Friday, August 05, 2011

The Dogs Must Be Crazy

She looks sweet and innocent, doesn't she?

The other day, Ruby was in her x-pen and got bored. The x-pen was sitting on a plastic drop cloth, the drop cloth was folded in half, and was covered by a layer of newspaper. To my mind, this was puppy Fort Knox. Impenetrable from the outside. Impenetrable from the inside. But Ruby is a terrier and the word "impenetrable" isn't in her vocabulary (okay, "impenetrable" isn't in any dog's vocabulary, but work with me here...). She was bored, so she did what she was bred to do. She burrowed under the newspaper, dug and chewed her way underneath the two layers of plastic, navigated her way in these plastic tunnels to the x-pen walls, and when they didn't budge, she tried to tunnel through the hardwood floor.

Terriers were bred to kill vermin (rats, mice, badgers, foxes, etc.) by digging into the ground into the animal's burrow and either 1) chasing them out and into the mouth of the hounds or 2) killing the creature themselves. Even though they look sweet and harmless, they're really furry assassins. They have been bred to think independently of humans--they don't follow commands beyond "Go in the hole!"-- and by necessity, bite first and ask questions later. They aren't vicious, and they make wonderful pets, but you have to know what you're in for. One minute they look like fluffy, panting throw pillows, the next minute they're playing tug of war with a very unlucky rodent.


Ruby is only three months old, but already her motto is "When in doubt, dig it up and kill it." And she's a little obsessive-compulsive about it.

In fact, she's a little obsessive-compulsive about everything. Like attacking prickly chestnut burrs, even when they poke her. Or licking every. single. one. of. Harley's. whiskers. Twice. (Seemingly impervious to the growling, the hissing, and his claws embedded in her collar) Or barking to be let out of her crate. Nonstop. Like a car alarm. Woof woof, woof woof, woof woof, woof woof, woof woof, woof woof until someone lets her out. Or the way she annihilates a bone, and kills her toys. If it still has some stuffing left in it, it's not dead enough.

Terriers don't do anything half way. They throw themselves body and soul into whatever they're doing 100%. So if they love, they love you as big as the sky. And if they hate, they hate with blind bile-seething passion. Ruby has decided that the slicker brush is her mortal enemy, and whenever it rears its ugly bristles, she feels it her duty to fight it to the death. Every day I work with her, brushing her a little bit, hoping that if I keep at it, eventually she'll learn to accept it. Baths are another story... Ever see a puppy climb up a ceramic tile wall? Yeah... I have.

I'm sure people who are used to more sedate breeds think terriers are deranged, but I can't help myself. It's what I love about them. Any other type of dog would be...well...boring. I think as a writer, I'm drawn to these dogs because living with one is like living in a choose-your-own-adventure novel. They're my furry muses--always inspiring me--always keeping me on my toes.

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