Today we have an excerpt from the award-winning book by Dave Jaffe, Sleeping Between Giants. If you are a dog owner, terrier owner or maybe a “I-need- to-know-what-I’m-getting-into-with-a-pet” person, this is the book for you. Filled with warmth and humor, this book will give you many laughs for years to come !
Fake News About Shelter Dogs
Cautious to avoid red tape and complicated forms, prospective pet owners often steer clear of adopting shelter dogs. However, the process is no more difficult than purchasing a pair of last season’s jeans that, without your intervention, would have been euthanized.
Budleigh is our first shelter dog. Previously, our dogs were factory-produced schnauzer/poodle mixes and, in one case, a complicated terrier thing that embarrassed the breeder. Budleigh is a composite of several kinds of terriers with maybe a border collie thrown in to run the controls. Three of his paws are white, as are patches of fur on his forehead, chest, and muzzle, and a ruffle around three-quarters of his neck.
The rest of his coat is a deep black so rich as to render him invisible to the most sophisticated night surveillance equipment. The Department of Defense has implored him to reveal this technology, but, you know, what’s in it for him?
“He’s a really social little guy. Smart, too,” said Kelly, the shelter lady who introduced us.
“Where is he?” I asked.
“Sitting in front of you. Here, you’ll need these special glasses.”
“Nope! Still nothing.”
“Look off to the side. In your peripheral vision.”
“No…no. Wait! I see a hazy, pulsing darkness. With three white paws.”
A drawback of shelter dogs: You never know how big they’ll grow. Some, of course, go the other way.
Animal behaviorists warn that a shelter dog wielding a cloaking device can pose special challenges for its adoptive family. Also challenges for half a loaf of cornbread left on the table in a dark kitchen. But who could blame Budleigh? The streets taught him that talk is cheap, life is tough, and you don’t get much cornbread.
Budleigh’s adjustment to our family and we to him has been seamless, aside from the common misunderstandings about the value of shoes and the correct interpretation of “Get off the bed!”
Yet, because of misconceptions about shelter dogs, many perfectly acceptable canines are often overlooked, even though they can be a wonderful addition to any family that’s not too attached to cornbread.
Myth #1: Dogs in shelters are criminals. Or illegal aliens. Maybe both.
Often unfairly labeled as “bad dogs”, few shelter animals have ever been convicted of a crime, with the exception of retrievers. And usually those are just tennis-ball-related misdemeanors. However, the stigma remains. Much of the public believe shelter dogs were seized in police raids, or ran in wild packs, or sought vigilante justice against the mobster who murdered their family.
Sorry! That last one was Batman.
Dogs that end up in shelters generally were given up by owners who could no longer house them, were not prepared for a large or energetic animal, or were just, you know, assholes.
Most dogs, then, are blameless, boasting spotless records and valid green cards, pending approval by the Department of Homeland Security.
Sadly, a few breeds are aggressive by nature and thus better suited to owners with advanced martial arts training. These include:
- Norwegian Klepto
- Bribe Hound
- Shorthaired Supremacist
- Irish Gunrunner
- Standard (or Miniature) Heist
- Portuguese Waterboard
- A bear
Myth #2: Shelter dogs are sickly and need lots of shots, and veterinary care, and grooming, and training, and a cage, and probably food.
Do you really want a dog? Maybe you’re better off with a Roomba®.
When it comes to a dog’s health, shelters routinely ensure that their animals are free of fleas, ticks and worms. As part of the adoption process, veterinarians often provide free spaying and neutering, and first-visit checkups. Also included can be vaccinations for rabies, kennel cough, heartworm, and DHPP, an acronym for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A quick call to your local vet will reveal the best health plan to follow, and why it’s vastly superior to anything being considered by the majority Republican Congress.
Myth #3: With shelter dogs, you don’t know what you’re getting. Many are radioactive mutants, like in “X-Men”.
True. And cool!
Myth #4: Other dogs will bully my shelter dog because he wears glasses and reads a lot.
Actually, canines at the dog park that can boast of a shelter background possess a certain caché, a swagger, a je ne sais quoi (French for “What’s that in English?”) that other dogs respect.
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “You know, I retrieved some very interesting things this week.”
PUG: “You’ve got to shut up! Just shut UP!”
LABRADOR RETRIEVER: “Shhhh! I want to hear this.”
BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: “Say, I once retrieved a—?
STANDARD POODLE: “— a mountain!’ Yeah, yeah, we’ve aaall heard it.”
BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: (Quietly) “I was gonna say ‘ball’”
PUG: “Hey, you think the new guy’s ever retrieved?”
STANDARD POODLE: “Don’t know much about him. Keeps to himself. Once, I tried to pee on him. You know, kind of a ‘How you doin’?’ pee? But he just glared, kinda crazy-like. Brrrr!”
PUG: “Hey, new guy! C’mere!”
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “Can I go get him?”
BUDLEIGH THE SHELTER TERRIER: “What’d’ya want?”
PUG: “You ever retrieve anything?”
BUDLEIGH: “Nah! Never had nothin’ to retrieve. In…the Shelter.”
Dog chorus: “Oooooo!”
LABRADOR RETRIEVER: (Aghast) “Not even a shoe?”
BRISBY THE SCHNOODLE: “Or something with, I don’t know, peanut butter? I’m hungry!”
BUDLEIGH: “Nah! But I killed something, once.”
Dog chorus: “Oooooo!”
PUG: “What’jah kill?”
BUDLEIGH: “I don’t talk about it much. But it was big. And had fangs. And teeth.”
STANDARD POODLE: “Fangs and teeth?”
BUDLEIGH: “Oh, and wings. Also wheels.”
BRISBY: “And peanut butter?”
PUG: “Knock it off!”
BRISBY: “I’m so hungry!”
STANDARD POODLE: “Why did you kill it?”
BUDLEIGH: “Well, it didn’t give me any choice, did it?”
BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: “It sure didn’t!”
LABRADOR RETRIEVER: “Bastards! They’re all like that, those big fang-and-toothed, wheel-winged, peanut butter…things.”
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “Killing’s too good for them. They ought to be retrieved!”
BUDLEIGH: “Well, I’d like one to try to get near my new Giants! Next time, it won’t get off so easy as being killed!”
A Night in the Box: Crate Training the Convict Dog
How different the rules for crate training a dog would be had the Constitution of the United States been signed by Thomas Jefferson’s hound, Monroe Doctrine.
JEFFERSON: “Good and reasonable gentlemen, with the signing of this treatise we forthrightly express the unity of Americans to cast off the oppressive collar that is the tyranny of Britain!”
FOUNDING FATHER PERSONS: “Hear-Hear!”
JEFFERSON: (Stoops to affectionately cradle sleeping dog’s head) “And also cast off the oppressive collar that li’l Monnie’s wearing. Who’s a GOOD boy? You’re not a tyrant! No, you’re not! Oh, no you’re not!”
BEN FRANKLIN: (Quietly to John Adams) “Has he had any sleep?”
ADAMS: “I’ll get him more coffee.”
JEFFERSON: “Ohhhh, Monnie’s a GOOD American! Go fetch the quill! Can you get the quill?”
Crate training can be a very effective way to acclimate a new pet to your home. The method works better with dogs than, say, fish due to the porous nature of the bars. First-time puppy owners are sometimes reticent to crate train, thinking it cruel. However, dogs tend to take well to crates because by their natural instincts they are “den-dwelling” animals rather than “seed-bearing” or “conservative-leaning.”
Properly implemented, crate training provides your pooch with its own safe, secure, well-defined space from which it can control its vast, offshore financial empire. A crate also aids in housetraining, as dogs are averse to soiling their den – a stimulus-response reaction behavioral scientists refer to as “shitting and pissing all over themselves.”
Patience and consistency are the most effective approaches to crate training. Also, the crate should always be associated with something pleasant for your pup – a soft towel or blanket covering the floor, a favorite toy, small food treats, cable.
Never, never use the crate as a punishment because:
- Who the hell do you think you are! And,
- Get out!
We’ve enjoyed great success crate training our succession of dogs. As a puppy, Oxford, our formerly alive, bunny-killing terrier mutt, quickly took to the crate kept downstairs in the kitchen. But that changed when he realized life was more fulfilling upstairs in our bed, which had been true until he joined us.
Brisby, our good-hearted Schnoodle also known as Saint Brisby of the Martyred Bunnies, would have stayed in his crate forever, locking himself in at night, then tossing the keys onto the kitchen table. But the inequity troubled me, so when he came of an age, he joined Oxford, who grudgingly relinquished the northeastern-most corner of our bed, an area referred to as Sinai.
With Budleigh, our year-old rescue dog who is constructed chiefly of bits and pieces from unpopular terrier breeds, I planned to get this crate training just right. I know nothing of Budleigh’s past. We adopted him from a shelter after police in Waukegan, Illinois picked him up on the streets, charging him with shoplifting and prostitution.
Within our safe place Budleigh would have a safe place of his own. His Fortress of Solitude with a rubber bone. The Bat Cave featuring a faded pink blankie. Switzerland behind skinny, little bars.
We named it The Budleigh Box.
As a humorist writing a dog blog I meet a lot of convicts. They all confide that the first night in The Big House is the hardest.
When that cell door slams behind you, your life is over, they say. You’re just another number wearing a rabies tag with yet another number. And maybe an ID chip. You know, in case you get lost?
Help transition your new dog to a crate through a series of small, gentle steps, the first of which is to figure out how to put the crate together. This represents an excellent bonding opportunity between Canine and Giant.
GIANT 1: “Is this the bottom panel? I think this is the bottom panel.”
GIANT 2: “No, that’s the top or a side. Or maybe just packaging.”
BUDLEIGH: “Can I eat this?”
GIANT 1: “Aren’t these supposed to snap into place? I heard no snap.”
GIANT 2: “There was definitely a snap. Or a snappish kind of click.”
BUDLEIGH: “I’m just gonna eat this!”
GIANT 1: “Well, was it a click, like a bat’s echolocation system, or a snap, like when the Alien’s teeth tear through a space helmet?”
GIANT 2: “Dave, I don’t know what that means. No one knows what that means!”
BUDLEIGH: “I’m eating this!”
GIANT 1: “The top panel connects with a black rubber strap. Where’s the strap?”
GIANTS 1 & 2: “Budleigh! NOOO!”
BUDLEIGH: “Definitely a click.”
Terriers are naturally inquisitive, even those that have been convicted. Once the Budleigh Box’s structural integrity was secured and the Chicago building inspectors paid off, Budleigh climbed in to explore his new space. When he flopped down for a nap, I closed the door but stayed nearby to keep an eye on him.
Brisby also kept tabs on Budleigh. Having long ago graduated from a crate, Brisby now served as a prison trustee, wheeling his library cart past Budleigh’s cell and preaching The Word of the Lord.
All day, Budleigh seemed very comfortable in his crate, coming and going in accordance with the terms of his work-release agreement. At bedtime, he climbed in without complaint and, with visiting hours concluded, the rest of us headed upstairs to bed.
Whining is a common practice by dogs to test your resolve. In that way they are much like telemarketers. The challenge comes in knowing how long to ignore them and when to give them your credit card number.
GIANT 1: “Hon, he’s crying.”
GIANT 2: “That’s a car alarm, Dave.”
GIANT 1: “Nonsense! How could he set off a car alarm? He’s too small. He has no thumbs. He’s locked in a dank, rat-infested hellhole. How long is this torture to go on?”
GIANT 2: “Listen! It’s stopped. Budleigh’s fine. So is the car.”
GIANT 1: “Wait! You hear that? That’s definitely a dog crying.”
GIANT 2: “That’s the NCIS opening theme. We’re watching NCIS. They also play a kind of warble before commercials. That also won’t be a dog crying.”
GIANT 1: “Unless he warbles when he cries. I’m going to check on him.”
GIANT 2: “Dave, he’s been in his crate six minutes. Do not disturb that dog!”
After the other Giant had fallen asleep, I snuck out of bed. She was awake when I returned.
GIANT 2: “Is that Budleigh?”
GIANT 1: “No, no! I checked on him, but he was asleep. This is just a big piece of chocolate cake with white frosting on the paws and the chest.”
GIANT 2: “You woke a sleeping puppy and brought him up to our bed?”
GIANT 1: “I was worried he’d warble.”
Crate training was going to be tricky.