It wasn’t until we’d had Princess for a few days, and I found myself laying out a buffet of different kinds of dog food on the kitchen floor, that I realized she was having more success in training me than I was in training her. In fact, we’re not really training Princess as much as negotiating with her.
The hugely furry, seven-month-old Keeshond-Husky Cross came into our lives one year on April Fools Day. We’d had to put down the second of two beloved old mutts in January and had been dogless for three months. We didn’t expect to ever get another dog but that day we had some spare time and decided to visit the local animal shelter. Princess, who had been in the pound awaiting adoption for four months, captured our hearts in as many seconds. An hour later we were several hundred dollars poorer, and one dog richer. Who says there’s no such thing as love at first sight?
We quickly discovered how appropriately she’d been named. Princess truly is a princess and the first thing she did when she arrived in her new home was launch a hunger strike. I had, perhaps naively, expected her to gobble up the free kibble we got from the dog shelter. Instead, she took a disdainful sniff and turned away. She then went back to select one morsel which she carefully placed in the middle of the living room rug but did not eat. We had bought a big box of treats and I now gave her one. Princess very daintily took it from my hand, then hid it under the recliner.
“Just leave her,” said Bill. “When she gets hungry enough, she’ll eat.” But after twenty-four hours, I began to scramble. I got a variety of dog food samples from the pet store and found myself laying out a doggie banquet. Princess sniffed each one, then daintily selected the most expensive kind. I later discovered she will also eat high-end canned dog food and cooked (not raw) salmon, steak, hamburger, liver and beef bones. She likes to take all of this out of her dog bowl and consume it on the living room rug. This is where we’ve drawn the line. She has agreed to eat from her bowl in the kitchen, as long as we give her food she likes.
We’ve also entered into serious, ongoing negotiations about walks and exercise. After having two geriatric dogs who, in their final years, did little but lie by the fire and go for slow measured walks, I’d forgotten how much energy puppies have. Trouble is I don’t have the energy I had fifteen years ago when our other dogs were young. Even then I couldn’t keep up. Now I get back from a long walk with Princess and drape myself on the recliner for several hours of recovery, while Princess jumps up and down, wondering “what’s next?”
One day I decided to throw a ball for her, thinking she would tire herself out retrieving, while I basked in comfort on the front step. She’s not a retriever but a burier and burrower who digs up what is buried and buries what isn’t (she has unearthed three dead mice so far). I wanted her to bring the ball back for me to throw again but she wanted to play keepaway. This became another matter of negotiation, along with “sitting,” “staying,” coming when she’s called and not jumping on people.
Despite the battle of wills, Princess is an unending source of delight and makes us laugh every day – when she pounces on blowing leaves, frolics around the living room or runs ecstatically through the bush with her best friend, Griz, the dog next door. Most of all, I love the huge, affectionate reunions, complete with doggy kisses, welcoming whines and serious tail-wagging whether we’ve been apart for five seconds or five hours.
As for the rest, progress is being made. We are enrolled in obedience school after which I am confident that either she, or I, will become more obedient.
*Originally published in Above & Beyond Magazine and in Iceberg Tea.