Life with Zoe…

She came into my world like a force of nature. It was Keith’s turn to choose the dog. It never occurred to me that he would want a giant horse/dog that would take over my life. She was an adorable puppy. We chose her because she looked like a Newfie, the breeder said she would be a delightful mix. She breeds these newfie lab mixes as rescue dogs. I come from a poodle/ pug/ chihuahua family. Our last dog was a twelve pound Shih Tzu. We have absolutely no skills in the dog training arena. This wasn’t our best idea ever.

In some ways she was perfect. She quickly learned to go outside, in fact the first summer she ran in an out through the screen door (conveniently opened after she barreled through in pursuit of a squirrel). But we struggled to teach her that we weren’t chew toys, not to jump, nip, or bite. When she was excited (when anyone paid attention to her) all bets were off. We had a giant puppy who I was a bit afraid of. She didn’t want to snuggle, she chewed on the hands that pet her. At first we thought she could be a free roaming dog, but then she began trapping people (us) in the driveway. She would stand off anyone venturing away from the house by getting in front of the car, sometimes circling it to keep us there. Keith thought he could outsmart her by running her alongside the car. She made it a couple of miles keeping up with my Juke, and then her brought her home… running right beside the car. We don’t let her out when people are coming over.

We tried lots of things to help the situation. Keith’s plan was to buy our way out of the problem. We took her to Petco training classes, we hired someone to come to the house, we took her to puppy training for months. It’s not hard to see the problem. He didn’t want her to get hungry, so we left her food out all day. The muzzle made him uncomfortable, she didn’t like it. He was certain that Facebook posts of her bad behavior were contributing to the problem. He thought it was mean to zap her with the shock collar, so she never learned to stay off of the counters. She barks in his face when she gots bored, and he gets on the floor to play with her. He lets her lead, she is his pack. He blames the cat for her bad behavior.

I won’t take her to doggy day care anymore after I was forced to do the walk of shame. I’m sorry Mrs. Boucher, but Zoe is a bit rambunctious. Maybe you should wait until after she’s spayed to bring her back. I won’t let her run free in the neighborhood when Keith’s not home, because I expect a visit from an angry neighbor yelling about the dog. We have a metal gate to keep her out of my office… after she shredded some books. We bought her a pack, in which she carries four 12 oz gatorade bottles, which helps her be calm and reasonable in the house. I love her pack. She doesn’t really need my attention, she has his. I am the enforcer, and she doesn’t really feel like she needs one.

I am counting the months until she isn’t a puppy. We have long since given up trying to keep her off the counters. We simply clean everything up. I mean nothing can be left out. We put food, cardboard, plastic containers, and wooden spoons behind closed doors. I won’t bother decorating the outside of the house… last year she ran off with the Christmas wreaths for the front porch. The couch pillows are stuffed in a closet when we leave. My purse goes on a hook on the cellar door. She is the best house keeping strategy I’ve ever used. All the doors are closed, and the cat stays in a bedroom while we are away. We can’t control her, so we adapt…

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But he loves this dog and Zoe loves him back. They are ridiculous together. She follows him around the yard. He whispers tender words to her as he nuzzles her neck. For exercise, he rides around the yard on the lawn mower, and she follows behind on her leash. They sit quietly on the deck watching the sun go down. When she’s into things he quietly encourages her to get down, stay out, or get off. When I want ice cream, we go to the place that has doggy sundaes. He feeds her from a spoon. He’s never been much of a disciplinarian. She makes him happy. She makes me crazy. We are working it out… I hear the puppy stage ends around age two.

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