Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Meet Wesley (Our Newest Bundle of Joy)

Dogs (sorry, cat lovers, I’ve had lots of cats, and bird lovers, I have 3 parrots (you can’t sleep with a parrot), and child lovers, (I have 3 of those),  grandchildren(I have 3 of those and they’re in a separate class), occupy a special place in my heart. I spend 60% of my waking hours on my daughter Liz’s and my work on service dog research and the rest on fun, especially with our family zoo.
Our newest, latest, greatest is a little ball of fur that we found at Animal-Aid in Oakland Park, Florida. Yes, everyone I know is aware of my love for Snickers, my friend Judi’s service dog, a very large Labradoodle, and my desire to have one someday, but my husband won this time. We spend weekends in a motor home and another very large dog would just take up whatever aisle space is left after Mikey spreads his stuffed animals and his blankets out.
How did we travel all those years with our 3 children, all born within 4 ½ years of each other, and 3 Dobermans in a trailer or motor home? I never think of myself as a senior citizen until I consider the changes in attitude that must have taken place over the years.
We had some pretty funny experiences, all dog-centered. On one New Year’s Eve trip to see the Nutcracker Suite at the Kennedy Center in DC, after searching for hours for someplace to spend the night, the attendant at the parking garage told us to just stay in their driveway. I’m not sure he really included permission for us to stake out our 3 Dobermans on their very pristine lawn, but when we returned the next night, after a fruitless search for a place to stay, he came running out to ask us where we had been and tell us he was worried about us. During the same trip, when we couldn’t find a place to spend the night near Inner Harbor in Baltimore, the police officer on duty told us to stay right next to his booth so he could keep track of us. I’m not sure he trusted his neighborhood.
On the way home from the Amish country, when we had trouble with our engine, a wonderful samaritan towed us with his quite old pickup truck to a service station from which he called someone he knew who called his friend, the Chrysler distributer, to locate the part we needed and ask him to open the warehouse on Sunday morning to procure it for us. We spent the night in the station with our 3 little children and 3 Dobermans. 
There was a family having breakfast across the street and, with our hearts in our mouths, we watched one of the children approach us, thinking they were going to complain about the dogs. All she wanted to do was offer our dogs their leftover pancakes. Thank you, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The only trouble with that trip was that we missed my father in law’s birthday party, but everything can’t always be perfect, can it? Or maybe it can.
Since our years with 3 Dobermans at a time, only one of which was our very own, the others being boarders sent to our home to acclimate them to life in a people zoo, we have had a very odd assortment of animals. 
There was one six month period without a pet until we heard a baby crying in a bird store. Of course the “baby” turned out to be our yellow-naped Amazon, our first parrot. How could we leave without such a sad bird? All he was doing was imitating the newborn in the family he had lived with. They couldn’t keep him because they just couldn’t sleep with the baby and the bird alternately awakening them every few minutes. The next year we fell in love with a hawkhead, really beautiful, but tough, then my daughter left us with her conure. The two-legged, feathered total is 3 and likely to remain that way for a while. Parrots live a lot longer than dogs.
The newest parade of dogs began when we found our first moppy dog, a Tibetan terrier, who was the love of my life. I still haven’t gotten over losing him. We inherited my mother’s cockerpoo, whom we had adopted for her from Adopt a Pet. We found Mikey wandering the streets at 5 weeks old; he’s the amazing dog whose home we have had the privilege of sharing.
Mikey is the one who doesn’t like to eat—anything. When Mikey likes it, I know it’s good.
Five days ago I talked my husband into a trip to Animal-Aid on our way to the park in Oakland Park where we were scheduled to spend the weekend. I knew he would fall in love with someone, but I didn’t really expect him to react with tears at not being able to adopt them all. Wesley jumped into his lap and the connection was instant. Wesley turned out to be what they thought was a Tibetan spaniel and we fell in love with the breed.
Our first problem was finding a name. We were in the process of going through the alphabet when we stopped at Publix to get some food. Wesley, who, at the time, didn’t have a name, jumped out of the motor home into the parking lot. How do you call a dog that doesn’t have a name? I think I screamed so loud that I scared him and he stopped in his tracks.
We left him in the motor home with Mikey, did our shopping, and, when we saw the name tag on the young man who was manning the register, we knew we had a name. You should have seen his grin when we asked permission to name our new dog after him. Wesley knows his name and the next issue has been training him to come when called.
Yes, I really do believe in training service dogs, but for a house pet, tricks aren’t my bag. My dogs have to do one thing—come when called by name. When a dog likes treats or even likes the food it eats, it’s easy. My dogs, however—both of them—don’t like anything. Wesley doesn’t even like the store-bought treats that Mikey does us a favor and eats.
When I realized he liked my leftover roasted chicken, I decided it was time to put my People Food for Pets wheels in motion. I chopped up the leftover chicken into little pieces (Wesley is really small, weighs only 12 pounds.), spread them on a cookie sheet and dried them in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours. Voila! Training treats. My only problem was that I kept catching my 10 year old granddaughter chewing on Wesley’s treats. Chicken jerky anyone?

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