Winky, Part 2

Part 2 has been delayed because I don’t know what to say about this dog. Part 1 left me at the mercy of an imaginary judge who would put me in the slammer for considering giving this dog up. But maybe I could make an appeal and get a new judge who doesn’t own a Scout and has had some financial catastrophes and doesn’t have the luxury of extra money for dog expenses, or whose money is tight and just wants to go on a cool vacation some day.

Besides, a Part 2 isn’t going to round off this story. I don’t know why I even assigned a “part” to it. I gave you the backstory, so I guess I could fill you in on current day. But at this rate, there could be a hundred parts to this story. After all, Marley and Me was a whole book and then a movie! And I can tell you, this story has no R rated scenes. I remember taking our kids wondering how we ended up in a bedroom in a dog story. But again, they were married. No scenes like that in Winky’s (aka, Bullwinkle’s) story.

I still vacillate between my love for Winky and my commitment to him and if there is a difference and if there is, does it make a difference on how I will move forward with my ownership of him? Will I pay the $1000 for the teeth care that was recommended, or do I follow some people’s advice to let it go. “Dogs have survived without dental care for years!” But for years, we didn’t know that their teeth were cracked and their roots were exposed and that without the dental surgery they could be in pain. As I write this, he’s gnawing on a cow’s ear. In this moment, in spite of the x-rays, he’s not making a good case for himself.

I didn’t set him up this morning to prevent him from peeing on the living room floor while I was at work. It’s a typical scenario. He doesn’t have an accident for a few days. Granted, that’s when I’m in and out of the house throughout the day, or on a day when I’m monitoring him as if he might sneak into my safe and discover a few dollars I have in there.  So on a work morning when I’ve gotten off track and am running late, I get sloppy and forget his bad habits. I begin work at 6:45, so it’s easy to be sloppy if I’m not on my game. I don’t get him into the garage or put up a gate in a designated area. He has full run of the house and I think, “Oh, he’ll be fine. He doesn’t want the money in the safe.” I mean, “He’ll be fine, he’s got the whole outside to pee and poop. He’s got pee pads in the garage and in my bathroom. Surely he’ll use those options before he’ll go on the bamboo hardwood that I installed because he and Rocky had peed on the carpet so bad I had no choice but to replace it, if I ever wanted to invite a guest into my home again.

But surely, he does not use those options that are obvious to us humans. I walk in the door tonight and there’s pee and poop on the floor. At least he’s consistent. It’s right where he always does it, right under the green chair where the planks are beginning to lift (again). Bamboo is pretty, but it’s the softest and least expensive hardwood, thus the most susceptible to damage of a peeing dog, or an outdoor toddler pool, but I have the peeing dog.

In Part 1 I shared that this summer I discovered what a lame owner I have been. I have a million good reasons, but Winky (or my imaginary judge) doesn’t care about a one of them. About a week ago I went to a conference for work. My boss offered to watch Winky. I was relieved yet apprehensive. When I checked in to see how things were going, as a typical educator she said, “He definitely has some sensory processing issues. He reminds me of working with autistic kids who like to be snuggled in and are afraid of loud noises.” Ahhhhhh…. There was none of that description when I picked Winky up that winter day in deep rural Oregon. The emphasis was on his sweetness and that he had papers. Now I’m thinking, “Papers Smapers. Tell me about his sensory processing issues!” When my boss had offered to watch Winky she assured me she would be fine because their family had had dogs with anxiety issues. I decided to ask her the other day, to really get her assessment of Winky, coming from a caretaker of dogs with anxiety, how Winky ranked. She said, “Well, you definitely have a special dog.” I guess I knew that, but now an expert had affirmed it.

So maybe those reasons matter. They contribute to the quality of care I can give to Winky. The whole thing is frustrating. And it’s complicated because Winky is truly the sweetest thing, and when I’m snuggling with him I forget that I’m missing out on the delight of a dog in the normal sense of the experience. My delight in these moments is how soft his fur is, how big and brown his eyes are, and how much he needs and loves me.

I really have tried to work with him this summer. He went with me to the beach and to Lake Billy Chinook.

An almost normal moment.

There he joined about 6 other little dogs. My friend is a dog lover and she brings her little dog and invites her friends to bring theirs. I questioned her before I took that big leap, but she was sure it was worth a try, as in, “How complicated can a dog be?” My friend was right. It was worth the try, but that’s about all it was worth because I was on pins and needles doing my best to manage his emotions (I have no idea what they are) around the other dogs who lolly gagged innocently while Winky protected the space around himself.  It was there that I realized how much Winky had missed out on under my ownership. That must be worth something.

He never socializes with other dogs, so he’s super protective. He’d never been to a body of water that I know of (except for the beach he’d visited the weekend before), he’d never roamed free and been chased by a black lab (which was a result of roaming into the campsite next door), outside of being lost for 48 hours when he ran away, he’d never slept outside in the open. This time it was with me on a couch, looking at the stars, and listening to wildlife all around us (the next day I discovered there was a lizard family hanging out at the couch where I’d just slept. I moved indoors the next night). It was at least a couple of hours before he could calm down enough to sleep. At every noise he jerked his head and he’d hold his nose high, like he was sniffing the stars, but I think he was just sniffing life. It smelled so much different than the house he’s left in every day.

With the two summer excursions, I felt we were on a roll, so I began a concerted effort to walk him daily. But regardless of my persistence, he’s really gotten no better. He seems slightly more excited than he once was. When I call his name with leash in hand I think he does an extra somersault than he did before the summer exposures to the world. Then we walk outside, I with my bologna bait, and still, it’s a painful exercise as he runs out wagging his tail in a doggy skip, then screeches to a halt just past the driveway. Some days I can coax him down the sidewalk to the intersection about 100 feet away (I know feet distance now, thanks to my navigation maps), but some days I’m unsuccessful. As the summer fades into fall, works gets busier, I have more on my plate, and the days get shorter, so does my patience. Those days when he stops as if he’s got glue on his paws, we do an about face and return home, a few steps away. I wish he knew that I’d give anything to walk two miles with him.

Our Golden Retreiver Lucky was a perfect dog, except we couldn’t take him on walks. He’s probably the only Golden Retriever who had leash aggression. We believe he developed an extra protective territorial sense because of the invisible fence we installed in our front yard. This concept was affirmed by a dog trainer. The invisible fence shocked Lucky whenever he went to greet a neighbor walking by. Grrrrr. By the time we figured that out, it seemed too late to fix, or maybe too late for us anyway. Then there was Mindy. We got her from the humane society. She was a medium sized dog that looked like a German Shepherd/Collie mix.  Unless you were a small child, she was great. We learned everyone over about 3 feet was safe. The problem was that Mindy’s hazel eyes and soft pointy ears begged to be caressed and loved, and humans under three feet couldn’t pass up the opportunity. As a result, I walked on eggshells and had to apologize a couple of times to friends after Mindy snapped at their children in response to their cuddles. Finally, one day when some good acquaintances were helping us move and their under three foot son was along for the ride, she drew blood on his hand. In that moment I knew Mindy’s life with us had come to an end, and for a flash, I wondered if mine had too. Walking on eggshells I could do, coming up with money for a disfigured child, I could not. I was fortunate and not only were these good acquaintances giving of their time, they also forgave this dog who bit their child and drew blood.

Finding a home for Mindy was traumatizing to the kids and me. Our emotions were depleted each day as we faced the reality. But also from a practical sense. It is not easy to find a home for a dog who bites small children. Both humane societies in nearby counties wouldn’t take her, nor would the shelters I called. I recall a news story when an anchor woman responded to a dog that had been found in a kennel in the river. It was a tragic scene to the unknowing bystander. She said that there’s always someone who wants to take an animal. Depending on the circumstances, that may not be true and I felt for the unknown person who had just been slandered. I considered putting Mindy down because I didn’t know where to go or what to do. For awhile I considered living with a dog who bites children. A friend’s friend realized my desperation and stepped in and dug deep to find a resource that we could live with. Giving up a part of one’s family is grueling, regardless of the reason. I haven’t even shared the story of the two dogs pre-children, but I will stop with Mindy.

I sometimes feel I’ve gotten the short end of the dog deal, but then I wonder if our dogs think they got the short end of the human deal. It’s kind of like a twisted Marley and Me story, but I don’t live at the beach and I’m not drudging through this with a spouse, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll become an author.

I have no idea if a Part 3 will unfold. I remain at a standstill with Winky. I don’t know if I’ll keep him. There’s never a day when I feel good about letting him go, but there’s also rarely a day I feel like spending the time and money on him that he deserves. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pet his soft fur, he’ll sleep with me in my bed, he’ll continue to hang out in the yard with me while I do yardwork (or I’ll chase him into the yard to keep him from the traffic in the street),

Supervising my back yard work.

I’ll meet his big pleading eyes when he looks up at mine, and continue to tell him, I love you, Winky… and it’s a darn good thing you’re cute.

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