#16: Cesar Milan’s Field Day

#16: Cesar Milan’s Field Day

When I was around nine years of age, we got a West Highland White Terrier and named her Tish. Well, her full name was actually Gloria’s Bonnie MacTish, as a nod to her Scottish roots, but Tish was easier to say on a day-to-day basis.

She was a great family dog — the perfect blend of affection and spunk and independence and pure entertainment. When she was happy, she would tear through the house with such speed that she earned herself the nickname “The White Tornado”, and after running out the back door and clearing the yard of birds and squirrels, she would be sure to stop at the bottom of the yard and look back to make sure we had witnessed how bravely she had defended our yard and family.  She was a great dog, and she knew it.

Being a terrier bred for chasing vermin across the Scottish moors, she was what you might call a dog’s dog. She loved to dig and chase squirrels and climb up on the woodpile to see what she could see. We even came home to find her on top of the patio table one time after she had climbed up there and been unable to figure out how to get back down.

Tish was never allowed on the furniture, and I doubt it ever crossed her mind to try. The patio table, after all, had not worked out so well. She slept out in the laundry room on a towel, a sleeping spot my parents’ Cairn terriers would later occupy. She ate nothing but dog food, with the possible exception of a random kernel of popcorn that would find its way to the floor.

Tish knew she was a dog, and she was okay with that.

Having grown up with a canine companion, I always knew I wanted one as an adult. But for the better part of my adult years, I put it off, figuring that I would get one someday when the timing was right. I worried that it would be too difficult with my long work hours, and I felt sure it would be best to wait until I had a fenced yard.

Three years ago, though, I decided enough was enough. It was time. High time. I started searching online for a rescue, figuring any home is better than no home for a pup that needs one.

And so it was that a sweet-natured miniature schnauzer named Heidi came to live with me after spending her first five years with a breeder, living in an outdoor kennel. Never housetrained, never socialized, but now home forever.

Now, it’s important to know that I’m a planner and like to do my research. And any seasoned dog owner will tell you that clearly defined boundaries are crucial to the sanity and well-being of both the dog and owner. So armed with a crate, a leash and a book by none other than the Dog Whisperer himself, I began my journey as doggie mama.

Let’s just go ahead and fast-forward, shall we? It might be less painful that way.

As I type this, I am sitting up in bed, and Heidi is curled up in a tight ball right smack-dab in the middle of the bed. She is snoring. It’s what she does.

Odds are, though, that when I put my laptop away to turn off the light, she will wake up and move — closer. She will come and snuggle up against me, effectively giving me about ¼ of our my queen-size bed. If she decides to slum it at some point tonight, she will get down and crawl into one of her two dog beds in my bedroom. Or perhaps she will decide she is hungry and go downstairs to get some food, bringing it back up into the bedroom to chomp on it around 2 a.m. She will repeat this up and down process until her food is gone — always sure to include the in-room crunching, mind you — at which point I can finally stop rolling my eyes and mumbling a barely audible “oh you have got to be kidding me” and go back to sleep.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll get up earlier than I’d like to take her out. We’ll come back in, and she will throw herself practically in my lap to go back to sleep. If I sit on the sofa, she’ll lie on her corner of it. She’ll stare long and hard enough at me that I’ll eventually decide she wants a carrot. I’ll get up and give her a big chunk, which she will run happily through the house with like a heavily eyebrowed old man smoking a bright orange stogie.

So how exactly did a woman raised to treat dogs like dogs end up with a sofa-sitting, bed-lying, peas-and-carrot-eating, mildly neurotic schnauzer?

Boundaries, people. They’re called boundaries.

Cesar Milan would have a field day with us.

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