Let me give you a little history. For as long as I can remember, I have loved animals of all shapes and sizes. At the age of 6, I got my first pet (a Bichon Frise named Francis). When I was in middle school, my mom bought me another dog, a Bichon named Mandee. A few years later, we brought home her sister, a bichon/poodle mix named Mollie. Mandee and Mollie were my responsibility to train and care for when I lived at home, which gave me my first glimpse into responsible pet ownership.
When I was in college, my now-husband and I took in some feral kittens. Kitten ownership was a challenge, never having owned kittens before I did not know how to prepare myself or my home for such chaos! We got through it with minor bumps along the way. Fast forward four years. A few months after we bought our first home, we wanted a dog (we finally had a yard!)
Barret, our first “fur-kid” of the canine kind, pretty much fell into our lap. He was a great puppy, quirks and all. We even named him after a character in one of the best video games of all time! Barret (or Bear) is an unusual mix of Cocker Spaniel and Miniature Pincher, but looks like a mini Black Lab. He is outgoing yet shy; friendly yet a little territorial. He loves a good car ride. His short attention span makes training a bit more difficult, but all the more rewarding when we have finally learned a new trick.
About 6 months later we decided he needed a brother or sister. This time it took a few months of searching for the “perfect” dog, but after several applications with local rescues Gatsby was approved to come home with us. That’s when life in our house got interesting. Much like the character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, Gatsby is mysterious, contradictory, and a little misguided. He’s a German Shepherd mix adopted from Homeward Bound Animal Rescue. Gatsby loves to cuddle with us whenever he can. He’s also a destructive pup, and has tested my patience many times over the last year. One look at that face and a big bear hug from him has me wondering why I was even mad at him in the first place.
When we decided to bring home a second puppy, the thought was “how much more work can just one more be?” The answer? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.
Gatsby presented a challenge from day one. He is incredibly destructive. He chewed on everything – table legs, carpets, walls – but only when we weren’t home. Barret had rarely, if ever, chewed on anything inappropriate. My husband and I aren’t big proponents of crating, so we opted to gate the dogs in a room where we figured they could do the least amount of damage. I consulted books, websites, TV shows, even a professional trainer to find a way to curb the destruction of our new house! Each solution worked for little while, and we would breathe a sigh of relief thinking the destructive phase had passed, then a few weeks or months later we’d come home to a hole in the wall or torn up carpet and bedding. He has the sweetest demeanor; he apparently just doesn’t like to be home alone. Even with his destructive tendencies I still wouldn’t trade him for the world. He like our other pets has become a vital part of my life and well-being. They bring me joy each and every day, even if they do get into mischief once in awhile. From time to time I still find myself asking “How much more work could just one more dog be?”
I’m sure I’m not the only pet lover dealing with the issues Gatsby presents. I’m hoping that if I share my experiences with a “problem child” that I can help someone else out there who may be a little frustrated with destructive anxiety too. Next time, I’ll tell you more about Gatsby’s handiwork and some of the so-called solutions I’ve tried to correct the behavior.