Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Here's Archie, who appears to be a lot larger than he actually is because his face is larger than his body. 

It took only a month to get a new dog. It happened so fast I still can't believe it. Beau must think that I didn't love him--replaced before the body was even cold! Not really. My friend, Carol, has been sending me dog photos from the Oregon Humane Society.  I figured when I was ready, I would just show up and see what they had. But I didn't go. Then on an aimless and hot Sunday afternoon, I decided to check out Family Dogs/New Life, a no-kill shelter not too far from my house. It was supposed to be a a simple "go-see" where I could see other dogs, but not make a decision. Little did I realize that finding a new pet isn't like sorting through a rack of shirts at Nordstrums.  

The tiny shelter didn't look promising. These wonderful, selfless people operate on a shoestring. It's a no-frills sort of place. I walked in and was handed a book of adoptable dogs. When the time came, I had promised myself, there would be no more purebred dogs in my future. I wanted a mutt, an amiable companion like Beau who wasn't susceptible to infections and illness, a dog with an iron stomach and no allergies. Beau was the most wonderful dog in the world, but his vet bills were higher than my medical bills. As I poured through the book of photos, I didn't see any dog that had instant appeal to me. "Too big," I reasoned while flipping the pages. "Tool old. Too big. Too small." This was good I thought. I'm not leaping into this. And just when I was reasonably sure there wasn't an appealing dog for me to look at, my eye fell on a small black puppy. "Oh no you don't," I said aloud. Puppies? House-breaking, teaching good behavior, hiding the shoes, and typing down anything that was within his reach. None of this had any appeal to me. Well he is ten months old, after all, and those soft brown eyes   seem awfully sweet to me. Well maybe a quick look...

The puppy they brought to me in a waiting room was a shy little guy, very calm, and in no hurry to make nice with a stranger. The lady advised me to just stay put. I watched the little guy move under a bench, and sit down. He stayed there. I had some time to size him up. Shorty (for that was his awful name) was an adorable mutt--an improbable mix of dachshund and sharpei. "Let's throw a little pit bull or lab into the mix," I said. Shorty was built low to the ground and from the neck down, he was pure dachshund, barely  a foot high with turned out front paws that gave him the elegance of a ballet dancer. He had the wrinkled forehead of a sharpie, but his muzzle was either pit bull or labrador retriever. Weighing in at a slight twenty-four pounds, and measuring at twenty-seven inches in length, Shorty seemed to be the idea size for me--small but not dainty. At ten months of age, Shorty was somewhat house-broken, and I might be able to communicate with him more effectively than a three-month-old. 

Archie's first foray into the back yard. He liked it. Lots of mischief to get into. 

I was given a few treats, and staying in the same spot, and by staying quiet, and not pushing him, I managed to entice Shorty over to me for a treat. He took the biscuit from my hand in the most eloquently gentle way. He sat down in front of me and considered me with his soft gaze. I offered another treat, which he also took as gently as the first time. His calmness reminded me of Beau and that's when I rashly decided on the spot to adopt him. The lady looked a bit startled, but rushed to get me the proper paperwork to fill out.  Within ten minutes, Shorty was mine. They only took cash (a $225 adoption fee), so I had to drive to the nearest cash machine. You would have thought that would give me a bit more time to reconsider my decision. But I could only think that I needed food, and a crate to keep him in at night or when I was away from the house. He was already neutered about 10 days before. When I returned with the money, I was handed a file with all the background information on him. Seems he was picked up as a stray in Yakima. He was covered in ticks, which he had been treated for. There was a troubling inflammation on his left side, which I was told was a hematoma, the result of a larger dog crashing into him at playtime. Still it would require a vet's investigation. Shorty was lacking only a few more shots, which the vet could administer during an exam.  I made mental note to call the vet in the morning. I paid the adoption fee and was handed a small bag of food, a leash and collar, some toys, treats, and his file.  In under an hour, I was headed home with a new dog. 

Bit didn't like the idea of some upstart challenging his role as alpha-pet in my house. The first four days
Bit hissed and spat at Archie, trying his best to ignore him otherwise. It didn't work. Archie would not be ignored.

Oops--what is Bit going to make of this new intruder?  Bit was my other pet--a cat I had inherited when his master left my house, leaving behind all of his belongings. When Bit arrived at my house, he was an experienced traveler having been schlepped back and forth between the east coast and west, up to New York and down to Tucson. He was a strikingly handsome feline, with luxurious, thick, and long mostly white with black and gray fur. He had gorgeous blue eyes. But he was rendered comic looking by the addition of a large, black spot which mostly covered his nose and part of his muzzle. Though he had travelled often, Bit was an indoor cat and he was skittish and shy. It took months for him to finally let me pet him and a few more until he would jump up in bed for a cuddle. He loved to be petted, but tolerated it for only so much time. I had become adept in sensing when it was time to stop before he swatted me with a open claw. There are parts of Bit's body that area no-no to touch and he will lash out if he thinks your hands are near that 'no touch' zone. He's fearful of the vacuum, people when they show up at the door. Eventually Bit will re-emerge, but he remains aloof. 

Week two:  This is about as close as Bit would let Archie come, and only because he had the higher ground. 

Bit got along well with Beau in a formal sort of way. Both would pass each other nodding as old-time bankers do when they pass each other on the street. There was respect between them, but little affection. Occasionally they would deign to take a quick sniff at each other, but best friends they would never be. 

The second Shorty entered my home, Bit stopped in his tracks. His eyes got huge in horror and he immediately issued a terrifying hiss at the new intruder. Shorty went flying over to make his acquaintance, and Bit fled for cover. I didn't' see him again until bedtime, when he came to give me holy hell about letting that creature into his domain. He seemed to be saying, "I no sooner rid myself of that previous beast, when you bring home another one! And here I was enjoying my new status as Alpha cat in the house.  How could you? Once his scolding was over, Bit departed, not to be seen for a few days, except in fleeting visits for food and refreshment. 

Shorty didn't mind and wasted no time getting relaxed and settled into his new home. He liked the decor. He liked his new water dish and blanket. I had washed Beau's daybed, and Shorty was now ensconced in it when he wasn't following me all over the house. For the first three days, he never let me out of his sight. But he was fascinated with Bit, and ran over to him every chance he got. "They might just become friends," I said to my housemate, Deb. Bit isn't running for a hiding spot anymore," I noticed after the third day.  

The first thing I did was establish a regular walk, and then I launched a contest to give him a new name.  I got some great ideas, and Gus was one of my own suggestions that I considered.  In the end, the name Archie struck me as a perfect name, and so Archie he's become. Shorty has been consigned to the dump heap of really bad dog names. 

Archie aced his visit with the vet, charming everyone there, and submitting to shots and body inspection with good humor and affection. The vet took a sample of the hematoma and said it would take months for it to subside, but assured me it was nothing to worry about. Once that was past, I set about introducing Archie to friends and family. The transition has been smooth, and he's winning everyone over immediately. It helps that he's not only cute, but a handsome little guy and he enjoys meeting people and being fussed over.  We even scheduled a playmate with Porter, my friends, Trish and David's Everready Bunny of a French Bulldog. Porter doesn't understand the meaning of behave. He simply charges at anything and everything. He's a tough little guy.  Beau never really made friends with Porter. Usually he would put up with Porter's hectoring until he would lose patience, and really give him a scolding. Porter would always back down and peace would be restored. It took peace forever to finally make an appearance during their first playmate. Porter spent the first half hour clearly the winner, harassing and bullying Archie, while the adults sat out on the terrace of Trish and David's beautiful garden and watched the proceedings.  Archie was relentless. After a time, we simply ignored them and got on with our adult conversation.  About a half hour later, we hard this low rumble in Archie's throat which became a rather large and intimidating growl. The next thing you saw was the sight of two dogs chasing each other very aggressively all over their terrace. I had no idea Archie was that fast. Every once in a while, Porter would just give out, dragging himself to his doggie pool and getting himself a cool dunk while regrouping for the next round. This went on for more than an hour. Porter finally gave up, collapsing in a heap on the porch and taking a well-deserved rest. Archie had won. As Porter's eye rolled around in his head and his tongue lay hanging, he rested to get his wind back and decided the test would be taken up on another day.  Score one for Archie. 

Archie is the handsome boyo on the right with the dancer's feet. Porter, the tiny terror is my friend's French Bulldog. A bit of Churchill, and all manic personality. They had a memorable play date where Archie gave as good as he got!

For a time there, it didn't look good for Archie. 

I didn't take long for Archie to come in bed. Once he was groomed, his coat regained it's sheen. The tick scars were gone, and he made a fast recovery. He's got a good appetite, and for nearly three weeks now, there have been no accidents in the house. I just may take up the plastic painter's drop that I put over my living room rug to protect it.  Archie is now accompanying me when I can take him out to a friend's home, and he made a successful appearance at Papa Haydn's a popular local restaurant here with a beautiful garden that allows for dogs.  He has anxiety when I leave him to run an errand or have a meeting or go out for lunch and dinner. I keep him in his crate for these excursions, but we have to work on making him for comfortable when I'm not around. 

We also did a day trip to Astoria and Archie is a good traveler who didn't get car sick. It was a beastly hot day and we went to the beach near Astoria (a historic town that separates Washington state from Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River). The sand on the beach was so hot, I had to carry Archie to the shore because it burned his paws. He didn't much care for the water. But it think it's a matter of his getting used to it. Wonder who he will fare with the rain of Portland this winter. 

I'm been trying to get a good photo of them at play for weeks now. This is the closest I've come to a 
live action shot of them.

Bit is thawing. Now he just falls to the floor whenever Archie is in hot pursuit. You'd think I had a gay-for-cats dog! Archie is winning him over, though he still loves to torture him by being elusive. They do this Mexican stand-off thing with both of them on the floor, their legs underneath them, practically nose-to-nose. Archie's tail is ram-rod straight and sticking out at a 50%-angle; Bit's is slowly moving horizontally back and forth (it's like watching a slo-mo rally of tennis players with the ball going back and forth oner the net). They stare at each other. The object is to see which one will blink first. Bit is the master of this game, because he's much older and far wiser, and he never loses. Archie brings his head down on his paws and starts a low growl and then a whine. He'll either suddenly jump up and bark at Bit, or back away whining like the little weenie he is. I swear, you can see Bit laughing his head off.  Their byplay is hilarious.

A rare moment of repose with his favorite toy--a string of hotdogs on a rope. Needless to say, Archie has separated the links and they have been scattered all over the house.

Archie is enjoying the park, but I'm keeping him on a tight leash until he learns to complete stay with me. I want to take him to a park with a fenced in play area so he can really run. I'm really encouraged that he's taken to well to living with me. He's been with me to a couple of dinner parties, where he has made friends and is complimented on his good manners. Most importantly, Archie has certainly eased my sorrow over losing Beau.  That has been huge and I'm grateful for this sweet puppy for this. So stay tuned. More Archie stories will be coming. 

Now tell me Archie isn't a handsome fellow!

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