Friday, 24 May 2013

How Mischief got her name

Our rescue dog was a delightful puppy, very cuddly but highly energetic. At the time I had several foster children, one of whom, Kyle, was especially interested in the new resident. We reached bedtime and the pup was tired out. I thought I'd settle her in by having a bed next to mine where she would feel secure. I was wrong: she hated her bed. I leaned down and stroked her to settle her, but she wasn't interested, squirming and crying so I was worried she'd wake the children up.

'Hey,' I said, picking her up and giving her a cuddle, 'whatever is the problem with you?'

She promptly wriggled down next to my armpit and cuddled in. This was where a puppy slept, not in a box! Uh...that is basically where she has slept for the rest of her life, so in due course I had to buy a bigger bed so we could share in comfort. It did make house-training her a breeze: every time she needed to go out during the night she would give me a kick so I woke up and carried her down to the grass.We never had a puddle in the house, ever. This was despite her having a weak bladder, so when we were out anywhere and she was nervous or excited I would have to apologise and mop up. At home she just took herself off whenever necessary.

The next bit of training I attempted was to leave the pup at home when I took the children to school in the morning. The other dogs were placid and laid back about it, but not the pup. How could I abandon her, she demanded? I shut her in the front porch to keep her safe for the ten minutes or so I'd be out and her frantic screams resounded around the whole road. After a few days of that I thought she might settle better if I left her in the house with the other dogs. I arrived home to find the bed sheets shredded. Back to the porch and the screams again - she was too young to take with me at first so I thought she would eventually settle down. She never did, sigh.

Then I took the pup to training school where she caused great amusement by whirling around madly, wagging her little tail like a whirligig. The trainer used her as a diversion to test whether the other pups could behave with a lunatic in their midst. This pup would only do what she chose - she'd sit, drop, come, shake her paw but absolutely not stay and absolutely not lead. She caused havoc when anyone tried to lead her. I practiced with her over and over again but she still never accepted the lead. The only way one could make her walk on the lead was by using a Gentle Leader, which goes over the dog's face, and her face was totally mutinous! If I stood still for too long she would simply bite through the lead and then race round in circles happily. If the pups had been marked out of ten, Pup might have scored maybe one, for amusing everyone.

At home she was also determined to do her own thing. This could be tugging over a large and very heavy pot so she could pull the tree out of it and chew off all the roots, or she might do some creative gardening which involved very large holes throughout the vegetable bed. I went so far as to advertise holes for sale the first April Fool's Day she was with us, but I had no takers.

Kyle and I discussed what we would call this bundle of misplaced but mainly joyous energy. Between us we arrived at Miss Chief, aka Mischief, and later Chief as she made it very clear she was top of the dog clan. This she has remained. Life with her can be frustrating but it is never boring, even now in her older years. She still tells me loudly if things are not to her liking. She walks well and obediently free, but to use a lead is to ask for elongated arms. However, part of Mischief's package is that she is acutely intelligent, understanding English very well and answering if she thinks it necessary with yawps, squeaks or yaps. Mischief knows exactly what she can do or won't be able to get away with, and if she decides to cooperate can be very helpful. Once I asked her to perform in a dog show, putting her in the obedience class. She sized up the situation, looked at the other dogs and then behaved impeccably, taking out the prize for most obedient dog. It was done on the spur of the moment, with no prior practice, but she thought it would be fun so that was that.

Demanding, frustrating but always an affectionate, amusing and intelligent companion, Mischief is the complete dog package!

Stay safe, everyone, be happy -

Cheers - Fliss

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