But, for the second night in a row.... this is how I wisely spent my evening:
Pure sound-asleep, quiet, furry, DVD-watching, tea-drinking bliss.
I just love that after a fun weekend away for the humans in this little family, in which Boomer spent three days visiting and playing with his canine cousins, he was so happy to see us come for him that he planted himself in front of the door so we couldn't dare leave (again) without him.
I also kind of love that he's this tired.
Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you Phoebe & Jack.
When people bring home a brand new puppy - all wrinkled and sleepy and soft, they have this look of instant love. Contrast that with our fist night with Boomer; I came home from class to find my husband and new dog facing off against each other in the upstairs hallway, both of them equally freaked out by the mere existence of the other. Not so much instant love, more like the low point for my guys (happily, they're the best of friends now).
My own ultimate low with our 'new' dog came months later on a dark post-work afternoon. A routine dog park visit in which I routinely tossed the resident tennis ball over the fence and away from my routinely known to ball-hoard dog ended with him - tennis ball in mouth - growling angrily at me as I squatted on top of him. He had found the ball as we left the park and became more fiercely possessive of it than I had ever seen him be. He wouldn't drop it for anything. I was completely freaked out. I knew I had to win this battle, but I was too stunned by his behaviour to make a move. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I didn't win the battle, a passerby stepped in and won it for me.
I didn't sleep for the next two nights. I was angry at myself for being too fearful to grab the ball out of Boomer's mouth. I was angry at the people that dumped him on the side of the road in Tennessee in the first place. And I was angry at the passerby who proceeded to lecture me on how to be the Alpha dog (pointing out all things that I was actually already doing in our training). Angry, but full of resolve. While that was the epic battle for the ball, Boomer and I have had small battles over resource guarding several times since then. And I've won every single one (and, proceeded to celebrate each little victory with an 'in your face' touchdown-worthy dance.)
So... back to that puppy: When people bring home that soft innocent puppy from the breeder, they typically don't end up sitting on their dog outside of the dog park unless they really screw things up along the way. Sure, training a puppy is a lot of work, but re-training a pissy, arrogant, teenage dog who was given the worst sort of start in life? Depending on the dog, that can be seriously hard.
Boomer is my second rescue dog, and he is so different than my first. Simon was fearful of people and noise when we first met, but by the end of his life you never would have guessed it. People credited me with that and I never really felt all that comfortable in taking the credit. It was all Simon, without a doubt.
But Boomer? This one's all on me. It is up to me to make sure this little "I'm a stray and I'll do what I want, when I want, and I'll eat that McDonald's wrapper just because I can and I'm gonna get all of the tennis balls in the world and make my own castle out of 'em" punk figures out his place in the pack. And I will grandly celebrate each small victory along the way.
Like today... on our morning walk, Boomer picked up a small plastic dipping sauce container along the way (thanks McDonald's) and I don't know if I wasn't fully awake yet or just had a perfect moment of faith in my dog, but without even hesitating, I propped open his jaw and fished out the piece of plastic that he was eagerly savoring. He didn't growl and he didn't object in the slightest way.
I may or may not have done a little victory jig. Boomer, in turn, celebrated with a cookie.