Thursday, November 06, 2008

For Barney, the only occupant of the Dubya White House I will defend.

When I finished nursing school, I made a list of things I had to get as soon as possible:

A reliable car
A house
A dog

I bought a Volkswagen Jetta. I bought a house in a sleepy little town about 20 minutes away from the hospital where I was learning how to help women birth their babies. The first two purchases were pretty easy decisions. When it came to getting a dog, it was difficult. Every dog in my family had been a rescue, a stray or a hand-me-down pooch.

I didn't know where to start, so I went to the pound. What a sad trip that was. The only dogs available for adoption at the time were pit bulls. My boyfriend at that time, Evil Steve, was ignorant (like many people are) and did not want a pit bull. No matter how much the volunteers tried to reassure him that they had temperment-tested all of the dogs before putting them up for adoption, he wouldn't budge, Pit bulls would attack and kill us.

I asked friends and co-workers for advice on what kind of dog to get. I worked with a bunch of English nurses and they all enthusiastically recommended the Parson Jack Russell Terrier. So I went to the library, because that is what you did before the Google, and read up on Jack Russells. They sounded wonderful. Energetic, funny, loyal and smart. I was hooked. I started looking for a breeder. I found a local breeder and picked out a cute little male that we named Cosmo.
Cosmo came home with me when he was 3 months old. I crate trained him, I took him to puppy school, I potty trained him. He was hysterical, not a day went by that Cosmo did not make me laugh.

Evil Steve did not find Cosmo as wonderful as I did. He didn't like the willfulness of our Terrier. He bullied him, yelled at him, and I suspect, when I wasn't around, he beat him. Cosmo became so afraid of him that when Evil Steve would come home, Cosmo would cower and pee on Steve's feet.

Not long after, I realized that Cosmo wasn't the only one being bullied and I kicked Evil Steve out of the house. But the damage was already done. Cosmo bit me. Tore my lip in half. Then he bit my mom. Then he bit my uncle. I took him to the vet for advice. We made sure there was nothing wrong with him medically. We put him on medication. It didn't work. I hired a dog trainer who was a little too "New Age" for me and told me that Cosmo was possessed. A priest came to my house when my grandmother died and my Godmother asked him to bless our dogs. The other dogs sat quietly as Father Tim sprinkled Holy Water on them. Cosmo jumped, snapped and snarled at the water as Father Tim blessed him. I gasped, remembering what the trainer had said. Father Tim just smiled and said in his Irish brogue, "I think that little one needs more than a sprinkle of Holy Water!" I couldn't imagine how one would find a dog exorcist.

So I took him to UC Davis, they had a Behavioral Medicine department at the Veterinary School. He was enrolled in a research trial. I followed their instructions, but he was still snapping and snarling. I tried for over a year, but I couldn't fix him. The Vet said I should put him to sleep. I couldn't do it. I called Jack Russell Rescue; they said to put him to sleep. I called UC Davis, they said to put him to sleep. So one afternoon, I took him to the vet and had him put down. It was the worst feeling in the world.

A few months later, I got Lola
. She is the sweetest, most loving, docile, little Terrier that you will ever meet. This little dog pushed all the bad memories of Cosmo and my failure back. Then Cesar Milan came along. Each time I watch his show where he takes a biting, snarling dog and turns the pooch into a loving fur ball, I cry. If only I had known about The Dog Whisper. He might have been able to save him.

I still love Terriers. I love their intelligence. I love their humor. They are great little dogs, if you treat them kindly and show them respect. So don't fuck with them.

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