” I said trying to impress her. Hoping that would make a difference. It didn’t. “Well, if I wanted a dog I would have kept Molly.” That was a small dog her ex-boyfriend kept for her.
She didn’t want a dog. I did. This wasn’t her dog. That’s what I wanted to say. This first night he pooped in the apartment three times. Peed a few times. Ate balogna and left over chicken enchiladas.
We finally came to an agreement in which I wouldn’t put on the leash as long as he would not run off.
Next morning I woke to a pile in the living room. It sat near the front door. (While I slept he probably gave me silent clues to his needs. I’m sure he scratched at the door, whined a few times before realizing no one was going to let him out.)
Dutch jumped around excited that I finally woke and herded me to the kitchen. No dog food, so I opened a package of hot dogs. He ate the whole package and was still hungry.
I fixed him a chicken pot pie and then he became finicky, turning his nose up at it. He went back and sniffed a few times, finally ate the whole thing.
Getting over his shyness, he had this exuberant attitude with endless energy. He pants constantly. Drinks a lot of water. He’s always grinning and chews on my toes while I try to work.
Dutch tried to follow me into the bathroom, but I closed the door before he could enter. When I exit, he was waiting, jumps up and down, up and down, twirled in puppy ballet, happy to see me again. As if I’ve been gone for a whole day and he’s known me his whole life.
I like this dog, but I wondered if he can adjust to apartment life. It’s a small area, he doesn’t have much room to roam, but compared to the kennel he was in… Still, after hours, when the park was closed he had the whole Gentry safari to roam.
When I took him out to do his business, (a successful endeavor I might add) a young man ran up the stairs to the apartment above, then ran down the stairs and around the corner.
Dutch watched, but lay near me. No barking, no running after. Good dog.
I left a note on the apartment manager’s door telling him I had a dog now. We could discuss the pet deposit. He arrived later in the afternoon, took one look at Dutch and shook his head. “We don’t allow Australian Sheperds here. They get too big and we have a list of banned dogs. He’s one on the list.”
They had a list. So I argued to no avail. Get rid of the dog or get out.
The people who picked him up seemed nice. They said they had a lot of land for him to roam on. They also have a border collie.
Maybe we’ll meet again. They said we could visit– to check up on him. I think he’ll be happy. Running through fields, chasing cattle, watching the sun rise every morning.
That should be the life of a dog.