Monday, March 5, 2007

The Niki & Elphie Story

I've talked about my dogs before, but I don't think I have gone into how crazy it is 'round our house , which we lovingly refer to as the "Shanty" (thanks Mike!). Some background may clear things up.

Niki and Elphie are both rescues (Niki is from CARE in Saratoga, Elphie is from Keepers for Creatures in Tracy/San Jose). Niki is (we think) a Chow/Spitz mix, and Elphie is (we think) a Chow/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix. They are the best dogs EVER, it's been both scientifically and statistically proven (by me).

[I didn't use fancy math or science, but my word should be enough for people who read my blog, right?]

We adopted Niki on Feb. 15, 2005 (the same day I was officially hired for my first job after college). He was crate trained, potty-trained and knew "sit". He was (and still is) a discerning fashion critic, chewing up ugly shoes that his couture-challenged owners insist on wearing. His problem was that he had HORRIBLE separation anxiety and would bark non-stop from the time we left until we got home. We tried treats, we tried leaving the radio or TV on. Nothing worked.

I called CARE and explained (clearly) that I had no interest in surrendering him, first and foremost, and enumerated the different things we had tried. They suggested adopting a friend for him, a female, in the event that he got aggressive with males later on. (This never happened, but whatever.)

We had just closed escrow on the house and I started looking on the internet for another Chow mix (the euthanasia rates on Chows are incredibly high), and we found Elphie. I showed Andrew her picture (along with 5 or 6 other candidates) and that was it. Elphie was THE ONE, and Andrew had named her before we had even met her.

I had to schmooze with the woman from the rescue for HOURS. Close to 15 hours of phone time, three hours for the "interview" (not including the car ride up and back from Tracy), and the three hours she trapped me when I went to pick up Elphie and bring her home (two days after we moved into the Shanty).

According to the woman at the rescue, Elphie was perfectly (and completely) trained and, if asked nicely, would even do the laundry. Her only issue was that she had a stomach parasite, and here were the nice little [unlabeled] jar of antibiotics for it.

When we got home, we learned that Elphie wasn't potty trained, leash trained or any other kind of trained and had been obviously seriously abused and unloved. We took her to the vet, and she had not one, but two parasites, and the antibiotics were not the right ones, and likely prescribed for another dog's different ailment, rather than Elphie's parasite. This explained why she was skin and bones.

She would hide in the backyard under the bushes when people came in the house and took ages to warm up to people. She was terrified of everyone at the vet. Loud noises would make her drop her back and pee in terrified submission, as would approaching her the "wrong" way. Her tail and ears were down the first three weeks she lived with us. She would not get in the car voluntarily and appeared agoraphobic, since any attempt to take her for a walk would end in her dragging the walk-er back to the door.

A month after we got her, you would have sworn she was a different dog. Tail up, ears up, happy to greet people- and potty-trained! The car took time, and so did the walking, but we learned that she would watch Niki do something, then she would do it. If Niki was there, Elphie was there. They bonded quickly, which was sweet.

They're definitely different dogs, since Niki thinks he's a person and that Elphie is a dog, and Elphie thinks she is a kitten. We (the humans) are living under the delusion that the house belongs to us, but really, it belongs to the dogs and we just pay to live there.

They both still have their quirks. Niki is a food kleptomaniac, and Elphie will pummel you with her paws if you are pretending you are asleep on a Saturday morning instead of getting out of bed and taking them to the park. She's fierce, and runs on a schedule.

Niki likes to chew on a toy while he has his tummy scratched, and likes it when people say "Carrrrrrne Asada" (like Ricardo Montelban, or the lions in the Taco Bell commercial). I used to give him treats for being cute, to train him to continue being cute. When I'm sick, he sleeps on my head and only leaves my side for bathroom breaks and food breaks.

Note: Andrew should be killed for taking pictures of me sleeping.

Niki is snuggliest in the morning, and will lay down on my clothing (while I am trying to get dressed for work) if I have not paid enough attention to him that morning. "Enough attention" varies from day to day, and is completely subjective and up to Niki. Niki is also social to a fault (he gets that from me), with both people and dogs in public. He loves other dogs and has a "special predilection" [read "gay"] for male toy breeds.

When Niki was a puppy and we were living in the cottage, I would kennel him in the bathroom with me while I took showers (so he wouldn't destroy stuff). Afterwards, I would towel him off (he was dry) to play. Now he likes to stand in the rain, and will proudly present his soaked and furry behind to me to towel off.

Elphie is a completely different dog. First off, she thinks she's a kitten. If you're ever at our house between 9 and 11 am, you can witness what can only be called "kitten time", where she stretches, lays out all of the toys on the floor, rolls around on them, then hunts them. Unlike Niki, she does not like to get her paws wet, so she waits in the house and watches Niki get soaked.

She is reserved around other dogs, but will play if the other dog pursues play enough. She is also reserved around new people at first, but warms up to people over time and is a snuggling criminal mastermind.

Elphie also has a taste for tearing paper, dryer sheets, and tangling yarn- especially expensive ribbon yarns.

There is loads more, but this should do for now.

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