“Clearly you have no understanding of dogs.” This is what I said to my youngest daughter a few minutes ago. The reason? Well, our dog Pete is a foodaholic and as said daughter was making a salad and said dog loves lettuce, he did his usual thing and sat three inches away from her hoping, praying, that something would find its way off the counter and into his mouth. And as said daughter is not completely heartless, she caved and gave him a bit of romaine. And, of course, said dog, after eating his lettuce, only drooled all the more and only looked more expectantly between the counter and the floor. Daughter looked at him and said, “Just because I gave you one piece doesn’t mean you can expect more.” So clearly she does not understand dogs.
Pete is a good dog. He’s part Rottweiler and part Shar-Pei and at any given time we have no idea which part is going to show up at the door. Sometimes the Rottie greets us with waggy tail and a head butt pushing us in the direction of the kitchen. This usually means he wants his dinner but it could also mean he wants your dinner or the cats dinner or that there may be something that may have looked like food at one time somewhere in the kitchen and he wants it. When the Shar-Pei wants out we can be sure that taking him for his daily walks is going to be a challenge. If he doesn’t get his way he will stubbornly mope along, dragging his heels and making the walk more of a tedious examination of every blade of grass, every tree trunk, and every bush in the park. Then there is the eating of the grass…
Pete has a problem. He eats grass. He eats everything really and one time he ate a toothpick which ended up with a tense couple of days until he passed it. Don’t even ask us how we knew when it was out…but, yes, Pete is a grass eater and he can be seen walking in the park with a plant or two hanging out of his mouth at any given time. It can be funny but it can also be a bit scary. The last time he was at the park my daughter thought he had eaten some Wild Parsley, better known as Hogweed. This meant a frenzied search on the internet and a call to the vet because that stuff is poisonous and it can kill a dog very swiftly. Fortunately, nothing bad happened but it does mean we have to be very careful about what that dog is putting in his mouth.
Because of Pete’s, shall I say, dietary open-mindedness we have a section of the freezer filled with pumpkin and stocks in a company that sells a digestive aid. The pumpkin is for the inevitable stomach and digestive upsets and the aid is for the noxious fumes that emanate from the posterior region of the dog. Sometimes, when there is a hostage situation, I really believe that sending in a gassy dog would be the quickest way to resolve it. But you never see the guys on Criminal Minds or NCIS suggesting it.
When we first adopted Pete he was a little rough around the edges. He would routinely butt his head under your arm when you opened the refrigerator, hoping to snatch something before you missed it. I watched him one day pull a loaf of bread out ever so gently, using just his front teeth. He would also try to swipe whatever vegetables were within reach and if you weren’t fast enough you would find yourself chasing a dog with a tomato hanging out of his mouth. And there was the time he took a whole bag of tomatoes off the table and managed to bite everyone one of them before we knew what he had done. He also took a sack of oranges but he only managed to gore two of them before we grabbed the bag. Life in the early days with Pete was always a question of what he would try to eat next.
He has calmed down a lot since those early days, he knows better than to try to swipe food out of the refrigerator. He will still eat whatever he can sink his little teeth into if we aren’t looking. Like the time we thought we could leave him alone in the house while we went to buy a new fridge. Let’s just say that I hope the birdseed tasted better going in than it looked coming out. It lasted for days. Kind of like confetti after a wedding when you think you’ve finally vacuumed up the last of it and you look in the corner and there’s a few little dots staring back at you. Needless to say we never leave him uncrated now. He does like his crate and will go into it on his own when he wants some alone time so no need to worry that he is being abused. And he doesn’t get left in it for hours nor do we do this very often but it is very reassuring to know that he isn’t going to hurt himself while we are out.
Pete is generally a quiet, good-natured dog. He gets along well with just about everyone and most dogs. There have been a couple of instances where he got a little growly but it was only with two dogs of the same breed – Yellow Lab. He’s fine with the black coloured Labs and he’s also fine with a little girl Yellow Lab on the other side of our circle, it’s just these two particular dogs he doesn’t like. Don’t know why, they are nice and friendly, they come up wagging their tails like any of the other dogs we meet and Pete is good with them for all of two minutes. After that he gets a bit growly. The owners of these two dogs are very understanding and I’m sure Pete would never attack another dog, he’s just not that aggressive but we cross the street when we see them now.
Pete does love small dogs, however. He loves small people, too. I can remember not long after getting him, running into a neighbour whose son had just learned to walk. He came toddling over to Pete and clung onto his side, griping his fur as only a little kid can do, in other words, in a death grip. Pete stood there stalk still and waited for the little boy to let go, he then wagged his tail and sat down. He let that little boy use him as a toy for about five minutes and then we continued on our way. I have also seen Pete hold himself rigid while an elderly lady used him to regain her balance when she accidentally stumbled and put her hand on his back to steady herself. I have seen Pete be totally calm when in the presence of wheelchairs, and children with mental disabilities. He is also very gentle around the elderly and will sit quietly by their side allowing them to pat him as long as they wished. He would make a wonderful therapy dog if he could be trained not to get too overwhelmed by new situations.
That is really the only thing that is wrong about Pete and I hesitate using that word, “wrong”. It’s not a bad thing but it can be frustrating to see him feeling so overwhelmed that he starts humping his bed. At least it’s only his bed that he violates. But trying to calm him down can be a bit of a task. We’ve tried to expose him to all manner of new situations, taking us with him on trips to the pet shop or other places and he’s usually fine when there but when he comes home he seems to have a hard time relaxing and we realize just how much a trip out can stress out a dog like him. He loves to come with us and I don’t see any reason to leave him home so we just deal with his emotional outbursts as best we can. Giving him something to chew really seems to help but for a dog that will eat pizza crusts covered in mold, he is really picky about his chewy’s. We got him an elk horn once and it just sits there untouched but give him a dried tendon and he’s in heaven.
We’ve had Pete for four years now and he was about two when we got him, or at least that was the rescue and our vets best guess. He could be older, his muzzle is turning grey and his eyebrows are showing signs of white. I dread the years where he will slow down, where he will enjoy lying in the sun more than he does now which will be something since he loves lying in a sunbeam until he is so hot you can’t touch him. The walks will become shorter. The naps longer. He will become arthritic (he already is showing signs of that) and maybe deaf or blind. And then one day he will be gone. But in the meantime, Pete is still very much a big part of our lives. A huge dork who is learning that when you tell him to watch where he is going it is usually because he is about to fall into the ditch or walk into a tree. But right now he is still our huge dork and until the time comes when he wants to say goodbye we will give him as much love as we can. I think we owe him that.