Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy Chickenversary!

Exactly one year ago Sunday, Chickenbone Jones joined our little family. And to celebrate this very special anniversary, I will tell you exactly how much I used to hate his furry guts.

It's true! I really did! Me, the crazy broad who now blathers endlessly about good ol' Chickens right here in this very blog!

What got us all off on the wrong foot was the issue of crate training. In case you don't know, crate training basically means keeping your puppy in a kennel or cage at night, and during some daytime periods, while you're potty-training them. It sounds mean, but it really isn't. You can read about it here. But Chickenbone's discomfort during this process was, ah, intense. His crate was in the living room, and the moment we'd go into the bedroom at night, the barking would begin. Piercing barks. Relentless, agony-filled shriek-barks that would make your ears shrivel up and fall right off your head. It was absolute torture, laying there listening to that each night -- and imagining how our neighbors must feel about our new tenant -- but I didn't know what else to do except ride out the storm.

Eventually, of course, Chickens would settle down and sleep for awhile. But then he'd be wide awake six hours later. Barking. Barking. Barking. Then it was five hours. Then just four. Each time I heard the first morning bark, a vision popped into my mind of his wee bladder bursting to smithereens if I didn't take him out RIGHT NOW. So each morning I'd put on a coat, grab the dog and trudge outside. Around day six of this routine, I opened the door to chilly darkness, and I realized it wasn't even 5 a.m., and the little devil had let me sleep for just four hours. Horrified, I stared down at him and knew we made a terrible mistake.

That night I sat Sal down and tearfully brought up the idea of taking him back. The shelter offers a two-week return period, and I didn't even know how I'd survive one more night, much less another week. I was frustrated with this dog. I didn't understand what he wanted, or how to make him feel happy and safe. ALL I WANTED WAS SLEEP. But luckily my level-headed husband had already fallen so deeply in love with this pooch that there was no convincing him. And by "fallen so deeply in love," I actually mean "could sleep through a Category Four hurricane, and never once heard a single peep out of this precious baby after the lights went out."

But I did want it to work, truly, and so after this conversation, I did two things.

One, I signed us all up for an eight-week doggy training course at PetSmart. We learned things like rattling coins in a can when he gets noisy, which works like a charm. We also moved his crate into the bedroom, so he wouldn't feel scared and alone. Within a couple of months, he was out of the cage and sleeping in the bed, just like a real boy.

Two, I did what any respectable 21st-century human being does when faced with an important question, and I turned to Google. I actually typed in this phrase -- "how can a dog make you happy" -- desperate to find something, ANYTHING, that could make me believe it was all going to be OK. And in honor of Chickens, I will show you what I found, and I cannot possibly explain how much better it made me feel! You can enjoy it here.

Oh, and that picture up there? It's the photo the shelter had on its web site, back when Chickens didn't have a home. The humane society had picked him up about a month earlier, and he had been living with this rescue agency and coming to the animal fair every Saturday waiting for someone to take him home. Look how skinny he is! Poor little guy! But today he's nicely pudged out, he's happy as can be, and he only barks at squirrels, at the mailman, and when taunted with treats dangled juuuuust out of his reach.

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