Living with a Puppy (and older dogs too)

Living with a Puppy (and older dogs too)
Momma, Dinah and Me on the Rimrocks near Billings, Montana.

Dinah, the Ur-MinPin

When I was just a wee thing myself, my parents decided that every boy needed a dog. Could it be they thought that living with an infant and living with a puppy would work out? They had heard of a new litter available in the Paradise Valley south of Livingston. Accordingly, we drove the 100 miles (one-way) from Laurel to Pray, Montana, and came home with Dinah. Dinah was a pure-bred, but unregistered, Miniature Pinscher.

In those days (the early 1950s) we called her a Toy Doberman. The name is a misnomer, however. Even though MinPins look like a 10 pound Dobie, as a breed they are much older. Both breeds have been bred off the Standard German Pinscher, but MinPins came into being between 100 and 200 years before Dobies. Originally bred as ratters, the MinPin traditionally has a cropped tail and cropped ears so that rats had less to grab hold of.

The breeder had just weaned Dinah, so my parents were a bit concerned with what they were getting into. They had never owned a small dog. The dogs they had early on in their marriage were hounds. They didn’t need to worry. Dinah curled up at Momma’s feet and rode all the way home without even a whimper. Although she was very protective of me, there was no doubt she was Momma’s dog.

Four Blog Themes in One Photo

That’s Dinah in the photo at the top of the page, a photo that combines four of my main interests and the main themes of this blog: photography, classic cars, the outdoors, and family life (including dogs). In case you were wondering, that’s me in the blue winter suit, holding a toy truck and sitting next to Momma in the red coat holding Dinah. Poppa took the photo in the rimrock formations near Laurel, Montana in the very early 1950s. (I was born in October, 1949.) And yes, the area was most likely full of rattlesnakes.

Dinah was a member of our family for fifteen years. She lived with us in Laurel, Butte, Billings (Montana), Stockton, Colusa and El Cerrito (California). The dog died when I was a sophmore in high school, but in spirit remained with us for many years later. Dinah never lived in the new parsonage we built in El Cerrito, but at night, I would hear her padding down the hall. I’d wait, but she never jumped up on my bed. When Dinah died, Momma said “No more dogs!”

Enter Hans

We lived for five years without a dog, thanks to Momma’s edict. The summer before my senior year at U.C. Berkeley, I took my best friend to our Montana cabin. John had never been east of Reno (except for spending his Junior year in Madrid), and he wondered “where are all the people” as we drove across Nevada. Once in Montana, we drove 400 miles east without ever leaving the mountains, and I think that impressed John as well. Visiting family friends in Laurel, I met Hans, a registered Keeshond. The Hagemans had three Keeshonden (the proper plural) and Laurel required a kennel license for more than two dogs. Having determined that Hans and I got along, Mrs. Hageman told me that I now had a dog.

Poppa and Hans at our cabin in Montana

Ann’s Royal Jester of RichBob (Hans’ registered name) almost fit in my 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente with John and me. After all, we only had to go 1200 miles. We drove it non-stop, going through Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City, Reno, etc. Our home was closer than John’s, so we stopped to drop off the dog. Momma saw Hans and said, “John, what a beautiful dog you have.” John replied that it was NOT his dog. Momma said, “Yes, John, it is. Because it is NOT our dog.” Do I need to add that by the time I moved back to Montana, Hans did not come with me. Momma said, “You’re not taking MY dog.” For more information on the Keeshond as a breed, I recommend Sara Seitz’s article in the site Your Dog Advisor, The Keeshond – Ultimate Breed Information Guide.

Yazzie means small in Navajo

Once back in Montana, and dogless to boot, I went to the Humane Society in Missoula and adopted Yazzie. Yazzie appeared to be a Cairn Terrier, or an off-color West Highland White. Both Hans and Yazzie were old enough that we were not living with a puppy. That said, while the Hagemans had trained Hans scrupulously, Yazzie was a wild rescue. I would leave him in the cabin when I went to work, and he would tear the place apart. Once I moved into Missoula, I could leave him outside during the day. Or so I thought. If I left him on a chain, he howled so loudly that the neighbors complained. If I left him unchained, he would climb over the five-foot chainlink fence and escape. I’m not proud that the third time he did this, I didn’t attempt to look for him.

The one good thing I can say for Yazzie is that he lived up to his Scottish heritage. At the time, I was active with Missoula’s Scottish Heritage Society. In parades, my Scottish Dancers would follow the pipers down the street. I would have Yazzie on a leash, and as long as the pipers played, Yazzie would thrust out his chest and march fiercely in time with the music. The site Your Dog Advisor has a great article about Cairns, 11 Things You Should Know About the Cairn Terrier.

Junior (spelled Jr.)

a man living with a puppy on his shoulder
Jr. comfortable on my shoulder

Yes. That white blob on my shoulder is a puppy. A very small puppy. In 1988, I was dating a guy from Billings who had a Chinese Crested dog. I wanted a dog of my own, and would have leaned toward another MinPin, but the guy I was dating hated anything that resembled a Dobie. When we found that our friend Tom had a brand-new litter of pups at his farm near St. Ignatius, we drove up to see the choices. Mama was a miniature Shepherd and Papa was a MinPin cross. There were five puppies in the litter: two who resembled shepherds, two who resembled MinPins, and the runt. All white, with one red ear and a red patch around the opposite eye, this pup stole our hearts. At three weeks of age, that pup was ours. Well, that is we said we wanted him.

We drove back to St. Ignatius to visit “our” dog on week four, but skipped week five. At which point I got a phone call. “Your dog’s ready,” Tom announced. “What do you mean?” I asked. Tom responded “Your dog’s ready!” It became obvious that he expected me to come get the dog–two weeks earlier than I thought the pup would be “ready” to leave its mother. Tom’s tone of voice was such that I figured whatever damage the pup would sustain if I took him, it was less than he’d face staying with Tom another two weeks. We drove to St. Ignatius and brought Jr. home. And for the first time in my adult life, I was living with a puppy.

Living with Jr.

I took lots of photos (of course I did), and Jr. got his own “baby book.” He was so small that he couldn’t even climb the steps to come in from the yard. Momma, seeing pictures of him with his undeveloped pink snout said “You don’t have a dog. You have a gopher.” But he grew. Eventually becoming the size of a regulation MinPin. Jr. was a hard luck dog. His back went out, and we had to feed him prednizone and Pepto-Bismol. Have you ever tried to give a dog Pepto-Bismol? It’s not fun.

While Jr. was with us, we met Kirby. Kirby was a Schipperke at the mall’s pet store. I didn’t know at that time where pet stores get their animals. I fell in love with this little bear of a dog. But pet stores charge an arm and a leg for animals they shouldn’t be selling. I was content to go visit the dog at the mall. One day, my partner came home to say “They’ve put your dog on sale.” I left for the mall immediately, and, yes, I brought him home with me.

As we were filling out the paperwork, the store clerk asked “What are you naming him?” I replied “Skipper.” “How original,” the clerk responded. In the twenty minutes it took to drive home from the mall, that dog had pulled out everything hidden under the car seats. Aha! I thought. I guess his name is Hoover. Or maybe Electrolux. No, no, I’ve got it! Kirby. And Kirby he stayed. Sara Seitz has written an excellent overview of the breed for the site YourDogAdvisor.com. I highly recommend visiting the site and the article The Schipperke – Ultimate Breed Information Guide.

The death of a dog

One rainy Easter Sunday, someone left a gate open, and both Jr. and Kirby got loose. After several hours, Jr. came home, without Kirby. When Kirby was still missing Monday morning, I put an ad in the paper. Someone called to say that she had seen two dogs, a black one and a white one running through the middle of one of Missoula’s busiest intersections, Mullan and Reserve. That was three miles away from home, and on the other side of the railroad’s switch yard. How did my dogs get that far away? Another caller, without identifying herself, told me I could find my dog at the brown house at the corner of Mullan and Flynn Lane.

I drove there immediately only to find that there were three brown houses at that intersection. The first homeowner knew nothing of my dog, but the second led me to a small pile of skin and bones lying in the ditch by the road. We took the body to the cabin where we buried Kirby. Jr. watched, and kept nudging the body trying to get his buddy to play. He finally gave up and sat back, never looking away as we buried his friend. It was a heartbreaking experience.

The death of another dog

A few years later, Jr. developed large bumps on his neck. Our vet did a biopsy and the diagnosis was “undifferentiated sarcoma.” What that meant was that the cancer was growing so rapidly, it was impossible to say where it started. I was set to attend a wedding at Treasure Island in San Francisco, and had to make a decision. I couldn’t ask someone to look after a dog that sick. Nor could I expect people to put me up when traveling with a sick dog. I loaded the camper on the back of my pickup, and Jr. and I set off for San Francisco.

The first night I camped in the Columbia River Gorge and a Portland friend came out to join me. The next morning he remarked “Those lumps are bigger than they were last night.” The second night, I stayed with Momma on the northern California coast. Again, the next morning Momma said “Those lumps are bigger than they were last night.” Last night, Jr. had jumped from the floor of the camper up to the bed over the pickup’s cab. He had that much life still in him. But I was having to hand feed him canned cat food. His normal kibble was too hard for him to eat. Momma suggested a visit to her vet, and there, while holding him in my arms, I said good-bye to Jr.

The next day, scanning the local newspaper, an ad caught my eye. Before I continued on to San Francisco, I bought a sailboat which I named Jr. I towed that boat to San Francisco and then home. Let me tell you how much fun you can have driving a full sized pickup and camper, towing a boat, around the city. I still have the sailboat.

Guest Site of the Day

In keeping with today’s theme, today’s guest site features Colby Morita’s blog Puppy in Training. Colby raises and trains service dogs, so you know he knows what he’s talking about. His blog is very informative and well-written. Since it is not my intent to teach you how to train your dog, I happily turn that responsibility over to Colby and I know he’ll teach you how to live with a puppy.

Recipe of the Day

Today’s Recipe is not for humans, although there is nothing at all that would hurt a two-legged creature. In keeping with our theme, today I’m featuring a recipe just for your fur kids: Home Made Dog Treats. The recipe comes at the end of a blog post, but I’d recommend reading the entire post before you start baking. There are a few things to keep in mind if you want Phydeaux (Fido in French) to remain healthy and happy. Besides, you should enjoy reading Trish’s story about how Copper the Beagle won over her husband. If you currently are living with a puppy, you want to make sure that the dog is old enough for treats.

I’ve made dog treats in the past, having bought a kit at Barnes and Nobel once. The kit had a cookbook of dog treat recipes and came with three dog treat cookie cutters. I won’t mention any names, but now I can make my own ****bone treats, and the dogs love them. I bought The Organic Dog Biscuit Kit cookbook, and if you’d like to get one, I’m giving you the Amazon link, mainly because I get a kickback if you buy from Amazon, and unfortunately, B&N doesn’t do the same thing.

Video of the Day

What can I say. This video made me cry. Tears of joy, need I add. Danny and Ron have made a life out of rescuing dogs. The title says it all: Two Gay Men and 11,500 dogs. At the time they made this video, they had over 70 dogs living in the house. That doesn’t count the large dogs they have living out in the horse barns. The video is uplifting and I feel well worth watching. It’s hard to tell the age of their dogs, but I’d bet they find themselves living with a puppy (or ten).

End of the Day

Jr.’s death was not the end of my time with dogs, or the end of my living with a puppy, but I’ll save that for next Saturday. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this post and the accompanying pages “of the day.” No car, no flowers, just lots of dogs.

Tomorrow, the editorial calendar tells me to write about Stockton, California. See ya there! And please, feel free to leave a comment below. I love hearing from my readers. If you’ve enjoyed this, please subscribe. There’s a blue button at the top of the page.

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2 Comments on “Living with a Puppy (and older dogs too)

  1. It was great to read about your life with dogs. Just like your Jr. our Stetson had cancer and passed away last year. I wish they would stay with us longer, but that seems to be their only fault. Danny and Ron from the video you shared are amazing! I think one part of the video said they were living with 88 dogs in their house and they promise their dogs they won’t have to go back to the shelter. So cool! Thank you for sharing my site! Let me know if you have any puppy training questions.

    • Thank you, Colby. There will be more dog stories next week. That’s when we’ll really get into the MinPin years. And the only question I have at this point is how to get the new pups, supposedly a year old each, to stop pooping in the house. What a concern to have in this day and age.

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