Sometimes you have to squeeze yourself through some really uncomfortable places to reach your goals.
Don’t give up.
You know, there was a time when we first got Electra that we worried she was mute. Electra wasn’t even a year old when we adopted her from the Arizona Beagle Rescue, and she was the calmest, most laidback dog Stevie and I had ever seen. We first met her at a foster mom’s house in Goodyear. Electra and a dozen other beagle and beagle/basset mixes ended up being rescued after their owner had a heart attack and was told by his doctors that he needed to get rid of all the pups he was training to track rabbits. Electra had gone to a foster home with six other young beagles, and when we walked up to the door and rang the doorbell, both Stevie and I jumped when full pack of crazy hound dogs started jumping and howling and falling over each other trying to greet us and lick us and sniff our pockets for hidden treats as we edged our way into the living room.
It was mass chaos.
But across the room, sitting demurely in the corner and staring at us with a pair of big brown eyes, was our sweet Electra. She just sat, watching, quietly waiting her turn. When we called her name she walked over, put her paws up on my thighs and invited me to scratch behind her floppy brown ears.
Five minutes later, we signed the adoption papers and took her home.
For the first six months or so, we honestly wondered if something was wrong with her. She wasn’t like any other puppy we’d ever known. She would occasionally get up and play and run around, but she never really barked or growled or made any kind of noise. And she was lazy as hell, right from the beginning, preferring to snuggle up in your lap and take long naps and follow us slowly from room to room, flopping down on the floor at our feet as soon as we stopped moving.
Hell, she even faked a leg injury to keep me from taking her for walks. Apparently she didn’t appreciate the pace I demanded, which is an average (and maybe even slightly slower than average) walking pace. But Electra simply isn’t interested in doing anything except meandering at a snail’s pace around the neighborhood, nose glued to the ground.
At that point, we were honestly thinking maybe Electra couldn’t bark. When we were going through the adoption process, we’d heard that there were several beagles at the rescue whose former owners had the dog’s voice boxes surgically removed because they couldn’t stand the way the beagle’s howled and barked.
No joke. That’s actually a thing some people think it’s okay to do to a pet. Pricks.
But the folks at AZBR assured us that Electra was in perfect health and there was no sign her former owner had done anything of the sort. In fact, before he had to surrender Electra, she was being trained to hunt and track rabbits, which meant she had actually been rewarded for catching a rabbit’s scent and then signaling her victory would a good ol’ hound dog howl.
The first time we ever heard Electra voice, we didn’t even know it was her. She’d been out in the backyard for awhile, when all of a sudden we heard a booming, rhythmic bark that was so loud and deep it rattled the windows. We went outside, thinking one of our neighbors must have a new pet, but all we saw was Electra, nose bouncing along over the ground and making some weird wah-wah-wah-wah sound, sort of like a small helicopter, her tail wagging so hard her entire ass-end was swaying back and forth and damn near knocking her off-balance. Outside, the barking was so loud it was echoing, and it wasn’t until Stevie walked right up beside Electra that he realized she was the one making all the noise. We tried calling to her, tugging on her collar, promising her cookies, but there was no stopping her until the scent ran out.
There was something about Electra’s deep, booming bark that just cracked me up, so I thought it might be funny to actually teach her to bark on command. And knowing how food
whorish motivated she is, I decided to train her to bark on command and reward her with dog cookies and bits of kibble.
Worked like a charm.
But it also wasn’t long before I realized I’d unleashed a beast. As soon as Electra discovered that she could actually be rewarded with food for barking, she decided that it was perfectly acceptable to let us know LOUDLY each and every time she felt it was time for breakfast or lunch or dinner or second and third dinner (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that we have to feed this ridiculous hound five small meals a day to keep her from acting sullen and waking us up every couple hours through the night).
And now that she’s entered her senior years and she’s getting old and ornery like a Betty White sort of old lady who just doesn’t give a f*** anymore and will do whatever the hell she wants, Electra does not give two shits whether we yell at her or scold her or plead for her to stop. She just announces her hunger and her impatience like this:
If she wasn’t such a great dog otherwise, this would be really annoying. 😉
Love you Electra!
At some point, we started feeding Electra five times a day.
Sounds crazy, I know. But here’s the thing–our dog’s one weakness is her absolute addiction to food. There have been a handful of times over the years that she has attempted to eat herself to death. After owning her for a year or two and realizing that she kept waking us up earlier and earlier in the morning because she simply couldn’t last another minute without being fed, we decided to take her twice-a-day feeding and split it up into five smaller meals so she would sleep through the night and give us a little peace.
6:00 am, Noon, 5:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 9:30 pm, like clockwork.
But somehow, in her old age, Electra seems to be getting a little senile because anytime I stay up too late, she starts getting antsy and acting like I owe her another round. Case in point–I caught her staring at me about 20 minutes ago.
Then, she got up, walked over, and started barking at me, full freakin’ volume, until I got up and gave her another serving.
She’s either losing her damn mind, or she’s just really damn smart because she seriously just harassed me out of more kibble.
Yep, I just got bested by a dog.
We’re closing in on Electra turning 11, and it’s getting harder to deny, our sweet hound is getting old. Obviously we noticed it in her face, as it slowly turned from mostly brown to mostly white. And this past year or so, she has turned into brash old lady who just doesn’t give a fu** about anything but trying to live her best life. And that roughly translates into her being more stubborn than usual and completely disregarding any rules we try to set in place to quash her food-whoring ways.
I imagine Betty White is her spirit human.
Most recently, though, her give-no-shits attitude has prompted her to attempt slow-motion jailbreaks. This morning, while we were attempting to get the kids wrangled and out the door to load up the car, Electra quietly sauntered out the door with us. Luckily Stevie managed to wrangle her back into the house with the promise of a cookie.
Less than 10 minutes later, as Stevie was pulling out of the driveway with the kids, I stepped out the garage door to start my car, and didn’t notice that the door stayed open a crack behind me. The next thing I knew, Electra was out the door again and heading for the driveway. I hollered and grabbed her collar and promised her another cookie if she would just get her ass inside.
I mean seriously, what does this dog think she’s doing? It’s 8 degrees out, a foot of snow on the ground, and God knows there is no way she’s going to go out there and find another family who is going to stick to her ridiculous feeding schedule.
I honestly don’t think she would make it far. This old girl has about two blocks of stamina in her. But hey, at least she still has enough spunk left in her to try, right? Even if she gives me a mild heart attack every time she tries to escape, part of me is kinda proud that she is the type of dog who, even in her ripe old age, will see her opportunity and take it.