From the beginning Sarrah did not like to be alone. She could hear me upstairs working, instead of playing with her, and howled most of the day in a display of what I was told is called “Separation Anxiety”. For such a little being she could make the loudest most heart breaking howls, for hours at a time. She would wail, most of the day, while I tried to ignore her and worked. Creating a habit, I started taking many breaks to spend time a little time with her; she rewarded me with clumsy excitement and delight. Leah eventually tried a prescription for this anxiety, but gave up on it. As like many issues there is not a magic pill cure-all.
Sarrah did not like to be outside, alone. She insisted that I join her! She actually delighted in being outside, but solitude was not a friend to her. When the weather was less than wonderful, she wanted nothing to do with it, alone. She would sit by the door and whine. If joined she would rally a little, at least long enough to take care of business and inspect the grounds. In an effort to make the backyard more suitable for Sarrah I got her a ‘doghouse’, one of those nice modern two-piece molded plastic types resembling those in the monopoly game. It was a larger version of the ‘cat condo’ that was frequently used and greatly appreciated by Tux and Simon. Apparently it never became hers, as Sarrah rarely used the little house, so it was merely a place to store her toys and clutter the deck.
I knew nothing about Dalmatians’ except for that they make a good draw for a children’s story. It turns out that they are a high maintenance, high-energy breed of dog. They require lots of attention and outlets for this energy (or they will destroy whatever they find), at least in the case of Sarrah. She chewed, dug and clawed her way through many material possessions in her youth. Later, I saw part of dog show on television claiming that they were bred to trot under horse drawn carriages ten to fifteen miles per day in defense of the horses and people. This explains a need for exercise, fierce loyalty to chosen humans, intrigue with large animals and aggression toward other threats.
After a few weeks Sarrah discovered a way to preoccupy herself, without howling. At first I was relieved and happy, for both of us. Then I heard a strange digging sound and went downstairs to investigate. The little monster was sitting down while feverishly scratching a hole in the sheetrock, another hole, in a series of them. It became my evening activity to mud the damages of the day, to keep the little beast from digging all the way through the wall. She gave up on this evil obsession, after a few months.
Sarrah had an appetite for destruction. Her first “cute dog bed” lasted less than fifteen unsupervised minutes. Sarrah discovered the delightful white fluff inside made for a good tug-of-war opponent, thru a nipped hole. This synthetic fluffy stuffing was everywhere! I gathered it up and stuffed it back in the hole from which it came. The next morning it was mostly all pulled out again. I reinstalled the filling again, and again. This game lasted a few days until the bed finally gave up holding together and was tossed into the trash.
Leah special ordered a personalized engraved dog tag; it lasted less than eight hours, becoming a mangled bit (leaving what she couldn’t get to) of red and white plastic that now said “—rah”.
Tennis balls were quickly plucked bald, giving way to yet another mess and green fuzzy dog turds. She would go crazy with these balls; grip them with her paws, chew and pull in a mesmerized frenzy that didn’t end until her mission was complete. At least they were intended targets for destruction and easily replaced.
Despite a huge growing collection of toys; balls, bones and things that squeaked (for the approximate ten minutes that it took to tear out ‘the squeaker’) Sarrah seemed to prefer boring, regular everyday ‘around the house’ things to chew on.
For some reason Sarrah discovered a taste, an insatiable appetite, a gnawing fetish for… footwear. She liked all kinds, new and old; chewy flip-flops’, tasty backed sneakers and the delightful tug of war promised by bootlaces. Since we live with the household ‘no shoe’ policy, there is always a plentiful source, by each entrance to the house. She would chew at least one of each pair, before time willing, going back for the second unmolested shoe. The unexplained desire to chew off the back of the heel of sneakers and running shoes, rendering them useless, was exceptionally irritating. Bootlaces are fairly inexpensive, but are not an easily obtained important part of the early morning workday. I recall that she finally gave up her footwear compulsion after a couple of years and could finally be trusted to leave them alone.
One warm day, while taking a break I went into the kitchen to get some water. I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye, and again, and again. Each time I moved closer to see what was going on…it was flying dirt! As I got to the sliding door, all that I could see was her hind end sticking up out of the ground. Her tail wagged in a staccato that would impress a Jazz musician, as it kept time with the small explosions of dirt flying out of the hole in the ground, the current hole in the ground. My once prized backyard looked like old war footage with holes throughout. When she heard me open the sliding door, the dirt covered little terrorist came running over delighted in discovering her new digging skills and the endless supply of nice flat ground to practice on. I filled them in, scolded her and went back to work. I checked on her later and repeated my steps. We did this frequently for days, weeks and months.
Fortunately Sarrah was only out when the weather cooperated and she did not like that I buried her ‘bio-hazard land mines’ that she left, in the new holes and eventually stopped digging. My yard hasn’t been “perfect” (nor will it ever be again) since Sarrah showed me that ‘there is more to life’.
As the clumsy puppy grew more coordinated and discovered her birthright for speed, the backyard became an amusing ‘Speckle-job Speedway’. The little black and white blur made for contrasting excitement. She discovered that running a figure-eight pattern allowed for limitless distance and honed her skills at banking, in either direction. She would hole-shot launch from zero to fifteen plus miles per hour, sometimes after the cats, but often for no apparent reason at all other than perhaps burn off steam or just to show off. If the cause was High Speed pursuit of the cats, they quickly evaded and would taunt her from safe vantage points of the fence, smirking as she went wild with crazy puppy excitement.
Sarrah would instantaneously takeoff running on the deck that runs the length of the house; her gouging toenails would add yet more scars to the wood. As Sarrah got stronger, she began to jump up onto the built-in bench. It seems that Sarrah had learned a few tricks from Tux and Simon; she would sit and lay on the bench for sunshine, view advantage and I think mostly to pose, like a cat. In time, with practice the bench began to serve as a launch platform into the yard, adding to her range for flight and to the collection of toenail scars. Soon after she began to shoot under the bench at full speed, so often that she permanently wore the hair off of a small area on her chest from deck friction. As the scars in wood fade into seasoned marks of character and distinction sealed between coats of stain, they become preserved reminders that ‘Sarrah was here’.
When Sarrah was old enough, Leah enrolled her in an obedience class. She returned after the first class beaming with all kinds of pride because “Sarrah was the best behaved in the class” and everyone was so impressed with her mellow demeanor and cooperation. I could not believe it! After the second class, Leah came home in a huff. Sarrah’s true colors came out and she was a disruptive menace causing many problems with the others, as she never really liked other dogs. I laughed, that’s the Sarrah I knew! The next class was their last. The instructor asked them not to return. Perhaps a lack of practice and homework was a part of the downfall of Sarrah’s school days (Huck Finn would’ve been proud). Sarrah always seemed to be a quite, mellow observer until she knew enough of the situation and was comfortable enough to fly her real colors.
In addition to dealing with behavioral matters, there were other adjustments to my home. Dalmatians have hair, not really much for fur. This hair is like short little pins that they constantly shed, which in turn persistently stick into all things made of fabric and static cling to everything else. The blend of white, black and gray hairs ensures that some will be noticed, regardless of clothing color. I used to say; with a bit of disgust “I’ll be finding her hair, everywhere, for the rest of my life!” Now I say to myself with a tinge of repose “I’ll be finding her hair, everywhere, for the rest of my life”.
Through the times of Mayhem and Destruction, I made a discovery or at least a bit of dark humor. I began to joke, “The reason puppies are so Cute, is so that you don’t kill them!” Sarrah caused many moments of all consuming anger, but I suppose the fault ultimately lies with the humans responsible for the situations. She won me over with affection, made me laugh and earned forgiveness for those issues that became less significant.
Fortunately I salvaged some of the ‘dog bite enhanced’ items (moving blanket, flip-flops, pull start handles, misc. wooden handled tools, extension cords, etc. These “damaged items” are new ‘signs of life’ or souvenirs’ (aka. Gifts) proof that I am able to live with less than perfect material things and am actually a little proud of it.
enjoyed reading about the marks of being that are still in your life
I LOVE this post. as they say: “I laughed ’til I cried” …. Chip. (my dalmatian) was exactly the same way. We never went to obedience classes but I’m Sure Chip would have been the same way. I am blessed with a “English Pointer / Blue Healer” mix that is almost the same way. Actually she’s even a bit more extreme. If she doesn’t walk 1.5 miles a day she takes it out on anything in sight.
Reblogged this on The Iowa Dog Trust and commented:
What a great story …. and if you know me personally, you would sware that bgoffe was ghost writing about Chip and myself!