Friday, February 2, 2018

Tiny Dog

I have a chihuahua. There, I admit it. Can't believe those words were ever put on a page I'm responsible for, but there you go.

Her name is Triscuit. She tops out at seven pounds, so she's not a tiny chi, although I'm pretty sure one of my feet would weigh more. She has ridiculously dainty feet and she walks like a model on the cat walk. Her eyes bulge every bit as much as a tree frog and her tiny mouth can't hold all her teeth. There is a giant vet bill in my near future. She has the ear-splitting yap all chi's seem to treasure and humps the pillows on my couch.

Triscuit isn't one to toe the line. She's a free spirit and feels no need to honor the rules my scrum of dogs are expected to follow. When all my dogs sit and wait for a cookie, Triscuit stands, looking impatient. If I really focus and try to actually teach her to sit, she will offer the stupid ballerina dance all chi's seem to have as their go to. Or, she'll stand. If it's rainy, cold, windy or too hot she poops in the house.

I have heard many times that if a chi was the size of a pit bull they would the most dangerous dog on the planet. It's a funny, I've noticed this broad generalization usually comes from folks that normally stand firm on "It's the owner, not the breed!" beliefs, but in this case, they're right. If chis were the size of pit bulls they would be plotting world domination-and would probably succeed.

When Triscuit came to live with us, she was a very bad dog. If we were going somewhere in the car, she would bolt as soon as I opened a door, and leave. Gone, baby gone. If she escaped from our yard, which she did on a regular basis, she would hang around until somebody called her, then, ZIP!!, gone again. She stole food off of plates, begged until she was picked up and then bit us in the face. She attacked joggers and any child under ten, completely living up to the name "ankle biter." She guarded laps like a Romanian stray with a big meaty bone.

My first training effort was to simply park her butt on the floor and treat her like the other dogs. Then, I ignored her. One of the benefits of having a scrum of dogs is how much they vie for my attention. Pushing, snapping, growling dogs don't get any. Fighting, biting dogs get put outside. Quiet dogs, that sit patiently, get their chin and chest scratched. It's simple, but it works for me.

My ignoring technique gives me time to think about each dog, the trouble they're causing, and what might be the root of the problem. Triscuit is too small. Her life is spent being stepped on, sat on, scooped up by people she doesn't know, pushed aside by other dogs, and dealing with a strong prey drive, when she herself is the size of most prey. Being tiny rightfully pisses her off.

Triscuit liked living on the floor and acclimated to staying out of the way quickly. It soon became apparent she hated human faces shoved into hers. Think about it. If my head was the size of a tennis ball and some old denture-breath snatched me up and stuck her face close enough to count her blackheads, I'd bite her too. The people rule became, "Don't pick up the chihuahua." Ear scratches, a little butt rub and she was content.

After a month of giving her space, she started asking, politely, to sit on our laps. A month after that
she would snuggle under a willing chin. The growling, biting, shaking behavior stopped. At the first ear flick of lap guarding, she was back on the floor. Once she started craving contact I had a training tool that worked.

I finally got a recall by being happy to see her every time I stepped outside and then, let her stay outside. She loves being outside. I have a feeling tiny dogs spend their lives being clutched, shoved back or locked in. Triscuit was delighted when she found out she got an enthusiastic greeting every time I called and it didn't stop her fun.

My chihuahua is crazy brave. She faced an angry pair of goats and a rattler with grim determination. A young hawk swooped towards her one morning and before he could strike she spun and sunk her deformed, nubby teeth into his chest. He shrieked, my big dog Brockle hit him with everything he had and we had an ugly few seconds before the hawk left without his breakfast. Triscuit was scared witless and came flying to me. I held her close and picked several feathers out of her mouth. She learned to stay close to Brockle and I, but she didn't hide.

She is still an escaping, egg stealing, trouble making shit, but she's kind of cool. Still is not a dog I would have chosen, but my husband, Jim, did. She was his constant friend during the last two years, as illness and dementia claimed my once strong and funny biker dude. Triscuit lived in his lap. When he was bed-ridden, she lay by his side, always ready to snog his cheek and share his lunch. She was polite with the hospice workers but kept a close eye. The night he died, she sat with me, confused, while Jim was loaded for transport. When the engine started she bolted, faster than she ever escaped from my car. The transporters barely got the door shut in time. As the hearse pulled away
Triscuit screamed, the shriek of a dying rabbit. I was sure she'd been hurt. She raced from window to window repeating her unearthly wail until the other dogs began to howl. In the past, I would never humanize a dog to the point of saying their heart could break. I will now. Her pain was too real for me to take in. When the tail lights blinked out of sight, she turned to me, broken with sorrow and curled next to me on the couch. That is why I have a chihuahua.

Triscuit moved to my bed and sleeps with me at night. She is still quiet, and sad much of the time, but this morning, she went after the goats with everything she had. Her tail was curled high and her yap as obnoxious as ever.  I'm thinking we'll be all right.


Sunstruck said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your husband. I am thrilled beyond words that I have more of your stories to read. You have been missed.

bassgirl said...

Thank you for sharing this period of your life. You are an amazing woman! Your words paint a picture that makes it feel like we were there with you. And please know that, in spirit, we are.

Anonymous said...

Sheer joy at seeing a new post followed by deep sorrow at the news of your loss. Although I do not know you or your family personally your stories over the years have made them all come alive off the page. As such, your loss touches us all.

Anonymous said...

Once again, welcome back. I've been an avid an of your writing since 2008, regardless of the topic. I've been checking in once every month or so in the small hope that maybe, just maybe, there would be something new. So very sorry to hear of your loss, and knowing full well how much dedication is required to care for a loved one around the clock, kudos to you.

SarahW said...

Her broken heart tore at mine. I'm so sorry Mugwump. So very sorry.

Skittle said...

Oh Mugs, I am so very sorry for your loss.

sterry said...

Aw, Mugs, so sorry. Thinking of you.

LadyFarrier said...

Oh, my. I, too, have poked my nose in at your site every so often, just hoping. I'm delighted to see you again, and so very, very sad to hear that your beloved Jim has left us behind. I have a Jim, too, and I'm rather attached to him.

Thank you for sharing yourself with all of us again.

Sending huge, fat, smelly, unwanted farrier hugs at you. Hang in there, gal.

HorsesandTurbos said...

Oh, Mugs...I am so sorry about Jim. There are no words.


Heather said...

:-( I checked in to see if there was anything new. With great delight, I started catching up. Then I ran into this post. I'm sure "Sorry" doesn't touch how you feel. But I am sad that you've lost your Biker Dude. :-(

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh no. You've lost Jim. I am so sorry for such a hard loss.

Snuggle that tiny dog. She needs it. Thank you for understanding her. I'm a converted small dog person forever now and they are a lot of personality stuffed into a small package. I'm at least glad you don't have to sleep alone.

Thinking of you.

Heidi the Hick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeanne said...

I woke this morning not wanting to do anything. I didn't want to write. I didn't want to make my bed. Even making breakfast was a daunting thought. So, as a delaying tactic, I decided to fire up the computer.

News was depressing, FB infuriating, and then the thought came to mind that I hadn't checked to see if Mugs has written in awhile. Won't hurt to look. NEW posts!! My heart actually beat a bit faster and I began to read greedily.

I am so saddened to hear of your loss.

And I am so glad you are back. I admire your stories and style so much. You are one of those writers who inspires the desire in me to write and create.

Take care of yourself...

DarcC said...

That post slayed me on every level. I very recently realized you had started writing again and have been catching up posts since 2015, and it’s like visiting with an old friend. I hope as I continue reading that life gets brighter for you.

Triscuit reminds me a bit of my Teddy, an oversized (20lb) Pomeranian, mill reject turned Farm dog and self-appointed livestock guardian. Then I got rid of the livestock he was guarding (poultry), and leased my land to a draft horse sanctuary that promotes working horses. He’s a coach dog now. He’s a complete asshole, but he’s entertaining. If you’re ever on fb, his page is Ted Teddy Tedward, I chronicle many of his exploits, at least, the ones I know about.

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