When we adopted Rosie from the local Humane Society, she was about two years old. She didn't come with any dramatic, heartbreaking stories of abuse, though she was abandoned by her former owner at a veterinarian clinic because, apparently, she decided she didn't want a dog anymore. Nice. (Hope she doesn't have any children; they can be a handful, too, I hear.)
Anyway, it was clear from the beginning that Rosie had definitely lived indoors: she headed straight for the front door, and seemed quite familiar with the purpose of a kitchen. She was housetrained--hallelujah!--and adapted very quickly to life with us.
However, a few quirks showed where she'd been, shall we say, socially stunted? First, she wouldn't--and still won't--set foot in either bathroom, probably having spent way too many hours in similar rooms. It makes me feel a little guilty when I think of the very first night we had her. I had to pick her up on a Saturday afternoon, but already had concert tickets for that evening (it being Saturday, Miss Chef was, naturally, at work). So, after three or four hours in her new home, I had to physically drag Rosie into the Badroom, and lock her in there for half the night! Poor baby! It's a testament to her loving temperament that she didn't take off the first time I let her outside.
Well, that's not so funny...so let's move along. The second most obvious shortcoming in Rosie's childhood education was toys and playing. I had bought her a couple of toys before picking her up (is there anything so fun as shopping for a new pet?), and there were a couple of others in the take-home bag from the Humane Society. Some hard, some soft, some for chewing, some for throwing. I offered them all to her, but Rosie had no idea what the things were, or why I was holding them up to her face. "That's nice," she seemed to be thinking, "but could you maybe pet me some more?"
I was flummoxed. I had grown up with golden retrievers, which all had an innate drive to fetch. Our second golden, Amber, would place her ball (always a ball, no other toys necessary) by your foot or leg while you watched tv or read, and would literally stare at it all night. I mean, you could sit down to watch the news at six, and stand up to go to bed at eleven, and she'd still be fixated on the ball.
Not that it ever really stayed there that long. None of us could stand being stared at all that time, and so intently! One of my favorite games was to move my hand toward the ball, and watch her front claws activate, curving down into the carpet, as she prepared to launch. Then I'd move my hand away, and the claws would retract. Fun times, for me at least. She didn't seem to enjoy it as much as I did. "Just throw the #@! ball!"
Charlie, our next dog, who is still creaking along today at age 14, came to us with a small stuffed rabbit. He of course tore the stuffing out of in a matter of days, but still has a fondness for stuffed animals. He doesn't get any, though; he also has a ball, and other tough rubber toys good for bouncing around the living room or swatting across the yard. They all seem to be red, which has turned out to be a good thing, as his sight fails. Red balls stand out quite well on green grass.
So back to Rosie and her toy disability. I am happy to relate that, after much tutoring and encouragement, she has taken to her toys, and now has a whole collection which we keep in a basket in a corner of the living room. That is now her corner, thank you very much--she will allow us to use it, but likes to keep an eye on us. She's very good at going to her basket to find just the toy she wants, rooting around in there for the one that's always on the bottom. She's not so good at putting them back.
One of Rosie's favorite moves is to come in all energized from her evening walk, tear across the living room and POUNCE on whatever toy is lying by her basket. She is very catlike in her playing, tossing her head around with her toy, and all the better if it "accidentally" flies out of her mouth. Then she scrabbles after it, trying to grab it with her paws. I told her early on that dogs are supposed to go after things with their mouths, but she has a strong independent streak. And she's hysterical to watch, so I indulge her in her eccentricity.
At some point in the first year of her stay with us, I found a cute little plush monkey toy at PetSmart. Miss Chef has a Curious George fetish, and I thought she'd like the toy as much as, if not more than, the dog. It was a big hit; Rosie grabbed it and never looked back. That monkey was her #1 toy for about three months, inside and out. And then, one day, she popped a seam. That was the end of that monkey; once a dog gets access to The Stuff Inside, it's over in a matter of minutes. (We hosted a neighbor's runaway dog for a few hours one day, and I watched her methodically remove a squeaker from one of Rosie's toys in about 5.4 seconds. It was masterful.)
Well, I figured that monkey lasted about three months, so it was worth it to get another. I was worried, when the time came to make the exchange, that Rosie would reject the new, store-smelling monkey for her familiar stinky friend. But my fears were groundless; she grabbed the new one and never looked back. Actually, rather than being groundless, my fears were simply misplaced: within a day, Rosie popped a seam on the new monkey, and that was it.
So now we have at least one "retired" monkey, which I couldn't bear to get rid of, stashed in a closet. They're just so darn cute, and they felt a little like Baby's First Shoes. I could just picture it, when the reporters came to visit after she got her Hero Therapy Dog Medal from the President: "And this was her first toy, which she lovingly carried around with her." I'd have to re-sew the back of Monkey's head of course, to hide the evidence.
Well, we recently had to rearrange some things in our office, and somehow one of the Monkeys resurfaced. It was among a pile of homeless stuff awaiting repatriation on a table. I noticed it one evening or morning on my way to do something else, and smiled to see it, but didn't think much of it. The next day, it was on the floor, but I had my hands full at that moment and then forgot about it.
So of course, Rosie has her Monkey back by now! There were already several holes in its head, and some of the stuffing is gone, but he still looks like a happy monkey. The holes have been enlarged the past several days, and the cloth-wrapped squeaker is trying to escape, but so far, things are holding together. And Rosie is ecstatic. She's normally a pretty quiet dog, outside of walk time and meal time, but this Monkey still brings out the puppy in her. She even carries it to bed with her, which she doesn't generally do with her other toys. She is just too adorable, curled up on her bed, her head on her monkey, looking up at us with those big brown eyes. I can't resist petting her every time I pass by while getting ready for bed. Oh, she's good.
Of course, we've decided that we can't leave her alone with him, so she has to spend the day Monkeyless while we're at work. Miss Chef hates having to "be the bad guy," so I try to let her give Monkey back in the evening.
I have to say, I'm a little jealous of Rosie, having one single possession that brings such bliss. Oh, to be so uncomplicated as a dog. I don't know a whole lot about Buddhism and all that reincarnation process, but I have to wonder if moving from a human body to a dog's might not be a step up on the way to Nirvana.