Happy Boogie Day!
Today is Boogie’s Gotcha Day aka the day we adopted him. Well, sort of.
Today is actually the day when I went in to work on my day off, back when I worked at the shelter, and said, “It’s my birthday, so my husband told me I could bring home any dog I wanted. And I pick Stoli.” And then I loaded this worried little pit bull into my car and took him home to “foster” for a while. That was four years ago.
Here he is on his first day at home with what I would soon discover is the thing that makes him feel most safe in the world: a ball.
Back then, Boogie was really afraid of everything: cell phones, cameras, coffee cups, people dancing, the cats, strangers, other dogs…you get the drill. Despite all that, he was (still is) the sweetest, most handsome little man in the world.
And even though he turned out to be a DINOS , Boogie is such an easy dog in all the ways that matter most to us. He didn’t need to be potty trained. He’s gentle with our older dog Birdie. He’s not destructive and doesn’t mind being left home alone. He sweet on our three cats. He’s a couch potato, so he doesn’t need a lot of exercise (even as a youngster). And he’s happy to hang out on his bed, chewing a bone and entertaining himself all evening. All he asks is that we play ball with him for a little while every day.
I know a good deal when I see one, so we stopped “fostering” him and adopted Boogie that fall. Our little gang has been complete ever since.
Boogie is a really happy dog at home. The world he lives in is on the small side, but he’s got Birdie, three cats, and the two of us to love on him every day. Plus two pet sitters that think he’s the bees knees, a gang of friends from all over the East Coast and a Grandma who looks forward to coming to stay with him. Plus lots of naps:
Here’s the thing. One of the reasons we’re all so happy is because Boogie’s world is purposely small.
To be honest, I don’t do a lot of training with Boogie anymore, though there is stuff we’re working on. I’m kind of a slacker and I don’t really enjoy training dogs (I’ll do it, I’d just rather be doing something else). For example, we’re not constantly working on his leash reactivity, like we used to when we lived in a city together. The first couple of years, we got all of our exercise by walking on leash, so leash skills were a priority. But this summer we bought Boogie a two acre yard, so he can chase balls until the sun sets.
We live in the middle of nowhere now. Walks are for pleasure and we can choose when and where we want to go. They’re no longer a part of our daily exercise (that’s where a flirt pole comes in). So I’ve slacked on his leash skills. Yep, that means I’m a dog walker that doesn’t walk my dog every day.
I have no doubt that if I put in more effort, he would be less leash reactive, but on a day-to-day basis, everything is working for our family. I think that’s important for all us: find out what works for you and your dog, so that everyone is enjoying life and each other’s company. Then don’t feel bad about it if it’s not exactly the same as what the next person is doing. Is your dog safe and happy? Is everyone around your dog safe and happy? Then you’re doing something right. Plus, happy people tend to keep their dogs.
Do what you need to do to set your dog up to succeed at his own pace and try not to make yourself miserable either. That might look different depending on your individual dog or the environment you live in. For Boogie, that means he hangs out at home some days, while we take Birdie on more public adventures. For other dogs, it might mean lots of training classes and regular walks with a social club. Figure out what works for you and your dog.
I don’t have anything to brag about – no titles or certifications. Except that we’re all really happy together and Boogie isn’t stressed out. It’s a simple life for our little man and it works for all of us. And that feels like a success to me.
But just in case you think we lock Boogie in a closet all day: even though we keep things simple at home, it doesn’t mean we don’t have fun together or try new things! We just got back from our summer vacation in the woods.
Last summer we taught Boogie how to swim. He was very scared of the water, but he went in because we were there to cheer him on and…his ball was in the water. No ball will ever be left behind on Boogie’s watch!
This year, he got really brave and learned to jump off a dock. He was so scared and made such crazy crying noises as he watched his ball float away (it sounded like he had a rubber chicken stuck in his throat), that I thought the entire town was going to call animal control to help him.
Finally, he put his front paws on the top rung of the dock’s ladder and plopped into the lake like a little hippo bull. Next thing we knew, he was running and JUMPING off the dock, faster than we could even throw the ball.
Not every day is a dock diving day for us, but we make small steps, at our own pace, each week in the right direction. These days coffee cups, cameras, and overnight guests don’t scare Boogie. He’s almost five years old now and he’s a good boy. He makes me so happy.
Happy Gotcha Day Boogie. You’ll always be my very best birthday present.