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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Say hello, Theo!

This is Theo - formerly known as "Leo", sometimes referred to as "Mr. Wonderful".

Theo is half Standard Poodle, half Jack Russell Terrier - not the prettiest of conception moments to visualize but something that yielded a perfectly lovely creature with an IQ higher than mine.

He's about two years old and was rescued from a hoarding situation - terribly neglected with not much human contact in his formative months. He's been living in a foster home for about a year.

So, he's a bit ...."skittish"... yes, that's a good descriptive word. Not exactly "shy" but rather anxious about new people and places and things.

We had a "home visit" a few weeks ago and then his foster mom brought him for a two week trial visit last Sunday.

I'm already in love.

He's a little guy, as you can see, with big soulful brown eyes and a huge heart. He loves peanut butter on his kibble and looks forward to having a "cookie" when he comes back from his walk.

He's teaching me things about him.

For example, he didn't seem to want to tend to bodily functions the first day and a half he was here. I was starting to get worried about him. Fears of a bladder infection or "bloating" began to taunt me.

Then I remembered that, in his foster home, he would be let outside in a fenced in area after his meals. The only time he was ever on a leash was when he was being taken to the Vet or to go on a visit with a potential foster home. So, for me to expect him to "do his business" on a walk was probably asking too much.

I started to take him over by the fence in the backyard and, Voila! Success! As I lavished praise upon him, he looked at me as if to say, "I wondered when you would finally figure this out. Sheesh!"

I didn't know, but apparently, there's something called "Black Dog Syndrome". The folks who run Animal Shelters say that black dogs are the last to be adopted. Indeed, they say that, for a black dog, going into a 'shelter' is usually a death sentence.

Here's a brief clip that talks more about it.



Choosing a dog based on the color of his coat? I can't imagine it. There's so much more to consider - like temperament and personality and how that fits in with the rest of the family.

A friend let me borrow a crate, and Ms. Conroy bought him a sleeping pad for it along with some toys and a chewie. He is not interested in any of that. At. All.

He sleeps with me, at the foot of the bed and makes not a peep all night long. When I awaken in the morning, he comes to see me, tail wagging, and sniffs at my face in a kind of quasi kiss.

He's still rather nervous about sounds in the apartment. He made a very low growl yesterday when students were coming in an out of the apartment downstairs for a class with their professor.

I was warned that he doesn't like men - barks at them - but that's not been my experience thus far with the two men who live on the first floor. Theo was very calm with them and their dog. He even approached one of them and just sort of checked out his hand - probably to see if he had a cookie. Theo and their dog did their "doggie thing" - sniffing and checking each other out.

We are making progress. Slowly and surely. Indeed, other than that low growl the other day, I haven't heard Theo bark. Once.

I suspect, once I really become "his human", he will begin to want to protect me and bark at an unfamiliar sound or person.

Mostly, he just sits next to me on the futon while I read or work on my laptop.  Which is, quite frankly, lovely. He doesn't seem interested in playing 'fetch' or chewing on toys.

Well, it may be that it's too soon.

He has "his" pillows, as you can see which has become his favorite spot in the house.

That, and the place under the couch where he first sat with his step mom when we had our first home visit where he sometimes hides after we come in from a walk, or he's heard a strange sound in the house and has become anxious.

All I have to do is pat the pillow and say, "Come, Theo," and he comes right out and jumps up onto his "spot",  just happy as a little clam to be with me.

While I think he still misses his 'pack' and his step mom, I think I'm becoming his 'human'. A FaceBook friend suggested that I should spit into the food in his dish - an interesting 'bonding' technique - so he will better associate me with nourishment and caring.

I think it's working. 

I also love the fact that, when we walk together, we walk together. He doesn't pull me along like Lenny and CoCo do - or, in fact, any of our dogs have done. We just walk. Together.

It's lovely.

I can't wait for Lenny and CoCo to meet him. I have no doubt they'll get along famously. And, I'm sure he'll warm up right away to Ms. Conroy. She has a certain way with all four leggeds.

Did I ever tell you about the time that one of our formerly feral cats - a real beauty named Maude - delivered her first (and last) litter of kittens right in Ms. Conroy's lap? Yup. Five of them. It was amazing!

My allergies have been acting up, but I'm not certain if it's him or the beginnings of Spring or something goin' 'round. I've been fighting a fierce headache and nausea for the past 36 hours, but Ms. Conroy says there's a bug goin' 'round, causing the same symptoms.

I don't care. He's staying. I'll take Zyrtec and deal with it.

So, say hello to Theo - aka "Mr. Wonderful".

I sense the beginning of a long and lovely friendship.

It feels like home to me.

It feels like we - Theo and me - are back to where we once belonged.

33 comments:

suzanne said...

Good news indeed! He's a cutie.

Elisabeth said...

I can't wait to meet Mr. Wonderful!

Jon M. Richardson said...

Can't wait to meet Theo! :)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Suzanne. He is indeed.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mr. Wonderful can't wait to meet you! I hope you'll still be in shape to come for Girlyman. We shall wait and see.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Lis - And, he can't wait to meet you and Mr. Ollie. They actually have similar temperaments and personalities.

whiteycat said...

Theo is a sweetie! May you have many joyful years together.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Whiteycat. I'm looking forward to us growing up together.

JCF said...

Aw, Theo! :-)

[FYI: black dogs are the Best Dogs Evah. There, I said it! Mitzi (black lab mix) and Sasha (black lab), both OBM, agree w/ me! ;-) I've known some sweet black cats, too.]

Suzer said...

Sounds like it took about 2 seconds for him to wrap you around his paw. (Which is as it should be.) :)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - Well, Mr. Lenny Bruce Brisco is black and white and Mr. Theo has a white vest, a white spot on his chin, and one white sock. But, he's beautiful to me.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Suzer, actually, it was more like 0.5 seconds. ;~)

it's margaret said...

Welcome home Theo!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!
When I train dogs I put a small piece of hot dog in my mouth. When I give a command and the dog looks at me I take out the piece in my mouth (some trainers spit it at the dog) and give it to the dog. This does three things: 1.) teaches him you give hime food;2.) your smell; 3.) to focus on your face when he hears your voice. I also give hand signals as 98% of communication with dogs is through body language. BTW-toy poodles are a bit timid by nature. Mr. Wonderful is a very lucky dog.
Best wishes, Maria

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Margaret, it's me, Theo. I'm so happy to be home. Please tell Mr. Witty that he's a lucky dog.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for that tip, Maria. The idea of putting a hot dog in my mouth is pretty gross, but I'll go out and get some tomorrow.

romelover said...

Welcome Theo!
Just FYI: Our dogs (especially our black one--I adore black lab mixes) love carrots and cauliflower. I use them for training. Although Lazarus loves hotdogs too....actually, he loves pretty much anything even slightly edible.

chrissie

renzmqt said...

Good for you, Elizabeth! He's a lucky dog to have you and vice versa. I wish you all lots of love and fun and play together.

jevcat said...

He sounds and looks wonderful, indeed. Our golden retriever service dog is also a rescue and from our (and other friends') experience, it can take quite a while for rescued dogs to learn how to play; some never do. Congratulations, and enjoy!

Jay Simser said...

Madpriest sent me over and I find your new addition wonderful. Bailey, Miles, Cassie and I want to say Hello to Theo (Is that short for Theology?) and let you know that I have subscribed to your wonderful Blog. Your post on Marriage is one of the best statements on marriage I have ever read. Thanks

Jay Simser said...

BTW, I have now linked to your Blog from Bailey's Buddy. let me know if that is not all right.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Chrissie - Good news about the veggies. I'll have an easier time with those than hot dogs.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Renz - I am so loving being a 'human' again ;~)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hello, Jay. Theo is short for Theodore Leonardo Kaeton. A prince of a name for a prince of a dog. I just got a call from his step mom. Seems he has tested positive for Lime's disease, so she's bringing by some antibiotic for him. He should be fine. His titres are on the lower end of the positive scale and he should respond well.

I'll go and check out Baily's Buddy. Thanks for the link.

And, thanks to Jonathan for his welcome of Theo to the neighborhood.

EHC said...

He's adorable! Welcome home, Theo.

the cajun said...

Oh Come now, you have always been a sucker for a pretty face, and does this little guy have one.

It sounds as though training his human is progressing nicely, if a little slower than he'd like. It's all in a day's work, and you'll catch on. ;-)

Bateau Master said...

BRAVO!!!!!!

From a house that is home to the two most dense black dogs in Christendom. But they are loved.

Lois Keen said...

Miss Xena, Warrior Labrador Mix Princess of all Norwalk and Resident Hound of the Rectory at Grace Episcopal Church there is a rescue also. Found as a stray in South Carolina and shipped up here, she, too took her time deciding about bodily functions. She does the same when we travel. It's anxiety producing. But once we settle, she's fine.

She seems not to have had a pack so it took most of a year for her to trust this is all real. And she, too, had no interest in her kennel for much of that time. Now she uses it regularly, especially every time one of us goes into the bathroom and turns on the water in the tub - she hates baths!

And by the way, being a lab mix, Xena is a black dog. We love black dogs!

Welcome Home, Theo. Xena gives you a huge wag of the tail and a welcoming woof.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

EHC - thank you!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Cajun - I can't wait for you to meet him!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bateau Master - I don't get the whole Black Dog Syndrome. How can some people be so shallow?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Lois - Theo would love to meet Xena. I'm sure these to "PD's" (preacher's dogs) would have lots of "tales" to tell - and tails to wag.

Joanna Depue said...

Every good wish for Theo and y'all as his new family. Emmy Lou and I will look forward to meeting him!