A Folksinging Barker
His name is Arlo, as in Arlo Guthrie, maybe. He's our new pet, well sort of. Call it a strange twist of fate or a happy circumstance, I am still not entirely sure.
Whichever it was, I never expected to start the New Year this way. I had called around for Spring litters months ago, hoping to get a dog we could raise and fit in with our family, but I could not find what I was looking for. I searched the local shelters and went through frustrating searches that all fell through. It was by chance that I found a Parson Russell Terrier breeder who had an adult dog to place, as he was not considered an active stud. Pictures were sent, he was adorable. I was hooked. The morning of our departure from New York to see him, the deal fell through. She called to say she changed her mind as her family did not want to give him up. She must have sensed the disappointment in my voice as I tried to say I fully understood; so she mentioned another dog: there were a few conditions though, and if we were patient, he could be ours in a few months. After some discussion, we decided to have a look at him anyway, then collect him in the Spring.
We were to meet at the local PETCO in a small Vermont town, on the most frigid last day of the year. That morning it snowed heavily and driving was sheer misery. Accidents littered the sides of the road all the way up the Taconic Parkway. I wondered if we had made the right decision to go at all, but upon our arrival, the sun came up and as by magic, the roads cleared. We managed to pull into the parking lot on time. After a few minutes, we saw a woman helping a dog out of her car, the very one she had described to us. The dog came out looking spiff with his short cropped white coat of hair and as he looked up, I noticed he sported a mischievous brown spot over his right eye. He was fit, slim and very handsome. I watched with amusement as he sniffed madly in circles over a snow bank, taking his sweet time before finally lifting his leg . He was then led towards the store. He checked our feet first, then jumped on my husband. He seemed like a happy little fellow, albeit an all - over - the - place kind of happy fellow. We chatted with the breeder as we went up and down the aisles of the pet store. "How does he react to strangers?", "Does he like children?", "Is he in good health?". A store associate gave him a treat. He looked at it in the palm of her hand and turned away, lost in his own busy investigation. ."Oh, he doesn't like these?", she seemed dejected. She went to pat him instead. He peed nonchalantly on a toy display. Our chat took a serious turn. It was clear the prospect would soon become reality, like an image suddenly brought in sharp focus. The word "sleepover" came up as a suggestion and before we knew it, the dog, his large dog crate, the blankets and his long leather leash were loaded in our car.
Off we went, shaking our heads. In the back, he was shaking too, but it was his whole body. I turned around to get a look. His little furry face quivered through the metal grid opening of his crate. I caught a glimpse of his tail. It stood straight up like a ship mast, shaking in sync with his body. We spoke to him, played music for him, stopped at a local pet store and got what we were told to buy him: fish and sweet potato dry food and his favorite snacks: "Happy Howie's Beef Jerky ". We pulled up to our driveway and opened his crate.
He sniffed around a bit outside, but didn't appear to have a need to do anything so I led him into the kitchen area. He stood blinking for a moment, then crept into the next room, lifting his leg on the couch as he passed through. We attempted to feed him but he walked away, uninterested. Later on, we set up his sleeping quarters, a makeshift dog bed left over from a much smaller dog, but he didn't seem to care. He settled in it, spilling over the sides.
That night was filled with the sound of gentle clicking of his claws as he paced nervously back and forth, some whimpering and an occasional bark, to mark his presence. At dawn, he was all over us, trying desperately to jump on the bed and get us up. I dragged myself out of bed to make sure he could go outside but it was too late, and there it was, spread all over the floor. He just stood there, looking at me, shaking. He went outside, still no business. I tried to coax him into having some of his favorite food sprinkled with Happy-Howie treats. No dice. He just stood there and continued to shake. This warranted a call to the breeder. She explained how very nervous he must be. "Give him time, be patient, be loving, he just left a house with 8 other dogs and it's all new to him and probably very scary". OK, we continued our course of patting, playing, soft music and gentle approach, but hurried to the pet store to buy some of those handy wraps that prevent male dogs from serial marking (every untrained dog home should have some). Improvement was on the way! I wrapped one around his belly. Later on, I caught him lifting his leg on my suitcase and was happy to see nothing come out, that was encouraging.
Two days went by quickly, it was time to return to the City. We were not looking forward to bringing him back to his former home. "Why don't you see how he does in New York?", the breeder suggested. At this point, it was clear no matter how complicated things got, he was to stay with us, at least for now. Complications came as the days progressed. He started chewing, targeting my husband's favorite leather slippers, then my new winter boots and even managed to demolish a rubber door stop. Forget chewy toys: in less than 20 seconds he was able to carefully extract the squeaker and leave the rest in shreds. He was playful though. He liked to jump on the couch every other minute and wanted us to chase him when he found something to steal, but he also had some quirks.
Arlo's great discovery of Central Park
We attempted to watch the news one evening, and found out he was unfamiliar with television! The newscasters on the screen made him growl and bark, he faced them with his hackles raised in fury. There was no stopping him. Who were these imposters invading his space? He was miffed...
Walks were interesting too. It seemed like every dog was a new prospective companion. He wanted to get to know ALL of them, which made brisk walking out of the question. Despite all of the annoying habits he came with, some of them slowly disappeared. He began to use the outdoor toilet only. The belly bands were put away. The television came on with no reaction, a loud clap made him jump off the couch. Life was livable for all. Better yet, a loving friend began to surface. One evening, after a frustrating phone call to a mail order pharmacy (say no more....), he heard me raise my voice, exasperated from a senseless runaround. I saw him look fearful and carefully make his way towards me. He nuzzled his head in my lap. He needed to know I was alright, that we would be alright, that everything was still alright. I realized it was easier to hold him now, pat him, look into his big brown eyes and have him lick my face. We were bonding at last. Even better, the shaking had stopped. Our life together could now begin.