I have not posted much about Crosby because I honestly was not ready to share my thoughts on this dog. For the past six months I have thought I made an enormous mistake. Having never raised a puppy before, I honestly thought that reading books, watching The Dog Whisperer and taking a dog training class would give me a well trained, well behaved dog. I was not naive about the work that goes into an animal and I expected interrupted sleep and accidents in the house. I did not make a rash decision to adopt a dog from a shelter nor did I decide on a dog based on children’s requests. I carefully researched breeders, I researched breeds and we selected based on a litter planned for a very honorable purpose, to produce dogs capable of serving veterans and we waited months for this little puppy to enter into our family.
Not only did Crosby enter into our family, he disrupted our entire family. Daphne is 14 (we think). She is an old lady. She was bonded to Jake in a way that words cannot describe. They slept together, their colors intertwined in a perfect ying/yang of fur. When Jake passed, Daphne suddenly became even older. We realized the extent to which her vision and her hearing are impaired. She rarely moved. She was content to snuggle on our lap or on her pillow but the spark of her personality faded away. I thought she would love a dog to keep her company and make her get up and move her old legs but I was wrong. She was very unaccepting of Crosby, would not play with him and did her best to be as far away from him as possible. Give it time everyone said. I did. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and there were moments of interaction but not many.
Crosby is a barker. He barks for Daphne’s attention. He barks when he is bored. He barks to go out. He barks to be fed. His barking can drive me crazy. His favorite time to bark is at 7pm right when we are sitting down to watch Gilmore Girls. His barking fit can sometimes last an hour, making it impossible to enjoy our family time with our favorite shows. Because Daphne has no idea what he is barking at (often we have no idea either) she starts to bark. Because she has no idea what she is barking at she has no idea when to stop barking. It can be difficult to calm her down and get her to stop. I get angry. Lilah gets angry. Our lessons are interrupted. Our life is interrupted.
Crosby will bite and nip. For some reason I am the only one who can walk him. He has ripped Grace’s jeans, her coat, my favorite cords, and my favorite gloves. I envisioned three walks a day all shared by the three of us. That is not a possibility. Given his strength, I am afraid he would hurt the girls. He is not nipping out of aggression, just out of uncontrolled excitement and energy. He seems more like a herding dog than a mostly poodle with a bit of golden retriever.
I know bored dogs are bad dogs. I know he has to be walked. I know he has to be trained. But how do you walk a dog that ruins all your clothes while you are walking him? How do you teach a dog to do tricks when he will reach out unexpectedly and nip your hand with his very large teeth?
What made me the most sad and caused me the most pain is that his personality was not what I had wanted in a dog. Jake lived and breathed for us. He was our constant shadow, our faithful companion, our best friend. He lit up when we came home and he would have done anything for us. I will never again choose a dog at 4 weeks old. In fact, I may never ever choose another dog! Crosby is independent and stubborn. For the longest time it seemed as if he only wanted to take from us, take our food, take our yard, take our time, take our money (to replace the things he has destroyed) but he was not willing to take our affection. His tail rarely wagged. He rarely sat with us, preferring instead to lay by himself in a room on the opposite side of the house. Sometimes I wonder what if I had picked another dog on that warm summer day? What if I had picked one of his brothers or sisters like the ones I see on Facebook wearing their service dog vests and enjoying the snow off leash and bragging how they never ever have accidents in the house. What if?
Over and over I would ask myself, what have I done?
Over and over my Mom would tell me to give it time.
Six months. Six months was what people said it would take for him to come ‘round.
And guess what? He turned six months this week and for the first time he did what we affectionately call “circle tail”. He was excited that Greg came home from work and his tail wagged in a complete full circle. After he said hello to Greg with no nipping and no jumping he visited each one of us and sought out some loving, which we happily gave him. Coincidentally, for the first time, he snuggled with me on the floor and with Grace on the couch. He seems to be underfoot a bit more and in the back room a bit less. He thought it was funny to steal our blankets off of us while we watched Gilmore Girls. First Graces, then Lilah’s, then back to Grace and then back to Lilah, over and over again like a toddler dropping a toy only to drop it again as soon as it was handed back to him. Rather than barking, he was actually playing. Rather than ignoring us, he was engaging with us.
I hope six months is a turning point for our relationship with Crosby. He has taught me some important lessons over the past six months. If I did not have Grace in my life, I’m not sure I would still have Crosby in my life. I thought dogs were like kids, you would automatically love them just because they are yours. That is not the case. My love for this dog has not been automatic nor is it unconditional. I am slowly growing to love him and my feelings for him now are not where I hope they will be in the future. But boy oh boy Grace sure gets unconditional love. She is the most loyal person I have ever met. He has taught me patience, something I continually need to practice. Deep breathing. The importance of kind words. I have said some things over the past few months that I regret. I wish I could take them back, but we have learned the value in apology and forgiveness.
Daphne is still not Crosby’s biggest fan but now and then they will share a dog bed. Now and then they will find their way to one another. Now and then they will play tug of war. Now and then they will enjoy each other’s company.
Crosby is a part of our family. I hope the next six months are better than the last six months. I still have big dreams for this dog. When Daphne is no longer with us, I would like to travel with Crosby (who is excellent in the car). I would like him to run off leash on the beach and swim in the Sound. I would like him to enjoy walks with the girls and play in the park with other dogs on Sunday mornings in the summer. I would like him to be well trained and know more than sit and down. Most of all I would like him to want to be with us, at our side, as our companion. I would like very much to love him deeply and feel that he loves me back.