Monday, September 14, 2009


My dogs have been a huge part of my life, so be prepared for plenty of dog stories!

I dreamed about Nicholas the other day. Nicholas was my second Maltese, born in December 1988, and a dog who defied every description of a normal dog. He marched to the beat of his own drum. He had no need of approval, and the fact that he liked some people was only because they had worked to earn his respect. I bought him from a pet shop in Johannesburg when he was 6 weeks old. Too young to leave his mother, and I think that broke his little heart. Not that he would ever tell. Weakness was not his thing.

The first three days with me, he started real, nasty fights with Sara, 2 weeks his senior. They were confined to the kitchen until they were housebroken (or at least until Sara was - Nicholas, naturally, was a different story altogether). They both had the same amount of treats, yet Nicholas would start a fight with Sara to take hers. He was a brat. After 3 days of spankings and lectures in his face, he finally accepted that his behavior had to change.

He still wasn't ready to accept me. My duty was only to feed him, walk him, and permit my hair to be used at night for burying anything he didn't want Sara to get. This, unfortunately, included rawhide. Great for teething puppies, but it gets sticky and mushy. When buried in one's hair while one is sleeping, it is then allowed to dry out. And it sticks. The only way to get it out is by getting a funky haircut.
I learned to wake up when someone was burying too close to my head at night.

Despite their rough start, Nicky and Sara became fast friends. Playtime during the day was sweet. Playtime at 3am, not as much.
I had a large two bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with a long balcony. The Grand Prix would begin, usually in the bathroom, holding onto the end of the toilet roll. Down the passage, into the living room, out on the balcony, in the spare bedroom door, around the corner into my bedroom, over the bed and a sleeping mommy, and back to the passageway.
After a couple of months, Nicholas decided that, since I obviously going to insist he live with me, he would accept me by lying next to me on the sofa. But, I had not been forgiven for not being his real mommy, so touching him was out of the question, and I would receive a warning growl.

I always took heed of warning growls. Some dogs just give warnings. I have plenty of scars on nose and hands that Nicholas was very prepared to act if his growls went ignored.
It took 6 months before he finally, one day, to my utter joy, climbed onto my lap. I knew at that moment, I had been accepted.

Thinking back, it coincided with the time I gave up trying to housetrain him. And as soon as I stopped telling him he had to pee outside, was the time he decided that peeing outside was a pretty good idea.

He also became very protective. On our daily park visits, he would make sure to stand between me and whoever came past, barking and growling. The one thing he did have was a keen intuitive sense of people. I was allowed to have people come close, but they'd better be nice people.

"Michael", the con man written about previously, never met Nicky's approval. I would head to bed, Nicky and Sara accompanying me. During the night, Michael would decide to run to the store, taking Sara with him. He would let her sit in front (she was his favorite), pulling the car seat as close as possible to the front, so she could stand with her feet on the dash, watching where they were going. At the store, he would carry her in, letting her choose what chocolate and biltong she wanted.
Nicholas was happy to share in the spoils, but occasionally, Michael would make sure I was asleep, and then climb into bed with me.
Nicholas positioned himself on the pillow between us and growl. And growl. And would continue growling until Michael gave up and left.

It was so much better than rawhide in my hair, and those times were forgiven in this little dog's efforts to keep his mom safe. For by then, I was indeed, his mom.