Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Life With Boxers

I knew it would be hard
I thought I was prepared...

Actually, In all Truth, I really wasn't.

It's time for a wee bit of honesty.  I wasn't ready at all for these two pups to enter my house.  In fact,  WishBone, my beloved 1st Boxer Boy had only died in September of that year (09) and by the end of October my husband was already wanting another puppy to fill the void.  Not me.  We still had our wonderful Nessie Monster and she gave the best hugs a dog can give.  She was well behaved and could handle herself in any situation and she proved that it had been WishBone who had caused any previous trouble, not her.  (Although, if it was WishBone who started it, it was always Nessie who finished it!)  But on her own, she was pretty much perfect.  And I still missed WishBone and I still DO miss him.  I just didn't want a puppy.  My thoughts were to let Nessie live out the rest of her life and then if we wanted, we'd talk about a new pup then.

WishBone and Nessie in the garden
My husband, however, was relentless.  He came home from work every day asking if I had found the perfect puppy yet.  "Uh.  Well.  No.  I haven't even looked."  He eventually got tired of me and began searching the internet for breeders.  He kept calling me to the computer to look at pictures.  I kept saying "I'm not buying a puppy from a backyard breeder who doesn't know what the heck they're doing as far as conformation, temperament and health!"  "And I'm certainly not buying from a puppy-mill!"  " Also, no reputable breeder around here will sell to us because they don't know us, so just forget about it!"  I tried as hard as I could not to buy a puppy.  And I kept him at bay until November.

WishBone using Nessie as a pillow while on a trip in the bus.

Then one day, my husband told me he had found a breeder in a small town near our city and we were going to look for puppies.  I was either coming or not, he didn't care.  Well, heck.  Don't bring home a puppy without my input! we went.  And yep.  It was a puppy mill.  Albeit, fairly clean.  There were puppies everywhere.  It turned my stomach to see so few bitches being kept in kennels and bred over and over again like that.   Not the perfect life for the perfect breed.  Boxers need space to run and play and a warm comfy spot to curl up on at night.  The woman was trying to get my to hold one.  NO WAY.  I didn't even answer her.  I turned to my husband and said "If you don't get me outta here right now, you will really be sorry.  I'm not buying a dog here.  I will not pick up a puppy.  I do not think this is cute.  Get me out of here right now."  I was certainly not amused.  But on the way back home, I decided that if my husband wanted another dog that badly, I would do the searching.  (And I did begin by looking at the local Boxer Rescue site, but their dogs can be so ill bred that I was afraid of the consequences.  We had just gone through a rough time with a lot of heart problems and a suspected brain tumor in WishBone.)

I've posted this picture numerous times, but I love it.  Malcolm is laying down and McKenzie is annoyingly aware and curious

So I joined in the search, just because I knew my husband would never quit until I got on board.  I contacted WishBone's breeder who lives in North Carolina to ask questions about what they and their breeder's association had been doing about heart and thyroid problems that had occurred in WishBone's generation.  She told me a lot of fascinating things about the progress that had been made and how it had all come about.  Most of the heart issues had all ready been bred completely out and they were confident that the thyroid problems were gone also.  She had no puppies as they weren't breeding for a few years but she knew of a friend who also shows in conformation who had just had a litter.  She would call to give them my name and tell them I was OK to sell to.  They didn't post pictures on their website because they didn't want people who they didn't know buying their dogs, but I got him to email me some pictures, finally.  

And then, another brilliant diversion tactic entered my brain.  Shamrocks Boxers had 2 beautifully marked dogs and was charging a fortune for them.  They were definitely future Champions and they came from a long line of Champions.  So the idea was to tell my husband that since WishBone died and left Nessie so lonely, it would only be right to get 2 dogs who could keep each other company until the day came when their deaths would not be too far separated from each other.   It was a perfect plan!  To get these dogs, we would have to drive to North Carolina in the 1st blizzard ever recorded in Tulsa, OK and spend mega money on 2 dogs and have the commitment and determination to raise them including cleaning up after them and all that goes with a puppy......times 2.  Michael would never go for that! ...... Well.  You can see how that turned out!

Michael sent the check right away.  Plan failed.  We loaded Nessie into the bus and drove the treacherous roads from Tulsa to Raleigh stopping in Memphis to celebrate Christmas in a Church where we didn't know anyone, but met some wonderful people who were amazed that we were there just passing through, and not actually visiting family or friends.  (Amazingly, some of them actually knew some of our family members and acquaintances.)  While on the road, I feverishly read up on how to bring a new puppy into a home with existing animals and how to make the puppies feel safe and welcome.

Weekly schedules had been printed so we could record when and how much they ate, drank, slept, played, peed and pooped.  Times 2.  We introduced Nessie in a very orderly and proper doggy sort of way.  And that went extremely well.  One sniff of each butt end and she was taking them home with her.  On the way back (in 6 degree weather) we stopped every hour or two for potty breaks and play time and we made sure to feed them 3 times a day.  It took forever to get home.  And then the work of training really began.

Nessie taking charge of her Chamberlains
while Malcolm poses for a photo op
As I look back on all of this, I realize just how far we've come in 2 1/2 short (or long; depending on how you look at it) years.  It's amazing to be able to leave the house unattended and leave the dogs out and when I come back home?  Sometimes they don't even greet me at the door.  It's just normal.  They are usually in their wee places.  Nothing is disturbed or torn up.  Not one dog has ever tried to get on my furniture when they know I'm not looking......I can tell.  The throw pillows will always tell the story.  :)  The only things that ever get destroyed are chew toys and I do have to always oversee that type of play because Malcolm will eat the whole freakin' toy.  But I can feed them all together and turn my back on them and there are never any squabbles.  We're getting better and better at front door manners and I can calm the barking with a simple command. (Sometimes I have to get up and walk to the window, but not often).  Malcolm started to bark at the window yesterday while I was curling my hair.  McKenzie jumped up and started to tear around the corner to join him.  I never reacted.  I didn't say a thing.  I never gave the command, "NO BARK", just continued curling my hair.  Then I heard McKenzie stop dead in her tracks in the hallway, turn around and come back to me and sit.  All on her own.  She got lots of cookies and praise for that!

Nessie waiting on the contact of the mini teeter

And Agility has improved with each week.  I used to practice at least 3 times a week with them but lately, partly because of the heat and partly because I'm really busy building a house, I haven't practiced at all.  We just show up to class and they are expected to do the job.  They are great at it, too!  McKenzie did run around a bit on her first try last night, but she came back when I called her (huge improvement right there!) and when we started over, she ran the course perfectly.  I'm not as into the training right now as I'd like to be.   As soon as this project is finished, I'll get back to it with gusto.  But for now, we just show up and have some fun.  It's a great time to bond with each dog individually and it really works on the communication skills needed for each dog.  They are each different and they want a different style of communication from me.  When I mess up, I can tell right away, because the dog doesn't respond.  Then I realize that I'm using the wrong technique for that particular dog.  When I change just a bit, they respond beautifully.  Agility has been a great tool for me because I can see how each dog responds to me.  I am understanding their personalities much better and am quicker to identify how I should communicate with them, whatever the situation.  These skills will go with me for their lifetimes and I have learned how they best deal with things.  I am finding that it has greatly improved the quality of our lives at home and after all........that's all we wanted from them in the first place.

WishBone and his teacher Maggie on his graduation from beginning obedience in Virginia Beach


Casey said...

Casey's mom here. What's your secret for training them not to bark at the door? Casey's been driving me crazy on that lately, and nothing seems to be working so far. He's stubborn -- well, he's a boxer. :)

Brenda Haggai said...

Casey's Mom:
Please use the Contact page to ask your question so I can respond to you.......

Agility Boxer said...

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts. Those of us who have Boxers know the trials, tribulations and pure joy of having them in our lives.


Lily's human said...

Just stumbled on to your blog. What fun to read. I will be picking up my second puppy in 3 days. I'm looking forward to my own crazy journey.