Thursday, October 30, 2008

Introducing: Fonzie!

I have wanted a dog for as long as I can remember.  My family was not a dog family, however.  We had fish at one point, a failed rabbit, and a hamster named Clinton (named by my brother before William Jefferson).  No cats, as my brother and I are allergic, and certainly absolutely no dog.  I identified with Vanessa from "The Cosby Show," whose response to everything was, "Well, then, can we get a dog?"  But unlike Vanessa, I knew enough not to even ask.


Exactly one week and a day ago, I found an ad in the pets section of Craig's list advertising "Frosty, yellow lab/husky 1.5 yrs male with bobtail!"  The ad went on to describe Frosty as low maintenance, crate and housetrained, "and the most loving of all.  He likes to be loved on and adores children.  He is very quiet and content looking out glass doors and windows just watching [...] He loves on kittens and bunnies and doesn't bother puppies and is not aggressive toward the bigger dogs.  He is pretty close to perfect!"  Needless to say, I was smitten.  Mostly by the line "loves to be loved on" and by the allure of a "pretty close to perfect" dog.

Now, however close to perfect Frosty was, I had no business being in the pets section of Craig's list.  Nor did I have any business filling out an application for adoption (he was in foster care).  Within 24 hours, my application had been approved and his foster mom was emailing me about meeting up to get Frosty.  What had I done?  

The out-of-control-pursuing-a-dog person who had taken over my body drove into the country last Sunday, about 50 minutes away to Dogtoberfest.  In a clearing of a large tree-filled park were a dozen or so tents -- some adoption and rescue, some pet services. 

I found the 2pawsup tent and sure enough, there was Frosty.  He was cuter than his picture, but after taking him on a walk, I was torn. He seemed great, but he was also hyper and energetic and not as low-maintenance as he had been described.  I will spare you the details of the tears and the drive home without Frosty, and will jump to the part where I email his foster mom  a couple hours later asking when and where I could come pick him up. 

At 5:55 P.M. I was at Petsmart frantically buying dog food and a dog bowl because I was supposed to meet Frosty's foster mom in the parking lot at 6:00 except Petsmart closed at 6:00.  I had no idea how to pick out food or a bowl or a leash, as I know next to nothing about owning a dog.  Within five minutes, I had a basket full of food and was signing up for dog obedience training classes (waiting and seeing before purchasing has never been my strength).  The nice man who was helping me took one look at my basket and said, "Yeah, that's not going to work."  I had chosen puppy-sized bowls and food that would make Frosty poop big and often, he said.  He replaced my food and bowls, and at 6:08, I was running out of Petsmart with my arms full of a two-hander bag of dog food.

Frosty's mom and I had not exchanged cell phone numbers (despite my request for hers); she had just told me to look for a green van.  As I half-ran the food to my car, I saw a dirty old green van pulling away.  "Wait!" I shouted as I started to run after it, the dog food falling out of my arms.  But, the van kept going.

"Shit!"  I was pissed that I had been late and pissed that I didn't have a number for the woman and pissed that Frosty had slipped through my hands.  Again. 

I put the stuff in my car and wandered around the Petsmart parking lot desperately looking for any sign of any green van.  I called Willie frantically, who told me to wait until 6:30 before I left.  A green van pulled into the parking lot, but a muscular man came out with no dog.  And then I spotted the same old dirty green van that had pulled away and that I was convinced had Frosty in it.  Except the van drove right by the parking lot and didn't stop.  Finally, at about 6:25, a green mini van pulled into the parking lot, and I could see Frosty's foster mom at the wheel.  She waved. Here was Frosty.

I wrote a check and signed my name and watched her put flea stuff on Frosty, and within a couple minutes and before I was able to ask her any questions like, "Um, how do you take care of a dog?" she had left and it was me and Frosty.


The first 48 hours went okay minus the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.  When Frosty (whose permanent name I had not yet settled on) took me for a walk, I was literally tripping over the dog, as he would crisscross from one side of the sidewalk to the other.  I had no idea how long to let him sniff, how hard to pull when he would just stop, or even how to pick up his poop.  In my attempt to get the whole thing in the bag and leave no trace, I ended up spreading it around (sorry for the gross factor).  

And, jumping way ahead of my skill level, I even tried to go running with him.   He stopped frequently and stubbornly.  He pulled me and got tangled up in the leash.  I stepped on his paws more than a couple of times.  He wanted to chase squirrels.  There wasn't a whole lot of running going on.  To make matters worse, we passed a woman running with her dog who had her leash tied around her waist, her dog dutifully trailing just slightly behind her as they both trotted at an equal pace.  I hated that woman.

But Frosty was a good dog for the most part.  He didn't bother my cat, Scout, when he saw her, although poor Scout hissed and growled and looked at me like, "Excuse me, I did not approve this."  He was quiet and good about hanging out in the one room we were keeping him in for now, and he didn't tear anything or chew anything or go to the bathroom in the house.

In fact, except for some bursts of energetic jumping and play-biting, things were going pretty well.  I was brainstorming names and was looking forward to our first training class the following day.

And then, on Tuesday night, when we were going on a walk, Frosty stopped in the middle of the street.  He was smelling, and I pulled him.  He pulled back -- hard enough so that he slipped out of his collar.  And he took off.  A group of six hipster guys in a van -- they had to be in a band on tour -- stopped and got out to help me.  I got close to Frosty a couple times, but there was no way to grab him without a collar, and he had no desire to come to me.  He wanted to run and be free.   For a couple blocks and for a good five minutes, the guys in the band tried to help me corner Frosty and coax him, but to no avail.  "What's his name?" they asked.  "Um, I don't know -- I just got him," I said, feeling like the worst dog owner in the world.  

After remaining in sight for a few minutes, the dog started to fun full speed, and I ran after him.  This time, within seconds, he was gone.  I had no idea which way he had gone and no idea what to do.  I ran the few blocks back to where the van had stopped, but the van and the hipster band was gone.  Frosty, whose name was not really Frosty, was gone, too.   Just 48 hours and I had lost him.  I was the one who had adjusted his collar to be looser, after reading on the web that most dog collars are too tight and that this is dangerous for the dog.  I used to wonder how it was that so many people lost their dogs.  My edification had come quick.

I ran home and cried and Willie quickly helped me print out signs.  Within 10 minutes we were out looking for Frosty and plastering lost dog signs on light poles.  The poor dog didn't have a name that he responded to or a tag.  The most useful information we could put on the lost dog sign was that he had a distinct short stubby tail -- the history of which I have no idea.   

The whole thing was kind of surreal; I had had a dog, and then I didn't.  I would have to tell everyone I had told that I had lost the dog, that it was over.  I was the worst dog person ever.

After the 25th sign, we returned home.  And who came walking down the street?  Frosty.  Except he didn't stop, he kept going.  We jumped in the car and tried to follow him, but he was gone.  We spotted him a few blocks away.  I got out and tried to coax him, but, again, to no avail.  There was no way to grab him.  We'd have to hope that now that he knew where he lived, he would choose to come home.

When we got back to the house, I sat on the porch for an hour. At midnight, I pushed the couch in the dog's room by the window.  I left food outside on the porch, and hoped that if he came back home, I would hear him on the porch.

I didn't sleep much.  Scout kept me company as I tossed and turned and kept my eyes peeled to the window.  The role reversal was not lost on me: I was holed up in the dog's room, waiting for him to come home.  I felt like the mom of a teenager, hoping that Frosty would choose home over his partying ways.

At 7:30 A.M., my phone rang.  "Um, I saw the sign about your dog, and I think I just saw him," the nice nice man said.  He had spotted the dog a block from the house.  I thanked him and threw on some shoes and went outside.  Within minutes, Frosty came bounding down the street.  And this time, he came up the steps to the porch to greet me and walked in the door.  He had come home.  The dog that almost wasn't seemed meant to be.  It was back on.


After I put on his collar on the smallest hole,  I knew I had to name him and get him a tag right quick.  I spent the day trying out names.  By the 7:00 P.M. obedience training class, I had settled on "Fonzie" -- somewhat close to Frosty, but without the snowman and with the added benefit of "Fonz" or "the Fonz."

Name and all, we showed up at the class early.  I was excited, Fonzie was freaked out.  Upon entering the Petsmart, he barked and whined and pulled and jumped.  We watched the other dogs coming out of the puppy training class.  They were small and demure and just cute as buttons.  Fonzie and I were big and loud and out of control.  

We had gotten approval to sign up for the puppy training class because the class for dogs five months and older wasn't starting for another month.  So, it was Fonzie and two other puppies, one who truly looked like a baby Ewok.  Fonzie would not stop barking and jumping, and upon taking a seat in the class, the trainer sprayed both of us with a water bottle.  Fonzie got quiet.

The trainer began the class.  "Did you bring the rabies information?"  she wanted to know.  The two other dog owners had theirs; I did not.  "You will need to bring treats for your dog every week.  Did you bring treats?" she wanted to know.  The two other people had treats; I did not.  So far, we were failing dog obedience class.  A few barks and squirts of water later, Fonzie calmed down for a minute.  We only learned a few training techniques -- all treat based, except Fonzie wasn't interested in the treats.  "Bring him hungry next time," the trainer said.  I hadn't fed him since morning but nodded in agreement.

The class was mostly lecture, but effective enough to instill in me that I am responsible for making Fonzie's behavior what I want it to be.  I learned that I had been holding the leash incorrectly.  We got our homework for the week, and we left Petsmart, none too soon for poor Fonzie.


The run this morning was the same tangled up mess.  I definitely got some looks from other walkers/runners.  And Fonzie has taken to jumping up on me and chewing things (luckily not the sneakers).  He is a dog after all, not a robot.

But, I was a little better at cleaning up the poop today (although I still need two plastic bags), and Fonzie mastered the three little training techniques we learned.  He's fast asleep and snoring on the couch in my room, where we are both holed up.  So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to my dog, Fonzie:


evandebacle said...

First of all, I now have to come to visit...Adorable!

Second, "loved on" might be my favorite Southern phrase. At least I think it's Southern. And I have only heard it used in reference to dogs.

Third, the key to training a dog is being consistent. Don't give in no matter how adorable Fonzie may be. And when you're scolding him, make sure to use your deepest, most stern Naomi voice. Few dogs are untrainable, but they need to know who is boss and what the pecking order is. Iggy knows I am boss and knows Sharada is kind of a softie. It's all about pecking order because that's how it works with pack animals.

Fourth, if you keep trying to run with him, he'll learn. Also, they will certainly teach "heel" in class and that will help. He'll know to run at your side instead of whatever direction the critters might be.

Fifth, you will have your work cut out for you. Huskies are escape artists. They like to run and they are surprising leapers when they want to be. So, don't worry about the tight collar thing. You should be able to fit a couple of fingers in there and that's it.

Sixth, I am totally psyched that you got a dog. Did I mention the adorable thing?

Naomi Jane said...

SUCH good advice, Evan! Good to know about all of it. Thanks so much. I can't wait for you to meet him!

Claire Just Claire Like Cher said...

Ahhhh, my heart is full - I'm so happy for you! You know your dog people are all here, from all corners of the world, rooting you guys on and wanting all the scoop. I'll leave the actually practical and useful advice to Evan -- he knows what he's talking about both with the rescue and breed factors. And we all know I'd be the Sharada softie in pecking orders anyway...

FONZIE! It's perfect! Good for being close to Frosty and yet, "Heyyyyy!" SO cool. Hmmm, does Strange Cargo have old Happy Days iron-ons?! ;-) I am SO excited. And I can't wait to meet him and see you! Much Love.

SteveG said...

Fonzie is a handsome boy! There is nothing quite a cute as a tired dog, curled up into a ball.