Sunday, April 6, 2008

With Gusto

About 5 months after I found Cotton, and transitioned to golden retrieverdom from german shepherdom, the trainers I worked with-Micheal and Elaine-told me Bailey the golden retriever was being returned to his breeder after all. There had been a false alarm just prior to my getting Cotton. So, I gave it lengthy consideration and in a matter of seconds said "I want him". He had been billed as the second best dog they had ever worked with--I think Fargo was in first. Anyway, we set out in a two car caravan with Cotton to meet Bailey, see if the two dogs were compatible and if so bring him home. They were, I did and here we are. Bailey rode back in Becky's van with Elaine while I had Cotton in my car with Cindy. When we got to my house, Becky said Bailey had man gas in the van.

It was a sign.

Here's a picture of the two dogs on the first day:

Cotton is on the left. Yep, the new kid had a buzz cut right down to the tip of his tail-in February. Incredible. Anyway, as you can tell, he's a big boy. I decided to call him Gus. As in with gusto (his m.o.) and after Granny Faircloth.

It was a painful adjustment for me and for Cotton as we had both gotten used to her being an only dog. Time passed and we learned Cotton would not have soft toys to play with anymore, and I would routinely lose shoes, rugs, towels, sunglasses, cash (story for another day), sandwiches from the counter, and any form of paper, but especially toilet paper. This last led to some interesting predicaments.

Gus pulled Cotton's ears and bit her feet; I once caught him dragging her across the floor by her collar (she was stubbornly clutching her toy in her teeth and trying to ignore him). On another day, he was lifting Cotton off the floor by her tail.

He watched and waited and plotted, and snatched Annie the terrier's favorite latex hamburger away at doggie play time (no small feat), and when Micheal moved toward him to take it away, Gus quite deliberately swallowed it. The vet said peroxide, which Gus thought was a very mean trick. It did get the hamburger back and avoid surgery, though.

Having Gus around is always good for a laugh once you relocate your sense of humor about whatever has just expired.

I understood Gus spent a great deal of time in his crate with the other family, I guess he has a lot of pent up energy.

He had such terrible allergies the first year - one day I woke up and the insides of both ears were BLACK and that took weeks to clear up. He itched and scratched all over. The fur fell off his underside. Thank goodness for the wonderful vet. In fact at the end of that year, I had been so many times with Gus that they sent me a box of chocolates and a thank you note for helping make their year a success. My friend Cindy who takes her cats to the same vet got a card.

Now Gus is 3, and the rate of destruction has slowed. In the last 6 weeks I have reintroduced soft toys to the house, and they are still intact. In fact, Gus seems to have learned how to play with them as opposed to gruesomely dismembering them. Cotton is overjoyed. On the other hand, I took my shoes off yesterday and was delayed in putting them safely in the closet. I soon heard the stealthy sound of big toenails tap, tap, tapping delicately across wood floors as Gus hied himself to the living room with his ill-gained loot.

Gus is very smart, and extremely affectionate. He loves people and when they make the mistake of smiling at him as they bend forward to pet him, he likes to slurp them right across the teeth (or tonsils if their mouth is open).

So I hope you'll come visit us, but remember to smile with your lips closed when you greet Gus.

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