Monday, 12 December 2011

Psychology lab

Way back in the dark ages, children, if you wanted a dog, you went down to the SPCA, picked a dog and brought him home. You fed him, played with him, left him in the house or tied up outside if you had to go out. You didn't buy him coats and booties, you didn't spend hours crate-training him, and you certainly didn't send him Christmas and birthday cards.

We put in our application with the Ottawa Humane Society just under a year ago. There's a multiple-choice form you fill out, which you are encouraged to answer keeping your "ideal dog" in mind. We soon found out that you need to think of a "less-than-ideal" dog, otherwise you won't be considered a candidate for any of their animals. Strikes against us: we live in a semi-detached without a fenced yard; we don't have a car, we lack recent canine experience (the Resident Fan Boy and I last had dogs in our adolescent years); and we made the mistake of ticking "non-shedding" (well, they said "ideal") and apparently that sort of creature rarely shows up at a shelter. We also don't jog, which seems to be the criteria for several of the more active breeds there.

After our application ran out twice, we resubmitted it last fall and broadened our parameters considerably. We saw dogs everywhere, being walked by people who apparently were far worthier of dog ownership than we. Perhaps everyone in New Edinburgh purchases their dogs through puppy mills?

Last Thursday, a co-worker, a hard-core animal-fan whose dog lives in her car while she's at work so she can walk him during breaks, encouraged the RFB to try for a ten-year-old lab cross. His profile (the pooch's, that is) indicated that he was afraid of riding in cars. We'd hoped for a younger specimen, but heck, we're car-free and this was a medium-sized dog, short-haired and not small and yappy, so we decided that, after eleven and a half months, it was now or possibly never.

Dog-crazy co-worker offered to drive us out to the Humane Society which, in the past year, has moved from its accessible quarters near Dow Lake to an isolated crescent way the hell off Hunt Club Road, a half-hour hike from any bus stops. With the Friday evening traffic, it took the better part of an hour to drive out there, even though the RFB and DCC had left work at three-thirty.

Once arrived, we went through another long vetting process. We were required to read the dog's full profile, which included a report from a recent month-long fostering. Then we had to wait for an available staff member to bring the dog out to meet us. We followed a strict protocol: a long greeting session, followed by a walk outside on the AstroTurf, then a play session in a small room. All during this process, we were giving a dizzying list of tips, including never saying goodbye and not greeting him effusively on home-comings to allay separation anxiety. Oh. Okay...

Then the staff member was required to remove the dog back to his holding room while we made the decision.

By this time, we'd been there well over an hour and our kindly ride was now late for a dinner being given in her honour for her fiftieth birthday. (We hadn't known this.)

"He's very thorough," I offered, apologetically.
"He's slow," she scoffed. "The other guides don't take this long," She purchased a large bag of dog food and assisted me in picking out a collar, lead, and (gulp) crate, probably to speed us along as much as anything. Meanwhile, our thorough (slow) staff member was typing up the forms on the word processor -- with one finger...

Finally, we bundled our canine companion into the back seat between younger daughter and me and yes, he really hated the car ride, all thirty minutes of it, whining piteously and only stopping for red lights and heavy traffic. (Sandy Hill was closed off, if you please, by police monitoring the demonstrations at the Congolese Embassy.) During the final five minutes, the dog made a dive for the very back and thrashed around a bit. We arrived, and I quickly escorted him indoors. Our ride had made her escape by the time we'd completed a lightening tour of the house.

On the first night, we discovered that Labradors chew. Our duvet will never be quite the same. By the third night, we discovered this dog is obsessive about marking the boundaries of his territory, and the Resident Fan Boy was a whiter shade of pale from fretting and lost sleep, blaming DCC for "pressuring" him into adoption. He seemed to have a particular horror of this dog-gone fella piddling and pooping in the house.

I pointed out that our new family member did not bite, kept the barking to the occasional mild woof, and, best of all, waited quietly in his crate for us to return from two (2) plays over the weekend. (We'd bought the tickets before we had any idea we were imminent dog-owners.) As for the occasional accident, hadn't his boyhood pet ever messed in the house? No, declared the RFB stoutly, but admitted that, since the said sainted pooch had joined his household when the RFB was but a pup himself, he doesn't have any real memories of actually training her. My bet is, his mother, a farm-girl from Alberta and rector's wife to boot, did all the dirty work. (She usually did.) At my childhood home, the rule was, whoever discovered deposits and/or puddles had to clean them up, the result being that stuff would sit around for days. My late mother-in-law wouldn't have been a bit surprised.

This evening, we're at the seventy-two-hour mark. The Resident Fan Boy seems to have spent most of his day swapping doggy tales at the office. Younger daughter has banned our new friend from her room because he makes off with the long dis-used items in her toy basket, but greets him joyfully on her return from school. Me? All of a sudden, I have way less time, but this seems to be forcing me to do things without dithering. And my pedometer is looking impressive.

The best moment of all was elder daughter's face when she saw the lithe black form on Skype. When she was eight, she did an oil painting for art lessons entitled "Dream of Having a Dog". We've hidden it in the basement all these years, possibly to spare our late cat's feelings.

Let's see how well the Resident Fan Boy sleeps tonight...

1 comment:

SOL's view said...

A new family member is always disruptive at first, aren't they! He's a very lucky dog. :)