In July of 2020, our poodle/beagle Buddy, had to be euthanized due to irreversible medical issues. He was and still is my wife Clara’s all-time favorite dog. She literally held him in her arms as he breathed his last breath. After that experience, just as she had sworn years earlier after Lance’s passing, Clara said, “No more dogs!”
That sentiment lasted for about three weeks. That’s when she passed by a man and his crate sitting in front of a Bed Bath & Beyond store. In the crate was a litter of puppies. Five of the puppies were dark brown and sleeping soundly. A lighter-colored puppy was wide awake and trying to get out of the pen. After a short conversation, Clara went inside the store and—for about $150—purchased a crate, leash, collar, and food. She went back outside and took the only puppy that wasn’t asleep. When she got home, my first question was “What happened to ‘no more dogs’?” Clara’s answer: “I don’t know. She’s so cute.” Based on the fact the puppy was a female and half dachshund, I dubbed her Heidi after the movie of the same name. Heidi turned out to be a ball of fire. As Clara says, ”All the other puppies were sleeping on top of each other while Heidi was scrambling around trying to get my attention. I should have known right there and then!”
It had been a while since I’d housebroken a dog. We put papers down everywhere. That allowed Heidi to get used to going inside the house. Every morning when I woke up my business was to clean up Heidi’s business 😊. We put in a call to a local trainer. She said, “Use the crate. Dogs usually don’t like to soil where they sleep.” In a matter of days, Heidi got into the habit of waiting until she was out in the backyard before answering nature's call.
Not convinced Heidi was totally housebroken, Clara insisted on crating her at night when we were sleeping. Heidi wasn’t happy about this policy and made it clear. The crate was kept in the living room. When it was time to go to bed she would try to hide in the second bedroom . Or, if she was out in the living room on the sofa, she would ignore my order to go into the crate, get into a limp, helpless position, and force me to pick her up and put her into the crate. Occasionally, she would enter the crate upon command, but her facial expression made it clear she was doing so resentfully . Once inside she would whine for several minutes (they seemed like hours!) before finally going to sleep. After a few months of this, I finally convinced Clara to let Heidi stay out of her crate overnight. The very first night we did this she made an instant beeline to our bed. From that night on, she invited herself onto the bed when we retired. On the rarest of occasions, she would wake me up by nudging me, letting me know she had to go to the “bathroom”.
We left the crate door open 24/7. Occasionally, Heidi would go inside it and rest. This was the same dog that had resisted the crate for months. Perhaps knowing she could enter and leave it under her own volition made the crate seem less jail-like.
Heidi had another quirk. She was a scavenger. Anything that fell onto the floor was fair game—socks, underwear, eating utensils, TV remotes, you name it. I spent a lot of time prying foreign objects out of Heidi’s vice-like jaw.
Then there was the barking issue. Every passing vehicle, every pedestrian, every animal, every gust of wind—nothing escaped Heidi’s detection. Don’t know if I could put into words just how irritating her shrill bark is.
Outside, Heidi was a ball of fire. She loved to retrieve balls and catch Frisbees while within the confines of our spacious fenced yard. I did my best to take her on regularly scheduled walks twice daily. Heidi quickly picked up on our routine and, like clockwork, would begin staring at me, the leash, and the door whenever she sensed it was around the time of day when we customarily took one of our hikes.
In January of 2021, while I was walking Heidi, I slipped and fell on ice that had been camouflaged by a thin layer of freshly fallen snow. I barely escaped a concussion but inflamed an already bad back. I wondered if I’d reached a point in my life when dog ownership was no longer feasible. Nevertheless, I continued the walks. They were not as demanding as the ones I took with Lance, but I also was no longer as agile. They also were clearly not enough to tire out Heidi and, despite getting plenty of exercise, she continued to be a hyperactive hellion inside our house.
Incessant barker, scavenger, whirling dervish: Clara and I learned to deal with Heidi’s idiosyncrasies. But another far more serious issue remained unresolved. Heidi was anti-social. She didn’t discriminate. She laid out the unwelcome mat for family, friends and strangers alike. In this sense she was a miniature version of Lance. My daughter and son-in-law stopped by a couple of times, but Heidi—to put it mildly—never warmed up to them. Outside, the one time Heidi got loose she immediately got into a scuffle with a neighbor’s dog. I had all to do to yank her away from a canine twice her size. The dog’s owner chided me for not keeping Heidi under control. Shades of the guilt I’d experienced owning Lance. Heidi had turned out to be a pint-sized devil dog.
Grasping for straws, in the summer of 2021, we enrolled Heidi in the local dog training school. The facility had a great reputation and we looked forward to living with a new, improved dog. Heidi had other ideas. :(😊
To be continued...
P.S. In the video below, you can watch Heidi fearlessly stalk--a feather!
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).