Five days before my forty-third birthday, I prematurely spent my gift money on a puppy. It wasn't a very well thought out purchase to be sure, but it wasn't completely irresponsible either. I've wanted a pet since I was a little boy. Who hasn't, right? Getting a dog has come up in casual conversation on and off over the last year or so. Even more regularly in the last few months now that Koval has overcome his fear of four-legged anythings. About a month ago, Ellie came up on our radar. A 10-month old Blue Heeler who was living in a kennel in Appleton. It sweetened the pot considerably that she was a breed I was fascinated by since my days in Oregon where a friend of mine raised them. Plus, it was a Heeler that played the supporting actor role in one of my favorite movies, 'Last of the Dogmen' opposite Tom Berenger. Heelers are an active and protective breed known also to be highly intelligent. Everything seemed right, so we jumped through the appropriate hoops, got the needed approvals and glowing references needed to begin the adoption process. We then drove the 90-miles to meet the pup in question and interview with the agency who'd been caring for her. While Lori talked shop with the agency rep, Ellie and I romped though the field behind the kennel. It was somewhat surreal that after 35 years of not having a pet, I was most likely about to become the owner of this dog who was presently gnawing on my forearm. It's a lot like owning a Ferrari: it's something cool to think about, but I've accepted it would never happen.
Ellie's story began when she moved to Wisconsin from Ohio to work as a herding dog on a dairy farm. After almost being hit by a tractor several times her first day on the job, the farmer brought her to a vet where it was determined Ellie was deaf. Having no need for a deaf dog, the farmer dumped her at the local Humane Society. Being handicapped, her fate seemed sealed until an animal rescue agency saved her. She was then adopted by a family in the Fox River Valley and moved north. Her stay in that new home was short lived when a sudden and serious illness forced the family to surrender Ellie back to the rescue agency. This is where we enter the story. The therapist who helped Kovi over his fear of dogs, gave Lori a link to a friend of hers who was associated with O.A.R.s (orphaned animal rescue), the agency responsible for Ellie. She had been staying with a foster family that was a couple who did wedding photography, so the pictures of Ellie on the O.A.R.s web-site were of this beautiful, smiling (yes, smiling) puppy. We were smitten. I wouldn't be writing this if we hadn't been approved. We wrote a check and headed home, completely unprepared to bring home a dog. Two stops and a couple hundred dollars later we were on our way.
Part ll: Raising Chaos
The best part of having a deaf dog is that you can change her name every day if you'd like. It was Maui for a day and a half. Then, while we were on a walk, Sydney and I came up with Zooey, and it stuck. One of the things we had going in our favor as being responsible pet-owners is that the dog would only be home alone for six hours a week. However, in her first 30-minutes alone, Zooey opened the bread box and mauled a bag of kaiser rolls, ate my last peanut square (white cake frosted on all six sides and coated in peanuts) bag and all, leaving only the still sealed zip-loc closure, and turned Lori's decorative driftwood collection into a pile of mulch like a canine wood chipper. It wasn't long before we realized this was going to be a long tough road. I described it to a co-worker as "...having a baby without the nine months of preparation." How do you call, scold, or praise a dog that can't hear? A Blue Heeler is a breed that wants to run. And I mean run. I could run her to the county line and back, and after a 20 minute nap on the end of the couch she'll look up at me as if to say, "So are we going for a walk, or what?" She's 35lbs of pure energy. I think she alone could disprove Einstein's E=mc2. Zooey's 'E' is greater then her M (mass) at rest! I'm just sure of it. The first couple of times Zo and I were alone she was laying in the sun on the dining room floor after our walk and I found myself thinking, "nap or lunch?" I opted for nap both times. You sleep when baby sleeps! Having this dog is going to take a truckload of patience as we still have to be in the same room with her to make certain that she doesn't disembowel the furniture. It'll take crafty planning to make sure everything gets done and everybody gets the attention they need. Zooey's another piece in a big complicated puzzle that comprise the family. And like the rest of the kids, she's fairly spoiled. She's slept on our bed since day one. On her first night with us, we put her in the brand new kennel we had just bought. She whined and barked until Lori came downstairs. They ended up spending all night up and down between the couch and the floor. Indigo suggested we move the kennel up to our room so Zooey wouldn't feel alone. Again, she cried when when we kenneled her. This time Lori brought her pillow onto the floor and spooned with the puppy next to her kennel. By the time I got out of the shower, Lori was fast asleep on the floor and Zooey was curled up on the down comforter. She's spent every night there since. Will Zooey continue to run this household? You decide... The issue of the dog sleeping on the bed has been solved: We're getting a bigger bed.