More Dogs on Main |

More Dogs on Main

Tom Clyde, Park Record columnist

I have a new puppy, or a new puppy has me. It’s not clear which. It’s always amazing how something so small can so fully dominate life for a while.

Generally, I’ve found that one dog is just about right. Three are definitely too many. I’ve tried to stick with only one. That worked for years, but then the old dog, Leapin’ Lizzy, found a wonderful dog that had been lost in the woods for a while. Several neighbors had seen him and tried to catch him, but he wouldn’t let anybody near. He decided Lizzy was OK, and she brought him home. After a kind of skittish night hiding under the porch, he decided that my house was acceptable, and has been here ever since.

The two of them were great pals, and played constantly. It was easier with two of them. Lizzy quit roaming and stayed home to play with Stumpy. It was just about perfect. Then Lizzy died last February. Stumpy went into a funk, and while he kind of came out of it, he was not the same dog. He became a sedate, adult dog. I had about come to the conclusion that that was the way it was going to be, but things happen.

The first attempt was a shelter dog from Friends of the Animals. Claudia called and said she had the perfect dog for me. I took him home for a test drive. He was a big, active, completely untrained adult Lab of the tornado variety. Nobody had ever said no to him, so he assumed that jumping on the car (scratching the door), digging trenches in the yard, chasing horses, knocking people over, chewing on the woodwork and generally wreaking havoc were perfectly acceptable. The trail of destruction in 24 hours was impressive. Somebody will make a great pet of him, but not me. I couldn’t wait to get him back to the shelter.

So that pretty well sealed the decision. I didn’t need another dog. Not now, not ever. I especially didn’t need a 90-pound dog with a meth problem. But dogs have a way of finding me. I was talking with a friend out in the field. We started talking irrigation, frozen hay, and general farmer talk. He had an old, sick dog with him that he was going to have to put down. The dog was on her last big outing, chasing her last squirrel. I mentioned Lizzy dying, and how much easier it was that she just went in her sleep than having to make the decision. The next thing I know, he’s giving me a puppy.

The new dog is a McNab, a breed I’m not all that familiar with. It’s kind of a cousin to border collies, Australian shepherds, and other herding dogs. Picture a border collie with a short coat. Cute as can be, with his ears sticking up like he’s paying attention (he’s not; the ears just come that way). From what I know about them, they are supposed to be pretty similar to border collies, except that the McNabs operate on normal household current, while the border collie takes 480 volts of 3-phase industrial power.

There’s never a really convenient time to turn life upside down by adding a puppy. But I was scheduled to leave on a quick vacation. I had the puppy for a couple of days, then pawned him off on my niece with Stumpy for a few days. We’ve done reciprocal dog care for years, but the puppy was new and unannounced. Once her kids saw him, she couldn’t say no.

In three days with her family, the puppy learned a lot. The main lesson he learned was that if he is in the house, he has every reason to expect to be in somebody’s lap at all times. Watching TV now involves a puppy sitting on my chest.

The puppy, "Gus," and Stumpy are already great friends. They roll and wrestle all day outside, and sleep in a tangled pile of feet and tails. I tried the crate-training system for housebreaking Gus. It was a complete failure because he wants to sleep next to Stumpy. So for now, they are sleeping outside, and we’ll work on housebreaking when he’s a little older.

They have definite games they play, and take turns being the aggressor. I don’t think they have been more than six feet apart since I got Gus, except when he retreats to herding distance. He’s already doing that herding-dog "you-can’t-see-me" crouch before moving in for the attack on Stumpy. Stumpy has reverted to puppy-hood, and I have to confess to feeling a little frisky myself these days.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.