Sunday, March 12, 2006

When dogs have issues

In my life, I've had to deal with a lot of interesting characters. Sometimes, it's not so easy learning how to cope with people and their personality quirks.

Like one of my team members, D. We have been butting heads since basically the first day he came to work at our company. He is a real control freak about things to the point where it ends up biting him in the ass and then he's scrambling to try and get things done (which I inevitably end up getting sucked into and it pisses me off to no end). So, after a little *ahem* disagreement a few weeks ago, we're getting along better and both making the effort to do a better job of communicating with each other. As in, he's avoiding me and I still think he's an asshat. Hey, it works for me.

Or my friend R. We've been friends for almost 7 years and she is a lot older than I am and can sometimes be very set in her ways. The biggest obstacle is that she is agoraphobic - she can make it to work every day, but throw off her routine or make her go somewhere different and she is a wreck. So we tend to have lunch at the same little group of places every day, we sit in almost the same tables (away from the salad bar or she starts twitching), stuff like that. I can cope with that.

But then there's Rufus. He's our dog. The dog has more issues than an episode of Dr. Phil.

We got Rufus in the days BMM (Before Monkey Man) when life was carefree and we were a young couple with lots of spare time and disposable income. I had always wanted a dog but Joey had been resistant for a long time - see, he grew up where dogs were really meant to be outside, you took them hunting or whatever. I come from a family where my sister has custom-made collars and coats made for her dogs, so obviously you know where this is going. So Joey finally said "Fine, we can get a dog with one condition....he can't be able to climb up on the sofa or steal food off the table." He sat back with a little grin on his face, maybe even a little smug that there was absolutely no animal on the face of the planet that could meet that criteria.

Little did he know that I had been plotting my perfect dog for about 20 years. Remember the movie "The Accidental Tourist" and the dog Edgar? Edgar was a Cardigan Welsh Corgi - they look like this:

A little genetic freak of nature. I mean, come on now - with those little stubby legs and that long torso, it's a bitch for them to even climb up or down a few steps. And I'm sure that the fact that Rufus is about 10 pounds overweight doesn't help at all.

So anyhow, we faithfully trekked up to Maryland to look at a female that we had heard about, but when we arrived at the breeder's house the female wanted nothing to do with us - but her little brother, Rufus, was all over us and was the cutest thing ever. A week later we went back and picked him up. He was so adorable and loving that we knew he'd make a great addition to our family. Of course, now that I look back I think he was so desperate to get away from the breeder and the chaos there that he would've done a little soft-shoe if we would've taken him out of there.

We don't know what the heck happened to him - maybe he was abused by the breeder or her brother who helped out with the dogs. Maybe the flight from England when he was only 3 months old severely traumatized him. But we had a dog who was great with us and terrible around anyone else. Well, except my brother-in-law, but we'll get to that in a second.

He can't stand strangers, especially men. We still joke that it's a "five visit rule" - namely, you have to come to our house at least 5 times before he won't attempt to remove your foot from your leg. And still he won't let certain people near him, like my dad who is the biggest dog lover on the face of the planet and you can tell that it visibly pains him that Rufus rejects his love over and over. I have to remind him that when Rufus was younger, my dad jokingly barked and growled at him so now he's off Rufus's love list. It's almost amusing to watch Rufus cutting his eyes over at my dad, making sure that there are no sudden moves, no attempt at love....."Grandpa, you could tie a pound of bacon around your neck and I still ain't coming to you, PERIOD. Got it?"

And it's not just my dad - it's pretty much anyone who isn't a constant fixture in our house. When people come over we tend to shut him off in our bedroom because, well, he's never bitten anybody but damn if I'm going to take that chance and serve him up a little 4-year-old on a silver platter. Of course, when Monkey Man's friends come over and hear the dog, they want to see the doggie and pet him and it's hard to make a toddler understand that it's probably not a good idea to let Cujo out right now, he's a little bit crabby.

The strangest thing is that Rufus adores my brother-in-law K. like nobody else does. If marrying an animal was legal, he would win K.'s love, marry K., and be happy as a clam. All you have to do is mention K.'s name and the stupid dog goes into a fit of ecstacy complete with a big toothy grin. It drives Joey crazy to no end that our dog, the one we have loved and nurtured since he was a puppy, loves K. more than he loves us. I, however, love to torture K. by pretending to talk like Rufus and saying things like "Oh Uncle K., I'm free tonight if you want to spoon a little bit, I'll bring the wine."

Rufus doesn't just have the stranger issues. He has digestive issues - typically if he eats something funky like something that the raccoons have pulled out of our trash and left in the yard, or a dryer sheet, or his absolute favorite thing in the world (cat shit), he ends up getting a bacterial infection in his stomach and is sick as a dog *snicker* until we get him to the vet. This never happens, of course, when the vet is actually open because I think Rufus realizes that by waiting until 7 PM on a Friday night it is so much more convenient to barf on the rug because Mommy is there to clean it up and he doesn't have to look at it all day. Hurumph. So then it's off to the emergency vet at $350 for about 6 hours. Ouch. We've been lucky in that the emergency vet trips have been limited to two, but we've had him at the regular vet for the same problem countless times which really adds up. He's also had a benign tumor removed from his side about 3 years ago at a cost of $400. Oh, and did I mention the food allergies? Argh.

One of my friends asked me recently why in the world we would want a dog who hates everyone and has all these other problems. Well, it's kind of hard to explain. He's a member of our family. Yes, he smells like ass and desperately needs a breath mint, but he's all ours and he is really a good dog with our little family. He never had issues with Monkey Man from day one - not like he was all over him, MM had to win Rufus' love slowly and now they are best buddies. Well, maybe I shouldn't go that far, but there's a mutual love and respect there that you can't beat.

Last night, K. brought his new girlfriend S. over so we could all go to a concert together. After the requisite barking and snarling, within five minutes he was begrudgingly chasing a stick she was throwing for him out in the yard. By begrudgingly, I mean that he was going after the stick with a sort of loping gait and a look on his face like "I might be going after the stick lady, but I ain't enjoying it." So the four of us left for our night out and when we got back home, I sat on the living room floor to talk to the babysitter and her fiance about the concert we'd seen and Rufus crawled up into my lap. I started scratching his back, which makes him sort of wiggle over onto his side and he starts stretching and grinning and wagging his tail like crazy.

The babysitter, one of Rufus' favorite targets, said "Gosh, I've never seen him act this way before."

"It's because he knows you're leaving."

The truth hurts sometimes. But you've never seen anyone as happy as the dog when everyone finally cleared out of the house. Then he poured himself a little bit of brandy, had a cigarette, and called it another successful night in his reign of terror.

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