Most people are familiar with the old adage, “Every dog has its day.” However, I find it interesting that it’s one of very few timeworn maxims which can be interpreted either positively or punitively. For example: the punitive theory is that a “bad dog” (or person) will be disciplined at some point (or receive his comeuppance); the opposite side of the coin is that every “dog” that’s down-on-his luck, oppressed, or suffering will sooner or later be well rewarded. As an owner/exhibitor & breeder of Boston terriers, I’ve seen this proverb come to pass in countless situations, often within my own “GrayHaven Gang” of Bostons. What I failed to recognize until recently; though, is that there exists a murky, grey area where every dog doesn’t get its day in the best way, & often the finest breeders lose sight of their dogs in the fog.
I realized about two years ago – thanks to a particular rescue dog which parked himself within my heart & refusing to budge, that even though I provided all the best necessities & comforts for my dogs, somewhere along the thirteen years of exhibiting & breeding I’d lost sight of what my dogs truly mean to me. As a result, they were losing out. All the best kibble, comfy beds, & timely vet care cannot take the place of the singular bond between Man & dog. AKC ribbons & titles, so coveted by exceptional Breeders, can become empty rewards if the dogs are merely used vehicles on the ego road-trip to success. I’m ashamed to admit I took this dead end path.
Dogs have been a constant in my life since I was a toddler & some of my best childhood memories involve our family dog, Jo-Jo, a dog which patiently demonstrated all the interaction rules to two ignorant children as we grew up together. He was a shepherd-collie cross our family adopted from the local humane society as a tiny puppy. During his life of nearly fourteen years he taught me how to train dogs, that dog fur absorbs tears, & that no one messes with a young girl who has an ultra-protective, sixty pound dog on lead. I could go anywhere on my own, as long as Jo-Jo was beside me. My parents kept Jo-Jo as an outside dog, but I spent as much time as possible with him. He & I used to curl up inside his dog house, snuggled in the fresh straw together, just enjoying being alone & quiet. Jo-Jo taught me all the best things about the human-canine relationship & he was infinitely patient as I learned. Thanks to Jo-Jo, I developed a passion for all things dog & haven’t ever lived without at least one dog – & usually two or more – in my life.
When my husband & I made the decision to show & breed Boston terriers after eleven years of being owned by spayed/neutered “pet” Bostons, we outlined some specific rules for ourselves: Our dogs would be indoor dogs; no kennel, we’d own no more than six at a time; thus we’d have a one-to-one ratio of dogs-to-humans in our home, & we would be Responsible & Ethical Breeders in every way. We didn’t have any problems honoring our rules, except for the one about keeping only six dogs. Like nearly every Breeder we had puppies that we decided to keep, we purchased a couple of promising show dogs, & then we retired some adults but couldn’t bear to part with them. It wasn’t too many years before our Boston count had grown to ten. We still felt that with six family members that all was well. The dogs were happy & healthy & we were having fun; until tragedy struck.
Haley-Bop, one of our so-called “Texas Roses” because she & her half-sister ‘Amity both came to us from Texas, was attacked & critically injured by two of our other girls, which ultimately led to a wonderful transformation of her temperament. I think this horrifying event was the first sudden gust that would grow to become a wind strong enough to clear the fog for me. The damage to Bop’s front legs was horrendous & it wasn’t clear for several weeks whether or not the worst one would require amputation. Fortunately, our vet & his crew are amazing & with tons of intensive care & daily rehabilitation at home, Haley-Bop kept both her front legs. It was during her recovery that I noticed something about Haley-Bop: as the days & weeks of intense one-on-one care progressed, her attitude changed. She became a much softer, loving, & attention-seeking dog than she’d ever been before. I was mortified to admit, even to myself, that she had never really bonded with anyone but one of our sons (“her boy”) over the several years she’d been a part of our family. The nature of her injuries, which required us to “be there” for Haley twenty-four hours a day, finally created the connection she’d been lacking. Upon reaching this insight, I stepped back & took a long, honest look at my dogs & their emotional needs.
Is it ever easy to admit you’re wrong? Once I scrutinized my dogs & our situation without the smothering fog of goal-acquisition blurring my vision, it was clear that I’d hit a dead end. My dogs were not getting their emotional needs met in the human-canine relationship. We had too many dogs to do them justice. My husband & I made some difficult choices & placed several dogs into Forever Homes where they would be cherished as individuals. We were saddened, but knew we’d done right; however, I’d still failed to see the whole picture before me.
A couple years after Boppy’s injury & subsequent recovery, an obese Boxer named Copper* was surrendered into our rescue & changed my life. For all his overwhelming size, he sneaked into my heart on cautious kitten paws & stole it. I knew I was keeping him within three days of his arrival. The past two years with Copper by my side have been the perfect storm to blast away the remaining fog before me. Copper’s reminded me again that dog fur absorbs tears perfectly; that no one molests a lady – no matter how helpless she appears – walking a ninety pound, attentive, loyal Boxer; & most importantly, that dogs are Man’s Best Friend. Thanks to Copper, I realized that I’ve been shortchanging my precious Bostons for years, even though I love them very much. None of them gets the time s/he deserves to have; the opportunity to develop the extraordinary companionship, respect, & love I’ve built with Copper. After admitting this hard truth, I made the tough choice to break away from showing & breeding to return to “pet” ownership. It was amazing how much better I felt after making that decision.
Once my husband & I agreed, I was dumbfounded at the relief I felt, & we even still had all our dogs! I hadn’t been aware of how much stress I’d been feeling. I think the hardest decision I made was to neuter my best boy, Boomer. A big part of me felt that as a wonderful, sound example of the breed, I had an obligation to place him out with another Breeder so he could be exhibited & implemented in a responsible breeding program. Then again, I was incredibly troubled at the probability that this sweet boy would once again become part of a pack, instead of the individual dog he needed to be. I waffled for weeks & even entertained a couple of offers for him; however, you’ll be happy to learn that I opted for love over breed improvement: I neutered Boomer & am keeping him. There are lots of nice Bostons out there, but there’s only one Boomer & I want the chance to build a special friendship with him. All of our girls are spayed & retired now; although a couple are still waiting/hoping for their new Forever Families to appear. We’re getting there. Our awesome dogs are “our dogs” once more, instead of being the means to the end of self-indulgent rewards. I’m already enjoying the clear, bright view from here… Plus, I’m incredibly pleased to finally be able to say truthfully that every one of our dogs does get its day – & it’s finally a GREAT one.
*Copper – read The Hunk to learn his story
When you own a dog, it’s inevitable: at some point in time, sooner rather than later, you’ll see an odd, quizzical expression overtake your dog’s (or puppy’s) face as she hurriedly plops her bottom to the floor & wiggles side-to-side. Immediately thereafter, she’ll appear nonplussed or slightly pained as she suddenly lifts her hind legs elbow-level, digs her front claws into the floor, & drags her madly itching anus across your pristine carpet. Your beloved dog slits her eyes & drops her jaw in ecstasy. You’ll totally freak. This disgusting, canine butt-scratching event is known at our house as the “Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie” & though every dog delights in it, owners world-wide live in daily dread of it.
This morning, my husband released the GrayHaven hounds – aka nine Boston terriers – from their safety crates & as the pack thundered through the house toward the dog door (located in the kitchen, at the opposite end of the home), our Alpha bitch, Sheriff Pinky caused a four-Boston pile-up in the middle of the living room. Alas, she’d been stricken with the Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie in mid-run; not a pretty sight. As Chaos, Ruby-Ruby, Bouncer, & Rocket-Dog untangled themselves & resumed their stampede for the morning duping grounds; Pinky proceeded to scrape her delicate rose of a tush across my lovely patterned area carpet… She was blissfully unaware of events to come.
Now, Pinky is one of my loveliest girls, in fact, my nickname for her is, “My Best Girl,” but seriously, no dog is attractive whilst performing the Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie. So, once the terrier traffic jam cleared, it took my mind a moment to wrap itself around the horrific sight before me… Then, I freaked: “PIIIINKYYYYY!!!! Quit! Go outside!!!!” I yelled at the poor, butt-itchy dog. Of course, she ceased scootching in mid-cootch & gaped at me with her ears pinned back, totally clueless as to why I was hysterical at the fact she was rapturous from the rough caress of carpet fibers across her puckered posterior opening. Pink gave me her patented “Puss-In-Boots Eyes” with her hind paws hovering near her shoulders, confused & clearly wishing I’d leave the room so she could resume the Scootchie. However; I firmed my resolve against her hypnotic, bottomless eyes & pointed a trembling finger toward the kitchen, “OUT! Take your itchy bum outside, Pink. Go out, NOW!” At last, the Sheriff dimmed the eye-wattage, heaved a sigh, & headed for the dog door – but only after a final skilled side-to-side cootch. I can only suppose that, after having been stricken while running, then bowled over by her pack-mates, she felt fully justified in completing as much as possible of her HCS routine.
Despite the fact that Pinky’s morning attack hit while only family was present, it seems that this odd & revolting affliction fells countless canines when houseguests are present, always causing embarrassment & disgust. The more important your guests; the more likely it is your dog will perform the HCS in front of them. It never fails. I’ve attended parties before where, although of course I’m a dog owner & lover, I’ve been beyond appalled at the sight of the host’s dog(s) performing the Scootchie repeatedly in the midst of the guests over the course of the evening’s events. And I’m sorry, but there’s just no tactful way to overlook an eighty or one hundred-plus pound dog scouring its bum along the carpet (& we all know how they love the carpet, don’t we?), desperately searching for relief. How do you eat appetizers while a faint brown trail is being emblazoned on the creamy berber right before your eyes? For me it’s impossible, so I certainly can’t expect it of anyone else. Therefore, we long ago began safety crating the GrayHaven pack when expecting guests, specifically to avoid the mortifying effects of the Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie which seems to surface inexplicably with the arrival of company.
Sadly, the Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie is a fact of life for dog owners everywhere; there’s no prevention, treatment, or cure; there’s simply an illusion of control at the moment of onset, as you frantically shriek at your dog to cease & desist (fully expecting her to obey) & she most likely ignores you, at least for the amount of time it takes to utterly defile a portion of carpet. If the Scootchie takes place when – to your dog’s delight, you happen to not be hanging about, you either never realize your carpet has been despoiled or you later ponder the origins of several dull cocoa streaks, never noticing your dog smugly scrutinizing your mystification from the corner of the sofa. It’s a lose-lose proposition for both you & your floor covering of choice.
So, what’s a dedicated dog owner to do? Here are some Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie safety tips:
- NEVER leave your dog alone with your carpet
- NEVER leave a teacup dog alone with the sofa (or bed)
- ALWAYS spot-check your dog’s bum after duping, to ensure no ‘danglies’ are present
- If you own a “serial Scootcher,” ALWAYS safety crate when expecting guests
- If visiting a friend with carpet lighter than tree bark brown, NEVER take your dog along
- If you’ve never seen your dog do the HCS, ASSUME s/he’s done it 5 times just this week
- NEVER leave your dog alone in a conversion van or RV (or any vehicle w/ carpeted flooring)
- Okay, just NEVER leave your dog alone with fabric of ANY kind; it’s a tragedy waiting to happen!
If you have some Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie safety suggestions, please comment & share them! In this way, we can improve the lives & carpet fibers of dog lovers everywhere!
Sleeping with a Boston terrier is like going to bed with a large rock that breathes & farts.
I’ve been tossing this whole blogging idea around for quite a while & finally decided to just go for it. I suppose we’ll see how it goes! Anyway: welcome!
The stories or happenings I share may not always be lace-trimmed & perfectly well-kept, but consider this a sort of window into a wannabe writer’s mind & memories & future hopes & dreams. I plan to mostly write pieces about pets which have influenced my life, but there have been numerous other animals as well, so things could get a little weird now & then. Really, you just never know what’s going to greet you at GrayHaven Farm… And so the same will hold true for VelcroDogBlog.
My first post is a piece I’m very happy with, both because I just like it & because it’s true. The dog’s name is changed, but the facts of the story are real. The dog currently shares his heart with me & I’m honored to share my home with him. He’s an incredible boy. I look forward to any comments you wish to share.
I hope you enjoy your visit with us; better yet, I hope you’ll become a regular visitor & encourage some friends to join us!
Thanks so much for sharing your time with us (me & my dogs),