It’s been one year of dog.
One year ago we collected a fur bag of problems. How many problems cannot be overstated.
However, under the heavy guilt trip/awareness that we would be the last chance for this challenging, thrice-rescued dog, and with the help of Cesar Millan (dog god) and his sage advice (Exercise first, then discipline, then affection), we managed to keep him. Cesar’s insistence that any dog can be reformed (it’s just a lot of work), didn’t hurt either. He wasn’t kidding about the work.
He took up so much time, he set back some of our projects. Exercise, for a husky in young adult prime, is daunting. We tried an hour a day (Cesar’s minimum). It wasn’t enough. A 20km trail run, 3x a week, is enough. Just. And that’s a run, pacing with a bicycle at trail speed. Not walk, not jog. It’s a ride that wipes me out, and I’m on a bike (I don’t look forward to when I have to do the dog run). It tuckers him out until he’s content to lounge around for a day, and then he’ll be full of dog beans, ready to go again.
Thankfully, he has grasped from day 1 how to run with a bicycle, always attentive and respectful. It has made it possible to exercise him adequately.
Somewhere along the way he became a reasonably good dog.
He’s not as embarrassing as he used to be.
One example of a lot of other charming traits he exhibited at the beginning: he had some phobia of the leash around his legs. The lead simply getting looped under his “arm” would inspire him to suddenly hurl his body in all directions at once, thrashing and flailing around on the ground while shrieking insanely about it; on the whole, behavior appropriate to being attacked by a swarm of hornets. This was a mesmerizing spectacle, especially because it often wasn’t clear what provoked the scene.
It was effective, to a point. Usually he came untangled out of all that thrashing.
Now, he gets a foot tangled and he hops along on three legs, waving the hooked paw around to free it with a resigned look on his face. Again? Like a normal dog.
When I see him running around smiling, and greeting me, and wagging, and running to me when I whistle, I found you! and otherwise being a “normal dog”, I remember the contrast. We did not take receipt of a normal dog. It was months before we saw flat ears (a relaxed submissive indication).
I think he gets satisfaction now out of being obedient, and having a job to do (stick around, smell things, run with the bicycle, occasionally chase or herd things).
He definitely knows the meaning of several commands and phrases: Where’s the dog? Get out of there! Get over here! Is it time for a dog’s breakfast? What do good boys get? Come, let’s go, eat it, ok, sit, stay, down, drop it, bring it, get’em, high five, heel. Heel was a real game changer. I think it may be the most important thing to teach a dog. To switch from a dog yanking up ahead or just being too rambunctious to quietly walking behind you, wow! Sometimes he takes it too literally and walks on the heels of my shoes, like we’re in elementary school. That’s super annoying, but I don’t think it’s deliberate. And the occasional damp nose or furry head bump on the back of a bare leg is kind of nice.
I am glad that he is totally unfazed by thunderstorms. He talks about everything else; I’m glad he doesn’t freak out during storms.
I am not glad that he has not learned from the first 11 porcupines. *However, we have had some dead porcupines around these days, and although he is fascinated and compelled to investigate them, he approaches a porc corpse like it’s a bomb. Tiptoes, neck stretched out to maximum length, inquisitively twitching nose at a careful inch and a half remove. His last encounter was a tail slap, not a mouthful, so perhaps this is progress??
I am glad he’s a brown-eyed husky.
I am glad he grasps the concept of leashes, and trees. I’ve known many dogs who completely fail to grasp leashes in conjunction with trees, stop signs, etc. He very quickly sorts himself out when he wraps around trees, unless he happens to get double wrapped, which seems to be too much to deal with. This reminds me of the classic intelligence test for animals with the tether and two poles. Will the animal walk around the pole to reach the food?
I’m glad he hardly ever barks. Almost never. He barks at bears in the night, which is handy. And oh, does he bark at porcupines. More than once, I’ve heard “that tone” in his bark and set out at a dead run towards it, hollering in vain hopes of interceding. This always ends with meeting him running towards me, as fast as he can with tail tucked and almost crouching, yelping and crying and writhing in pain.
I’m not glad he’s the world’s lousiest guard dog. Anyone can walk right up to him and he’ll jump. Whoa! Didn’t see you there. You really snuck up on me. He sleeps like a log through the night. He’s not terribly useful yet.
I’m glad he is a vegetable dog. Such a vegetable dog. Crazy about vegetables, from the first time he started whining when I was feeding the hens lettuce, and I realized he was not salivating for a chicken, but eager to eat the lettuce. Tomatoes are his number one, ranking on par with dog biscuits. Carrots are dearly beloved. He’s crazy about cukes. Snap peas are an unconquerable temptation. He has a spot he is allowed to lie just inside the garden gate, which he loves to do (he catches beans I toss to him). I’ll park him there and be absorbed working, and every time I glance up at him, he’ll be still lying peacefully gazing at me, but he’ll be a few inches nearer to the bed with sugar snap peas in it. Lettuce, kale, beans, squash…I haven’t fed him a vegetable yet he hasn’t eaten.
I’m glad he’s come to terms with the chickens and now knows he may not put them in his mouth. He’s actually not bad at responding to their alarm cries and even herding them. The Silkies are another story. He wants them in his mouth, bad. But I’ll give him a pass on that. They just too much resemble wind-up stuffed toys, and don’t resemble the contraband chickens at all. It would be hard to associate.
I’m glad he talks. So strange, how really only huskies and Malamutes vocalize like that, and it can only be called talking. He’s conversing; there’s an exchange. It’s just like talking to someone with another language. Neither of you understand a single word, but the meaning can be communicated.
He’s been encouraged to talk (we talk back to him), and I think I’m coming to understand some of his “speech”. He’s got an awful lot to say, and it’s just wild how he will make a particular (complex!) set of sounds exactly over again, sometimes louder, or slightly faster or more intense. He’s clearly saying the same thing again, deliberately. Like, are you hard of hearing? How many times do I need to repeat this?