Oscar (L) & Sherman (R)

Oscar (L) & Sherman (R)
The boys, happy and healthy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saying Goodbye to a Friend, Part II

John was not the only one to make mistakes where Sherman was concerned, so now it's time I take my own lumps.  I was in charge of getting Sherman to walk on a leash.  Before I delve into that debacle, let's talk for a moment about the Boxer breed.  Boxers do love to please their owners and there is really nothing more heartbreaking than the look on a Boxers face when they have disappointed.  But there is a caveat to this truth:  a Boxer needs to believe that what you are asking of them is something they actually want to do.  It must be reasonable to them. In the words of my best friend Donna who also knows this to be true, a Boxer will not be "your monkey."  Leave that to the birding group or the toys, but not Boxers.

Sherman would NOT walk on a leash.  Would NOT.  I would hook on his leash, set him down on the sidewalk and on went the brakes.  At the time, we were living in a heavily populated area and here I was with a dog on a leash who wasn't going to go.  I would pick up sticks in the yard and tap them in front of Sherman.  He'd step forward because getting the stick did seem like a good idea to him, but he was no fool: there was still the leash and he wasn't going.  This was so aggravating to me.  I tried day, after day and used different tactics and really got nowhere.  My frustration level was pegged.  One afternoon in a battle of wills, I spanked him.  I feel horrible about it still.  He wriggled and chomped into my hand with those needle-like puppy teeth and it was a scene.   I had to unhook his teeth from my hand, I wasn't terribly hurt or anything, but this was a bad moment.

We got sorted out and he eventually got the drill that the leash wasn't a bad thing at all and usually led to a run (free of a leash!) in the cemetery.  I had always tried to train Sherman with the mindset that I was working with a complex creature who understood simply right and wrong, positive and negative, yes and no.  Often times, humans make the mistake of thinking that their pet has reasoning skills where their emotions are seated.  They try to impart human emotions onto their pets, usually for their own gratification.  I never did that, but I lost my cool that afternoon and my behavior has always stuck with me.  The next time I train a dog, I will take a breather before it goes down that rabbit hole.

Sherman really did turn into a wonderful adult dog and was well liked even by folks that weren't big fans of pets.  That has always made me feel good, like there was at least one thing that I was good at.  When Sherman was two, my relationship with my husband dissolved.  That had been coming long before Sherman was a part of our lives.  I moved out of our home and into an apartment very close by that allowed dogs so that Sherman could be with each of us part-time.  It worked for awhile.  Each of us would have Sherman for three or four days at a time and then switch off.  We shared vet bills for Sherman and his general care was split.  What I didn't know was that my ex-husband wasn't devoting as much time to Sherman as I did when I had him.  I wrapped my schedule around Sherman to make his life as good as possible.  Sometimes it was exhausting.

One day at work, I received an email from my ex-husband.  It was an epically written letter informing me that he was ready to start his life over in Florida.  That he intended on taking Sherman.  That in Florida, he would have the kind of support system he needed to give Sherman the life that he had been unable to provide currently.  I was at work and needed to behave in a professional manner, I stood up went to the ladies' room and sobbed.  Divorce, no matter who or what was the culprit is about loss and for me, this was the final straw.  I could not lose Sherman.

I went after my ex-husband with the big guns.  I started gradually of course.  I wrote him back and informed him that, while I was excited for him and his new beginning, his new beginning should not deprive me of my dog.  If he was choosing to move, he was choosing to be out of Sherman's life.  Dear Reader, this went over like a lead balloon.  My ex-husband, as you now know, is a spoiled brat who must get his own way at any cost.  I pointed his own words back at him and reminded him that while he had not been giving Sherman the life he wanted to up until now, I HAD.  We warred.  Eventually, I threatened my ex-husband with re-opening the divorce proceedings.  Meaning that, he could either give me Sherman or stand to lose half of his money, which was sizable.  When I left the marriage, I chose to take with me, monetarily or otherwise, only that with which I came to the marriage.  He was rid of me and didn't have to give me any money.  It's what I wanted.  I didn't want him to think I was trying to take his precious money from him, so this threat had to have scared him shitless.  I got what I wanted:  Sherman was mine.  Permanently.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Saying Goodbye to a Friend, Part I

 On Tuesday, May 6th 2008 I lost a friend.  My dog, Sherman, who had been living with my parents, had deteriorated to a point where he might have been in pain and was, most definitely, no longer mobile.  I know very little of the details of his passing as that is a blog for another day.

I know, I know, everyone's dog is the best dog there ever was, but Sherman really was a gem.

I didn't want a dog.  I really didn't.  In the fall of 1998 I was married, working part-time and going to school full-time.  My husband, John, and I had only recently purchased the condo we were living in and I was at my maximum capacity for additions to my already packed schedule.  As was typical of my husband, he decided that he wanted a dog and there would be no turning back.  Dog books were purchased, painstakingly poured over looking for the perfect breed for our (his?) lifestyle.  And then he decided:  A Boxer.

Before long, there was an advertisement in the newspaper for a litter of Boxer puppies and off we went to see them.  The puppies had been born on Thanksgiving we were told by the immaculate, effeminate breeder who had been kicking his Christmas decorating into high gear when we arrived.  The house was bedazzled with miniature Christmas scenes and he had been preparing some sort of dough, probably a batch of cookies.  His voice was shrill over the Christmas music, telling us that the dogs would be available by mid-January after they were weaned ( I have always thought that Sherman could have used two more weeks with his mother than he got).

The breeder brought us into the room with the puppies and they were all in a box piled on one another sleeping peacefully.  Brindle and fawns in equal proportions, they sort of looked like hamsters.  And then they woke up.  It was chaos:  biting and playing/creeping around in a tiny puppy fashion.  And then, there he was.  A little fawn plowed his way through the masses curled up and went back to sleep, his brothers following suit until they all had settled back down.  For me, that was it.  I already didn't want a dog, but since I didn't have that choice at least I would pick the dog out of the pile.  And I wanted the one who liked to sleep.  His name was evident to me:  Sherman.  Like the tank.  It fit him perfectly.  My husband let me name him too, maybe it was his idea of a peace offering, I still don't know.

Despite the fact that I didn't want him, I don't have a hardened heart by any means and the little guy had won me over very quickly.  I had zero time to devote to the training of a dog, but it had to be done.  My husband was just terrible at dog training.  I am thankful that we never raised a child together.  Dogs require the ultimate in consistency and everything for them is black and white, my husband didn't understand this.  In the springtime, John was washing his car and playfully spraying Sherman.  Sherman loved this!  He barked and chomped at the spray of water in total delight.  When John resumed his car washing, Sherman continued to bark and bite at the hose wanting to continue the fun.  I heard from inside the house John yelling and scolding Sherman.  I broke up the fight, tried to explain to John that the dog does not have the reasoning ability to know that it's okay to play with the hose sometimes and sometimes not.  Consistency is the key!

Sherman at Christmas 2007

Sherman at Christmas 2007
Feeling the love with Auntie Donna

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