Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oliver...aka Demon Dog

Those who frequent Erica Orloff’s blogs, have heard of “Demon Baby”. Well, I have the canine equivalent, Demon Dog. He is really a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, but man can he try one’s patience! He’s been the most challenging dog I’ve ever owned, far worse than my rat terrier Sassie, aka “Rat Dog”, deceased November 2007. More about the other dogs in the pack another time, this one is about Oliver.

Now Oliver supposedly means “peace”…he couldn’t have been given a more oxymoronic name. He didn’t start out as our dog at all, but the neighbor’s dog. He first arrived, next door, on 2 January 2007. We already had three dogs at the time and were not looking for another. Our old lab was on her last legs (she died 19 January at the ripe age of 17) and Sassie was just starting to develop the bone cancer that would eventually claim her life. No, too much emotion…we did not want another dog.

Our neighbors were the third family to adopt Oliver from the County Humane Society…his third strike. He was only about 10 weeks old at this point, so it’s hard to imagine how two other families would give up on him so easily…well, it was hard to believe at the time. Within days of his arrival, we started to see why. The little guy was the consummate escape artist even at such a tender age. In frustration, the neighbors chained him to a tree in the corner of the yard closest to the fence that separates our two yards. That worked for a time, but not for long.

We noticed that when he did come back after “visiting” around the neighborhood, he was beaten and chained to the tree again. And they wondered why, as time progressed, Oliver did not want to come home. Heck, he was welcomed everywhere else he went. His bouncy playfulness and affection endeared him to everyone within a two block radius. When he escapes we get "Oliver sightings" from the neighbors...almost like a tracking system...everyone knows him. Like I said, he is really a nice guy…but.

By March his absences from the neighbor's house were much longer. He tended to camp out at the various other neighbors. His owners were making no effort to go get him even when informed of his whereabouts. I think they were really frustrated by this time. Well, to backtrack a little, the family that adopted him did not know what he was and what he was…what he is, is a foxhound! Not a “lay-around-doing-nothing” kind of dog. Not a dog that you keep chained and don’t run…and I mean RUN…all day! That was part of the problem.

Mid-March, while sitting in my office at my computer, I was suddenly set upon, in a playful way, by a soaking wet foxhound that had come through our dog door. When I heard the door open I assumed it was our Border Collie/Chow mix Duncan, and it was…showing in his new buddy. Apparently Duncan had shown Oliver the delights of the fish pond. It turns out that Oliver had broken through the panels of the stockade fence after slipping his chain and joined Duncan for a tussle and run through our yard. He stayed on for two days before the neighbors reclaimed him. But like a boomerang, he kept coming back!

Oliver stayed with us longer each time he escaped from the neighbor's. The more they punished him, the harder he tried to escape to our house. By the third week of April, he had stayed with us for two weeks. The exasperated neighbors finally admitted being at wit’s end and since Oliver seemed to want to stay with us, would we mind taking him off their hands. No problem! By this time, everyone in our house loved “the Little Guy” as he is still called when he’s being good…even though he now outweighs the “the Big Guy” by almost ten pounds and is almost an inch taller.

It was then that we found out that the reason the neighbors tried to hang on to him so long was that if they took him back to the shelter, he’d be snuffed. Although they were totally out of their league controlling him, they cared enough that they did not want him to “strike out”. So Oliver joined us permanently…except for when he escapes to visit all the friends he made a year ago. Only now, he sometimes takes Duncan along for giggles. At least we’ve made escape more difficult. Most of the fence along three sides of the yard is now six feet high. On the side where the neighbor’s chain-linked fence makes that impossible, we’ve also installed an electronic containment system. This system also covers the gate that my father-in-law most frequently forgets to close and through which both dogs made most of their escapes before the electronic barrier.

We never punish the dogs when they come home. They are greeted happily and hugged and played with. They know that this is where they want to return. But, damned if I don’t curse a blue streak when they “break containment”!

Oliver, though…he is more than an escape artist. He is also a thief. Panties are his favorite and with a house full of girls, there are plenty of panties to be snatched. The picture at left is last March, before he was "officially" a family member. Toilet brushes are also a favorite, as are shoes, stuffed toys, the cardboard toilet paper rolls, the entire toilet paper roll, paper towel rolls, tissue boxes (preferably full of tissue), plastic cups, silverware, butter, and TV remote controls. He doesn’t bother the DVD controller, just the TV remote. Oliver likes to make sure we see him dashing by with the object so that we give chase. He loves to be chased. Sometimes he even goes so far as to take socks or slippers right off our feet and he is damned good at it!

He has a collection of stuffed toys…his favorites that our girls gave up trying to protect. When it rains, he runs around the yard gathering them up and depositing them safely just inside the dog door. Purloined items get to stay outside, so it behooves us to be certain that everything is accounted for before the rain starts.

So that is Oliver’s background. My wife started calling him Demon Dog about a week ago when he was being particularly “devilish” and she’s never visited Erica’s blog. So I thought it amusing and decided to tell a little story about him. I’ll throw other doggie stories out there from time to time. Let’s hope Demon Dog and Demon Baby never get together. It might be trouble.