For the past couple of months – ok, let’s be honest, for the past year and a half since Gabe bounded into my mom’s car (and somehow into my life), our relationship has been a fairly constant struggle. The struggle goes like this: we get past one bad habit, he comes up with a new one. For example – we recently managed to make our bed off limits to him. We’d made the mistake of letting this little alpha jack russell burrow under the covers each night, when, the more we’ve read, dogs like this should not be allowed to sleep in the best spot in the house. That’s our place. So we got him his own bed, and, after a few nights (and some swift shoves off the end of our bed), he decided his new spot wasn’t so bad. Problem solved, right?
Now he has decided that in his less comfortable spot, he has trouble sleeping through the night and so is much more apt to wake up three or four times each night pretending he desperately needs to do his business, when, in fact, he needs no such thing.
I teach him to walk next to or behind me, he learns to get into the kitchen trash can. At the beginning of last week, he plucked two containers of leftover Indian food and a slice of birthday cake from the trash and devoured it all without any of us (there were 4 people in the house) hearing a thing. The only evidence was the remnant empty styrofoam. And that was some spicy food. Which explains why he spent the entire night expelling it – one way or another.
We found Gabe when he was already nearly a year old, and it’s hard to say what the first year of his life was like (although, a safe bet would have something to do with a double wide, several monster children and a couple of parents who thought Jacks were just adorable).What we do know is that he’s terrified of the wind (I opened the windows today to let the oddly warm air in and later found him smashed into one corner of the kitchen, trembling uncontrollably), he loves his rope more than anything in the world (yes, I think even me), he’s horribly antisocial (we’re getting better with people, dogs are still pretty rough) and he has the indefatigable energy of a ten-year-old boy afflicted with both ADHD and a crack addiction.
But he’s really effing cute when he’s asleep. (Which is about 5% of the time).
Seriously, though, as frustrating and even maddening as it can be to try to raise this little guy right, the moments of triumph remind me that I’m doing the best thing anyone could do (or did do) for Gabe. Today on our walk, I stopped and said nothing. He stopped and sat down next to me. We’d worked on this ALL week. Of course, he never did it again without prompting, but that one little win made it all worth it. I’m serious, I think I almost cried outside of Byrne’s Pub. We have SO much work to do still, but when I read about how Jack Russels are one of the top breeds returned to shelters and pounds because their owners felt they were in over their heads (ie, “Wow. He was so cute as a puppy. We didn’t know he’d be so much work.”), and that, as “problem dogs” they are rarely re-adopted and therefore eventually put to sleep, there’s no question in my mind that the work isn’t “worth it.”
Lately I’ve been kind of hooked on Post Secret (http://postsecret.blogspot.com), and I caught one at work the other afternoon that grabbed my heart and squeezed so unexpectedly that I was momentarily breathless (I swear to god I’m not as emotional as this post would indicate): “I’ve heard once you die, every dog you ever knew or loved comes running toward you to say, ‘Hi.’ That though makes me incredibly happy.”
Yep. Just let it soak in…..
You’re crying, too, now, aren’t you? My work here is finished. I guess my entire point is just that Gabe is showing me that I’m capable of a kind of responsibility and love I wasn’t sure I had in me. And it has been (and will continue to be) so effing HARD. And so be it.