Sunday, August 29, 2010

Creative Dog Treats

About two weeks ago Noah and I hopped in the car with our fly fishing gear and headed East towards Dillon, MT. This is what we caught:

Meet Pablo! aka Pabs McScruff, the newest member of our family.

There were so many dogs at the shelter in Dillon. Maybe 30. Maybe more. Susie, the huge-hearted keeper of the kennel, loved these animals, and did a great job of recommending dogs for us to "test drive." We walked a yellow lab cross named Zeke. He had a gash across one eye from a dog fight, and was so rambunctious on the leash we didn't go very far. That was to be expected from a young dog who hadn't been walked in a while, but he just had a little too much energy for us. Then there was Jasper. He had a cool red and gold Labrador length coat, with a red terrier beard, and beautiful hazel eyes. We got him on the leash and he was rambunctious too. As Noah tried to settle him down, I tuned out, and began to accept the possibility of returning home without a dog.  I just wasn't feeling it.

We were walking down a dirt road edged by wildflowers and scrub grasses, and I squinted towards the 90 degree turn about a quarter mile ahead, wondering if we would make it that far with Jasper. As we got out of earshot of the kennel, Jasper calmed down. He listened when we told him not to pull on the leash. He tuned into us, looking up to see our faces as we walked. When we stopped, he sat down beside us. Noah gave me the leash, and when Jasper took it in his mouth to play tug of war, I told him no, and he stopped. Back at the kennel, he gently took treats from Susie's 2 year old grandson. He sniffed a cat with nothing more than friendly curiosity. It wasn't love at first sight, but as Jasper tuned into us, I tuned into him, as if we were both thinking, "Hey, you're alright. I kinda like you." Sometimes love is like that.

We told Susie that we needed to think on it. We were going fishing and would return later if we were interested. "I'll put him in this holding kennel until the end of the day," she said. "You can always take him for a 10 day trial and if it doesn't work out, you can bring him back, no questions asked."

We only made it a quarter mile from the shelter. We stopped for a sandwich, and by the time we were done, we were in agreement that we both liked Jasper, and would consider a trial run. Back in the car, Noah turned on the radio and said, "Let's see what the radio says we should do."

I kid you not, the song that came on was Roxette's "Listen to your Heart".

Listen to your heart, when he's calling for you.
Listen to your heart, there's nothing else you can do.
I don't know where you're going, and I don't know why.
But listen to your heart before you tell him goodbye.

Extra cheezy, for sure; but also, undeniably apropriate.

"Well then," Noah said, "Let's go get our dog."

As we approached his kennel he got up and wagged his tail when he saw us. We had decided to give him a new name for his new life: Pablo, like the artist.

We filled out some paperwork. "Remember," Susie said, "If it doesn't work out, just bring him back. But please, whatever you do, bring him back to me. He's a good dog and he deserves a good life. This is a no-kill shelter and I want to make sure he finds a forever home."

I burst into tears as we hugged her goodbye. "We're going to take really good care of him," I promised. "We've been waiting for this day a long time."

"C'mon Pablo," Noah said, using his new name for the first time, as he jumped into the backseat like he had done it a hundred times. 

On the drive home I proceeded to text photos of him to my entire family and in a few hours we were back at the Ranchito. We let him out in our back yard, now HIS backyard, over an acre, entirely fenced, with room to run, roam, and sniff.

He had been living in his kennel with four other dogs for nearly three months. I don't know how long it had been since he was able to run free, but he flew across the grass, ears flopping, doing high speed turns and crazy eights with his tongue flying and a huge smile on his face. 

He would stop at our feet now and again to sniff us, learning the scent of his new family. It was one of the most joyful things I have ever witnessed, and I knew we were never ever going to let him go.

Pablo is the one year old son of a purebred Irish Terrier, and the lab down the road, who was passed around by some people who couldn't keep him, and who had a tumultuous first year of life. Now, he is ours. I look into his sweet face, so full of love and curiosity and intelligence and goodness, and I see an old friend. There is a peace in my heart that wasn't there before and it's all I can do not to smother him with love, treats, and toys. He needs a little discipline too, but he's learning quick and listens well. Noah and I are both so in love, and so loved in return, it's already hard to imagine life before Pablo. We feel like we have been blessed with an extraordinary dog. Bringing Pablo home is one of the best things we've ever done. 

Pablo is pretty mellow most of the day. He loves his naps and stretching and does some really cute puppy yawns upon waking. We walk every morning, and most evenings too. Once or twice a day, he goes into puppy frenzy and I am reminded that he is the equivalent of a 6 or 7 year old boy. When I'm working, some long hours go by and I can tell he's just plain bored, so I try to give him things to occupy his brain. I rotate through his collection of toys to keep him interested. I take fetch breaks with the Chuckit. But sometimes I'm not sure what else to do. Here's a trick we learned from our awesome trainer Holly at Go Fetch:


Take a Kong toy (appropriate size for your dog) and stuff it with a couple of dog treats. Put it in a container that is similar size to the Kong and add water to nearly cover. Freeze it. When you want to give your dog about 30 minutes of total entertainment, unmold the Kong using hot water and take it out in the yard for your dog to chew and lick, all the way to the treat-filled center.

This treat is especially great on a hot day. One stifling afternoon, I gave this to Pablo in the shade of a pine, while I lazed in the hammock. A magpie started jabbering and squawking in a nearby tree and seemed to be zoning in on Pablo. The bird inched towards Pablo, and finally swooped down on him and his Dogsicle, erupting in a game of chase that dog and Magpie appeared to thoroughly enjoy. This happened again and again. The bird would taunt and tease Pablo, getting closer...

and closer...

until Pablo would jump up and chase!

The bird would land in a tree just outside our fence, and cackle away, as if to say, "Haha! Can't catch me."

It made for an entertaining afternoon for both myself, Pablo, and the Magpie.

For all the other crazy dog people out there (I know I'm not the only one), here's a bonus treat, also from Holly:

Surprise Kong!

I like to do this if we're going to leave the dog home alone for a while. We put him in the laundry room with a bowl of water, some toys, and one of these.

Fill a Kong with kibble, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Fill the hole with a small amount of peanut butter or cream cheese and use a knife to smooth. You can give it to the dog as is, or store it in the freezer to make it harder to get at the kibble.


Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro said...

Awww, what a beautiful story! I too, listen to the radio to give me direction. It always works!

So happy for you guys and Pablo! May you have many, many beautiful years with him.


P.S. Britta LOVES her kongs filled with peanutbutter. It keeps her occupied for a good 30 minutes. :-)

Foog-G said...

Thanks so much Kim! Britta and Pablo are a couple of well-loved dogs. And the radio beats a magic eight ball any day : )

Emily said...

I LOVE this story. Mark and I were at the shelter yesterday dropping off some old towels and sheets and there were five dogs I could have taken home right then. Alas, we are moving so we have to wait a few more weeks. I can't wait for that moment you had in the car.

Sara Ohlin said...

He's soooooo cute!! What a good family he got, and he looks like he knows it. I love the image of his ears flapping as he runs free across his yard. Such a happy doggy!!!

Food-G said...

Thanks Emily! And congratulations on both the move and on your dog to be! I know--going to the shelter, it's hard not to want to take all the dogs home. There are so many in need, and whomever you choose will be eternally grateful. Kudos to you for waiting until the move is through, and you're in your new home. These decisions are best tempered with equal parts love and deliberation.

Food-G said...

Hi Sara! Yep, we finally found our "Dizzy". Love seeing you and your family on Sprout : )

Lentil Breakdown said...

Sounds like you are well-matched in the love dept. Lovely story. Congrats!

Dorothy at Shockinglydelicious said...

I LOVE your dog! He is my kind of doggie. How lucky all 3 of you are to have found each other!

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