The Tristan Files part 1

Christmas was good. I got stuff, people got stuff and now I have to pay for things >_< because of credit cards and because it’s the new year with lots of things to think about. Usually I dread doing the family get together thing, but this year I was happy to experience it for some reason. Maybe I’m growing up, finally…or maybe it’s just because the food was enjoyable…or even that I didn’t really have a discussion with anyone. Huh. Anyhoos, it was during one of the family outings that I learned that my uncle would be going skiing with other family members and didn’t know what to do with his dog, so I offered to board him a few days. Tristan is the Doberman that I’ve been feeling bad for because my uncle travels all the time and he stays with my grandparents who are under no circumstances to walk him because he’s way too powerful…which spells trouble for the boy because he has too much energy and not enough outlet to release it. I figure I’d try my hand at giving him some semblance of stability in his life. My uncle wanted to bring him along to the ski house, but my aunt was bringing their English bulldog and that could’ve potentially been a bad thing. To be honest he was wary of letting me take care of him mostly because of Gable (he’s very concerned of how Tristan acts around other males), but he relented in the end. To me it was a much better decision because I can already see the disaster of energies with the little kids, the bulldog, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my great-aunt + Tristan. My uncle (Tristan’s dad) doesn’t have a good energy for Tristan to start with (always yelling at him to the point where Tristan doesn’t hear it much anymore as well as exuding anxious energy) around other people, so I think it would’ve been disastrous. Plus, I wanted to work on his walking skills which would in turn give him the discipline he needs.

I was excited. I was very excited. It was all I could talk about, worry about, look things online up about. When finally my uncle showed up with the Doberman, just as I had thought, all hell broke loose. I slipped the collar and leash on Gable, and opened the door. Already there were wrong things occurring, with Tristan pulling backwards and forwards, propelling into the house the moment he saw Gable who was waiting up the stairs. I got my uncle in the house, said hi, and closed the door and looked up to see Tristan scrabbling on our beautiful dark hardwood, falling, my uncle yelling, leashes everywhere, Gable bucking bronco style. Quickly I grabbed Gable and pulled him in close, calming him down as Tristan bounced around, in a ball of unbridled excitement, egged on by my uncle’s desperate anxiety and slipping temper. My only goal at that point was to keep Gable in control and try to ignore my furry cousin as I extracted information from my uncle to help distract him from yelling. It worked because Tristan calmed down enough to let my uncle remove his harness (yup a harness). Gable of course was in shock of what was going on here, but was relying on me to make it all better. I had to deliver. My uncle left and I set about in attempt to reel my cousin in.

It was difficult. He was overwhelmed with curiosity and wanted to see everything. Thank goodness the townhouse is small, so there wasn’t much to see, but finally I got him to lie down. Gable had properly dog-greeted him the first moment he got, but Tristan was so far gone with craziness to dog-greet Gable until long after my uncle left. Finally, I got him to lie down on the mat in front of Gable’s bolster, the picture I put up on Facebook. I wanted to maintain a level of calmness before taking them out on a walk, so we watched “Untold stories from the E.R” until 6:00 with no real problems (besides Gable feeling very unsure of the whole situation). My mom and brother were in church during this whole thing and I wanted to quickly walk them so we could (unbeknownst to my uncle) leave to go down south before it got too dark. Walks, as Cesar Millan emphasizes (YES Cesar Millan is like a god in my book), are invaluable as a tool to not only allow you and dogs to bond, but also extremely important in the discipline process. It serves to release energy along with being the best measure of setting rules and boundaries. It all starts at the door, walking out the door, going down the steps. Pecking order is unbelievably important. The end is just as, if not more, important than the beginning. The one that goes first, is in the lead is the pack leader. All others must follow behind. For us, getting out the door was at least 10 minutes in the process, 5 more minutes at the doorstep leading down the stairs. The walk was a battle the whole time with lots of stopping and correcting and asserting. Gable was annoyed at the lack of continuity and I asserted myself so much that he was happily trailing far behind. Going in took a shorter amount of time but was compounded by the fact that my mom and brother were home. Excitement levels were high again with the introduction of my family, and furthered by the hullaballoo of packing to leave. Gable, who usually freaks out was doing much less of it since Tristan was doing it for him. I decided to split the 2 up into different cars and off we went. One thing I will give Tristan is the lack of noise that follows Gable in the car. That night actually ended up well considering the massive instability introduced to Tristan. I ended up placing Gable in my room and Tristan in the hall where Gable usually sleeps, which to both dogs felt strange, but I stand by decision even now.

The night was uneventful except for random barking from the watch dog which I wasn’t overly concerned about because Gable wasn’t concerned. Woke up the next morning only to have Tristan pee on my mom’s airbed which made me furious, but led to another bout of walking (starting to dread the walking sessions) in the pouring rain. More corrections, more stopping, more asserting, but overall more seamless than before. Slowly, but surely, progress. I let them romp a bit in the backyard before heading in for toweling and a much needed shower for me. My sister visited later with her fiancé and we had lunch and gave Tristan a necessary dry shampooing. Now he doesn’t smell nearly as badly. You forget that Gable doesn’t smell strongly nor does he have oil in his coat until you touch another dog. All of my training to make a less-clingy Doberman went out the window with the advent of visitors, but after they left I was back at it again. We decided to leave that afternoon to help beat traffic and the rain, so packing and craziness again. My mom helped me on the walk that night which was not as good as I hoped it would be, but allowed me some one on one time with Tristan. Everything was doing OK, they actually napped together (only because Tristan stopped acting all crazy dog and Gable approved of it) UNTIL that night when it was time to go to sleep. I thought maybe with the progress that we were making that they would be able to share the same room that night on separate beds. Boy was I wrong. Neither dog wanted to be in the same room. Gable kept refusing to budge and then going to a different room, Tristan kept trying to go downstairs, and I was beginning to get very frustrated and angry (a big no-no, I know). I put Gable in the room and ordered him to stay while I chased the furry cousin downstairs who had attempted to sleep on Gable’s bolster and was now taking refuge on the mat. I reached down for him, ordering him to get up and he bit me. Surprised and mad, I reached down again only to get bitten again. I was in a fury at that point and yelled loudly at him. He escaped to a corner and after trying to bite me again I smacked him hard. It made him stop and I ordered him upstairs. Seething I went up too and found both of them exactly where I wanted them to begin with. Neither one made a peep. Going to sleep mad is a bad idea, but I was still smoldering when I fell asleep. Shortly thereafter, however, I was awoken by loud ferocious barking from downstairs. Who else could it be? I went to the stairs, listened a bit before flipping on the lights. Both dogs froze and stared up at me. I had no idea what they were doing. They seemed to be staring at the door, but I had the distinct impression that they were having some sort of argument. I ordered Gable upstairs, and tentatively ordered Tristan up too, but he went to drink some water (his OWN water bowl for once…) heading up. I came up before him and found Gable back in my room, refusing to leave. Tristan padded up and looked uncertainly at me. I put him in the dog room and decided to let Gable sleep with me because obviously they just don’t get along and Gable wanted nothing to do with Tristan that night. Sadly for me I had no sleep last night, mulling over what I did, my loss of control, Tristan’s reaction, and entertaining the fear that Tristan was out of control.

Which….brings me to today! Uneventful morning. Walkies is progressively getting better, although Tristan’s initial reaction is one of uncontrolled excitement the moment he can smell the outdoors. The ritual of getting out the door is much much better now. Going in is still a work in progress. As painfully slow as everything is moving, I’m glad that we are making some sort of improvement. During feeding time this morning, Gable actually laid his head on Tristan’s butt. That’s the first sign of affection I’ve seen Gable show. He only does stuff like that when Tristan is being a calm. With that said, I did have a talk with him this morning. I know it sounds unlikely and a figment of my imagination, but I explained to him that Tristan will only be here 3 more days and that I want him to be nice. I also acknowledged that he seems to enjoy the company of greyhounds more than other dogs (something a greyhound guy told me once: some greyhounds only like other greyhounds) which is why I am looking for a greyhound sibling for him. After that, he loosened up enough to roachie and then play with a hedgehog toy (I have to put al the stuffed animal toys away because Tristan likes to tear things up which Gable just loves his toys). I swear this boy understands us. Really. This isn’t the first time.

All I can say is “Phew!!” It’s hard work having two boys in the house…especially when one is such a complicated case. It made me think twice about the 2nd dog idea, but I’m convinced that 1) I’m up to it and 2)the other dog will not be like Tristan. The poor boy’s life is so unstable and unpredictable that I think it has literally made him crazy and stuck in an eternal puppy state…like someone never told him that it’s OK to grow up. I know that domesticated dogs are technically wolves stuck in a perpetual adolescent state, but to be stuck in a puppy-state is a new all-time low. I hate seeing his eyes when he’s in one of his excitability states: they seem completely devoid of lucid thought, like there’s no way he can work through them and comprehend anything. When I try to train him he gets frustrated because he doesn’t understand what I want. In 2 days, however, he has shown comprehension of the term “back up” when I stop mid-walk. He used to lie down and freeze in frustration, but now he’ll take a few steps back. It seems a small improvement, but it makes me feel good that something is getting through. I want to help give him the stability of our routine life. Dogs want predictability: the walk at a certain time, to eat at a certain time, to nap, to sleep. They like random car trips, but they want to know that you’ll come home everyday at 6pm. Along with it, I feel that even though Tristan and Gable don’t really get along in the sense that they’ll lie down together or play together (I used to think that Tristan is a fast runner, but Gable is undeniably faster), the presence of each other is a comfort in itself. There’s an element that dogs can give each other that there is no way I could ever Gable–and that’s a drive behind the 2nd hound. With that said, I feel that given enough time with us, these two could and would become good friends.

I am not naïve enough to think that the moment he leaves here he’ll magically be the perfect well-behaved dog, but my wish is that he’ll remember something. Just like a teacher or a nanny, I can only do so much…at the end of the day he goes back to where he comes from. Maybe, just maybe, I will have made a difference in his life. Only a few more days with him! For good and bad.

I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO sleepy!!!!! It’s 2:00pm and I was supposed to be at work today, but took the day off. I’m so glad I did, too, because there’s no way I trust these two together at home by themselves. You know, in a way, I was reminded of when Gable first came into my life. I don’t know if it’s because of the breed or because he’s our Gable, but he has made quite an impression on my relatives. My uncle with the bulldog is thinking about adopting one after the bulldog passes (he’s old). Personally I don’t think it’s a good idea because greyhounds are not known to be that good with small children, but maybe that’s just me being selfish again and wanting to be special. They say that greyhounds are not good for first time dog owners because of their strong will. My grandma asked me once if I trained Gable to be like that or if it’s just how I got him. To be honest, I don’t really remember. I must have trained some of the behaviors I wanted, right? It’s not clear if I taught him “heel” or to stop and backup when I do. Thinking back a bit, I swear I taught that to Tristan a couple years ago. Huh.

And so concludes the first leg of the Tristan Files.

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