A few weeks back, I ended up in a conversation about everyone’s least favorite training topic: Cesar. In explaining why I don’t personally subscribe to heavy control based training on TV, I shared a little about my monster. After doing so, I realized that we’ve made a huge blog about Molly – who is wonderful – and pretty much left Simon in the shadows. I thought now that he’s 9 (eek!) we can tell Simon’s big story… as he has come full circle in its own way.
First understand that Monster is short for Baby Puppy Monster.
My Monster, like many other 10 month old Aussie type dogs started his adventure on Petfinder. His foster person, Debi found him at Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services (SCRAPS). He was red tagged to be put to sleep, sick with both kennel cough and an upper-respiratory infection and did not have a history of being sociable with people. Not mean, just didn’t care. He was a stray. He stayed back in the far back of his kennel, tail over his snotty nose and sitting in his own poop. He did not get up for anyone, but was never mean about it. He did not bark. He did not growl. He did not whine or howl. It was very loud in the kennels, but Simon never made a peep. It took a long time for Debi to get him out of his kennel. He trembled when you touched him. They hosed him off, wiped his snotty nose and he jumped in the back of Debi’s truck, under the camper shell. Never to see SCRAPS again.
When Debi got him home, she set him up in his own indoor room attached to the house with a little yard so he could recoup from his illness. He was quarantined. It was the worst case of kennel cough anyone had seen. He snotted and hacked like he was allergic to life itself. After 10 days, the hacking started to pass. He started to eat. While he did spend a lot of time alone, it was quiet. He was quiet. He started using his dog door. He started to express interest in Debi, who up until this time had only gotten a sideways glance of acknowledgement when she delivered breakfast and dinner. He stood in his yard and watched Debi and the other Aussie girls play in the adjacent yard. In a month, the kennel cough was gone and Debi was finding it hard to split her time between Simon and her own two dogs. It was time to get Mister snipped and blend the pack.
At this point Debi discovered something interesting: Simon did not like leashes. The leash appeared and Simon darted out his dog door and to the far side of his pen. When Debi went into the pen to look for him, he emptied his bladder on sight. For a few days, a nylon leash stayed in Simon’s room… in the other corner for him to inspect at will. She’d pick it up and handle it for a moment every time she came to visit.
The leash became less evil. He wore it a few times and got snacks. Then a walk. Then a longer walk. Then off to the vets for nap, an itchy spot and some pain pills. Not so bad though, as after the pain pills and the cone, came the girls. His two puppy neighbors through the fence became friends in a yard. Debi watched him carefully, as he didn’t really play with the girls, but he’d play with Debi and greet the girls nicely. It was time for him to go home.
At the time of the snip, itch & pills, the vet estimated Simon’s age at 4 years. He was 22″ and 50lbs. Without a local Aussie Rescue Rep, Simon was a Listed dog through the ARPH program and went on to Petfinder.
I have no idea how long her was on there, how many people looked at him and how he was with them. When I arrived in Spokane, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was the first dog I’d met in my search. I had wanted a bigger dog, but not too big. Adult. Just the right dog, whatever that means. As an ARPH approved adopter looking at a dog with an ARPH volunteer… the Q&A was probably not as detailed as it would have been for a random person. He watched me carefully, from about 25′ away. Deb tried to call him to her and he was having none of that mess. We all sat outside. The girls brought us ball after ball and he watched. In an act of impatience, I talked a bit to him, looked at him and reached out. He emptied his bladder, lowered his head and backed up a few feet. I was concerned. Debi shuffled me back inside and out of sight. She had an idea.
By now, the leash meant a walk. Debi fetched Simon’s very special friendly nylon leash, hitched him up, brought him outside and handed him off to me. He balked; all 50lbs of him, 4 paws as far out as they could go, weight centered. Debi encouraged him off, I got down at his level and pet his head. I discovered that under all that mess, were ears to be scratched. With a little coaxing, and pointing and talking I convinced him we could run 10′ and he could pee on a tree. That seemed to be the trick – pee on the tree. I walked him around in the little back area and he pee’d on what must have been a dozen trees. When he pulled too hard to the next tree, I held firm ‘heyhey’ and he froze like he was waiting for another shoe to drop. But no shoe, not even a kitten heel.
While I was waiting on Debi, I’d opened the back door to my car. I’m not sure why. As Simon and I walked back toward the house, he saw that door and knew exactly what to do. Hop in the back of the car and lay down, of course. Then he wouldn’t get out of the car and he got to go pee on a tree, again.
Spring became summer and he became confidant in increments. The leash became a long line. Walks became hikes. The bladder emptying stopped. I became very good at asking strangers on the street to give my dog snacks. Eventually we had to start teaching Simon that not every person has food. Something that I still don’t think has sunk in completely. The 4 year old dog also grew two inches and gained almost 30lbs. By Christmas, I realized I had a fat 18 month old puppy. Simon had some pretty specific feeling about the chicken, rice & veggie diet I put him on.
Right around this point, between 18mo and 2 years old, Simon became his version of normal. He went to puppy day care twice a week without incident. We hiked often, with and without leash. He was a morning regular at Marymoor dog park. He lasted through foster dogs and puppies.
The neighbors kid tried to ride him like a horse. He discovered he could move the neighbors horses. We started stock lessons. In two more years, we added Molly to the mix. He got down to a svelt 70lbs and vets constantly commented on his good physical condition.
At 3 I decided to get a number from ASCA so he could compete in… something. We’re still figuring out what. Around that time I got pulled over for speeding. Simon stuck his big head in between the headrest and the door pillar and growled at the trooper. No teeth, just that throaty guttural growl that sounds as much wild animal as dog. First time I’d ever heard him vocalize – I was kind of proud of him. A name was born: Simon’s I Fought the Law.
He is nine now. He’s a little grey around the muzzle and stiff on his front paws. A little skinnier too. At 65lbs, he’s lost some muscle mass being a house dog with a yard instead of a farm dog with two acres. He works with dogs that have ‘issues’ with other dogs. He does the occasional rescue booth. One year a woman approached me a booth, started crying in the middle of telling me that she’d just lost her dog to cancer and how he looked just like Simon. The two of the curled up in the corner of the booth for about 30 minutes. She called him a different name, told him how sorry she was and found her peace. Simon licked her face and then turned around, sat on her lap (no kidding) and she hugged on him. Sometimes dog just knows what to do.
He’s my Baby Puppy. Heathen 1 (of 2). Bubba. Slimey.