If you’ve read previously, you’ll know we’ve sold our house in order to live on a boat. Not the least of our worries is how Bert, our dog (nicknamed “that damned dog” by my husband), would react to it. It is definitely at the forefront of our minds. To know Bert is to love him, but he does have his issues.
We got him from the Humane Society shortly after moving to Arizona. I had done research and found that Wheaten Terriers were supposed to be non-shedders. I learned that’s not entirely true, but the hair balls up into “tumbleweeds” that roll across our kitchen and living room—generally at inopportune times when we have company. They are unsightly but easily picked up to throw away.
I saw on the Humane Society’s website that he was available and he was a pure-bred Wheaten about 3-years-old. We were second in line the next day when they opened. The couple before us went straight for him. I was heartbroken. Rick was probably relieved. After putting our Yorkie down the year before, he wasn’t too interested in another dog. (Although he did say if we got one he wanted a bigger dog. This says to me that he really did want one—or at least was willing to give in.)
A worker suggested we hang out since the matches don’t always go through. The other couple did decide against Bert because it was reported he was not good with kids. (We have since learned he is great with kids.) It was Christmas Eve and we took him immediately to my parent’s house. My mom wasn’t too pleased when I called and said we were bringing him, but everyone immediately fell in love with him and he was soooo well trained. We had beef for dinner. He showed no interest in the food whatsoever and sat quietly while we ate. What a good dog. He was sweet and charming around all these new people. What a good dog! We learned he stayed next to you during daily walks and never barked when the doorbell rang. What a good dog! He stayed off the furniture and never went on the beds. WHAT A GOOD BOY! A week later, our house was completed and we moved in. I didn’t even bother putting him on a leash. He sat quietly while we tramped in and out of the house with box after box. Why would anyone give up this perfect dog?
Then we both went back to work.
It started when he locked us out of the house. We had a habit of coming and going through the garage so we left the door leading into the house from the garage unlocked. We never carried house keys. One Saturday, we went to a movie. Upon our return, we couldn’t get the door to the house opened. He had apparently jumped at the door when we left and must have locked the deadbolt. We were going to break a window, but every window we went to he went to. We didn’t want to risk cutting him. I suggested breaking the lock with a sledgehammer. When that didn’t work, Rick just started pounding on the door until it gave way. The cost of our pound puppy was starting to rise.
A regular pattern appeared when we left for work. That damned dog got on our bed and ate the pillows, comforter and sheets. We closed our doors. So he ate away at the molding around the door. He started going potty in the upstairs hallway. He ate a box and all the books inside.
To combat this, we barricaded him in the kitchen with a gate. Came home from work and he was out. We put the gate up and moved two kitchen chairs against it with the backs facing him. Came home from work and he was out again. The wall separating the kitchen and living area had two large cut outs—one above the sink and counters and one in the hallway. He must have jumped through the space in the hallway. So we barricaded it with boxes. Came home from work and he was out! He must have jumped into the sink and then over. But the worst part was that he was becoming violent towards us as we left for work. He had bitten holes through clothes and we had taken to using a box to deflect him as we backed out the door. When we got home he loved us when we left he wanted to kill us.
We hired a personal trainer who told us we needed to crate him until he learned not to go potty in THIS house (even though he was totally trained already). He ate through the plastic crate and was out when we got home. We bought a metal one. He bent the wires and worked the door and got out. By this time, even though he obediently went into the crate, we knew he hated it. He was successfully moving the crate halfway across the room every day and getting out about half the time. The trainer said to cover the crate with a blanket to make it “cave like.” It would seem like more of a home to him then. We put a blanket under the crate so it wouldn’t scratch the floor and put a blanket over the crate per the trainer’s instructions. We came home to Bert and both blankets, shredded, inside the crate. Having seen the crate, the trainer suggested chicken wire to cover the gaping holes Bert created. I got home first that night. I walked in and he was in the crate as was the chicken wire. The scene was horrific. The crate was halfway across the kitchen floor. There was a streak of blood showing the path the crate had taken. There were blood splatters on the wall and his face and paws were covered in blood. I frantically called Rick home. He took Bert into the bath to clean him and determine where the blood came from, but I figured it out first. As I was cleaning the kitchen, I found his canine tooth. We called the vet and got in right away. She gave him pain medication and gave us the contact info for the doggie dentist (I didn’t know that was a thing, either) and the doggie psychiatrist (again—new to me). We took him into the dentist right away. He worked on the big cats at the zoo, so we felt we were in good hands. He needed two teeth pulled, one root canal and a titanium crown. With our pockets $6,000 lighter, we took him home resolved to throw out the crate and the trainer (another $500 down the tubes). We had to wait a week before we could get into the psychiatrist, so in the meantime, we gave him run of the house and Bert-proofed as much as possible. We put thing up high, kept bedroom doors closed and used painter’s tarps for the hallway where he did his business. Every night I came home and washed the painter’s tarps.
A couple days prior to the doggie psychiatrist visit I came home and he greeted me at the door. I went upstairs to do my usual laundry of painter’s tarps. When I came downstairs, Bert was gleefully ripping up the couch cushions with fluff flying everywhere. I called Rick and told him to pick the dog up and take him back to the shelter. I was done. Rick had been wanting to on and off for weeks. Fortunately for Bert, when one of us said “get rid of him,” the other said, “we can work it out—they will put him down because he had attacked us.” This time, Rick said, “Its two days until the psych appointment. Let’s wait and see what she says. Besides, we just spent $6,000 on him. I want to get my money’s worth!”
What the vet said was “separation anxiety” and put him on 30 mg of Prozac. She was not surprised by anything we described and told us we can’t train him until he can concentrate on what we are teaching. Now, instead of attacking us, he followed us around the house panting. Huge improvement, but he was still so anxious; I felt so bad for him. We’ve had ups and downs with him since, but the medication remains. So from his perspective, it’s terrific we are retiring. The only question is how will he do on a boat? How will he adjust to peeing on the bow of the boat? It will be rare we won’t be there with him, but when we have to leave him will he tear up the place? Jump into the water to follow us as we head out in the dinghy to get groceries? He’s much older and slower now, so will that factor in? This last year about half the time he would be sleeping by the time we left for work. (We tend to time our “escapes” based on what he is doing when we are ready to leave.) Time will tell how things go (and so will I). We really do love that damned dog!