Thursday, December 6, 2007

How To Raise a Princess Dog

Lesson Number Seven: Everyone Deserves To Be Fussed Over, Now and Then…Or, How To Raise A Princess Dog, Part one

Bijoux’s status as a Princess was cemented firmly in place even before we parked the pickup truck outside on that very first night we brought her home. As such, that meant that extreme care would be taken to ensure that certain things happened to enhance her quality of life. Now, we weren’t completely over the edge; we didn’t build her an air-conditioned doghouse or feed her filet mignon for dinner, but we—I, especially—certainly didn’t bring her into our home as an animal that was merely to be tolerated and patted on the head once or twice a day.

The first important order of business, after all of her basic physical needs had been met, was to make sure she had a proper AKC name. Her rank as a purebred beagle affiliated with the American Kennel Club mattered to nobody, really. We had no intention of showing her, and we certainly had no plans to breed her. In fact, we were having her spayed as soon as it was possible to do so. I think the level of urgency upon which I had placed on registering her with the AKC stemmed from my experience as a young girl with Willie and Sandy. When they were born, my sister Julie and I wanted to give Willie the name “Cloud”, because of the smeary white markings on his back. Our “brilliant” idea was promptly shot down by our parents, who instead decided on the very regal-sounding names “Sir Sandor von Dapple” and Sir Wilhelm von Dapple”. Julie and I didn’t like the names, but as we were not in charge at the time, we had no choice but to let it go.

When it was my turn, then, to bestow a meaningful name on my own pet, I took it very seriously. Jim and I had already chosen her first name; now we just needed something more. I suggested “Aurora” as her middle name. I had always been a fan of mythology, and Aurora was the Goddess of the Dawn. I told Jim that this name was appropriate because Bijoux got us up everyday at sunrise. Having noticed that many AKC names end with something that gives a hint about a long and distinguished line of ancestors, we brainstormed a bit and finally came up with “Our Lady”. It was only right, Jim rationalized, because Bijoux really acted like she was one of us, a person. I promptly sent in the AKC registration form and a check. When we received the paperwork back—indicating that “Bijoux Aurora, Our Lady” was indeed now an official, registered member of the American Kennel Club—I took that very important envelope and put it…right in the file cabinet. It’s still in our safe deposit box, to this very day.

To say that Bijoux was “particular” about things would be a massive understatement. While occasionally frustrating, most of the time I found her finicky ways to be quite hilarious. The Milk Bone Company manufactures a treat called “Flavor Snacks”. These are in the shape of traditional Milk Bone dog treats but in five special flavors, which were, at the time, chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, and vegetable. Bijoux would eat every flavor except vegetable. I handed her a treat, and she hungrily tossed it to the back of her mouth and chewed like crazy until she was able to swallow it…unless I had tried to give her the green one. She sniffed at it tentatively, occasionally touching it with the tip of her tongue, and then she turned her head away from my hand. What nerve! I ended up throwing away boxes of Flavor Snacks, completely empty except for one layer of vegetable-flavored snacks that lined the bottom. Finally, we moved on to other dog treats.

At times, Bijoux’s failure to be the boss on a continual basis caused her to pout in her own doggie kind of way. Normally she would merely walk away, tail down, and not looking us in the eye at all. There were a couple of times in her life, however, when she definitely made a bigger impression.

Other than the Couch Incident, which I believe was started out of just plain “puppyness” and developed into a sort of retribution for being left home alone for hours at a time, the earliest indication of her demanding our respect appeared on one summer day in 1990. Jim and I walked to our local K-mart, which was only about one mile away from home. Why we walked there is now a mystery to me, a detail completely lost in the shuffle. Oddly enough, I do remember that we went there to purchase a new shower curtain and a set of shower curtain rings. The day was very hot and, as we had no air conditioning, the windows were open to the screens and we had a couple of fans running to try to circulate the air. We had been playing with the Princess that morning and had decided that as we wouldn’t be gone very long, we’d not put her in her crate. We took her outside so she could relieve herself, and then put her back inside. Not having a clue about her mischievous persona at this point, we said, “See you later, alligator!” and left the house as she watched us from her perch on top of the couch.

We returned less than an hour later with our shower curtain and rings, and as Jim unlocked the door, Bijoux was right there, complete with wagging tail and yelps of joy. It only took a second or two before our noses noticed the offensive smell. Bijoux had obviously left a “gift” somewhere in the house. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last; anyone raising a puppy expects accidents now and then.

It was actually the placement of this gift that boggled our minds and is still a story that we laugh about. As we made our way through the doorway and into the house, we found it. She had placed herself in front of the large box fan that was standing on the floor in the living room—set on its highest setting due to the heat of the day—and left a stinky mess less than 10 inches from the face of the fan. The smell was then carried throughout the entire house. To this day I’m unsure exactly how she was able to do that without being blown across the room. As we tried everything we could think of to quickly air out a stinky house on a hot summer day, we wondered to ourselves if she could have had the intelligence to do what she did intentionally…but how could it not have been done intentionally? From that day on, we gave her more credit for the process of thought than most people would find normal!

Click here for part 2!