Some of you who have been following our recent adventures in London have also written to ask what was happening to the terriers during this jaunt. And since this blog can’t sustain too many posts before the subject turns back to terriers, let me give you a recap of how Oscar and Lucy spent the holidays. In short, they went to John the Baptist Boot Camp. Let me set the stage: in return for an all-expense-paid stay in an overly cowboy-themed ranch in Sonoma, our trails builder and all around nature guy, John the Baptist agreed to puppy sit. It seemed like a great solution for a couple of spoiled dogs who don’t like change. They would stay in their familiar Sonoma haunt with someone they know and with minimal disruption of their routine. Fortunately or unfortunately, the terriers got more than they bargained for.
I had warned John that there is one unbreakable terrier rule: terriers sleep on the bed. Or rather IN the bed. Under the covers. With their heads on their own individual pillows. And during the night, little terrier feet will push and push against humans until 90% of the bed is terrier occupied. Of course, dog-sitters have the right to ignore this rule, but the whines and cries of terriers — which will go on throughout the night if they are locked in the kitchen or in their crates — will make sharing a bed with terriers look like the easy option.
The easy option is the one John chose. Although, I did get an alarming text from him at about the time I was making my way to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. I’m going to quote directly from the text as it was written in inimitable John the Baptist shorthand:
Awoke at 2:30 feeln this trmbln o and l undr cov 1 on ea side me shakn.
What? Earthquake? Barn tumbling down? What? The text continued:
Had lft i pod on emmy singn 2 far gn, out frnt, by rnger, 2 lrg yotes, howln away 2 mus. Truly awe sum. Coud b fll moon bt knt wait 2 hear harmony on swt drms.
Frenzied texts and some clarification revealed that the two large coyotes we’ve seen prowling around had gotten bold enough to show up under the bedroom window and howl along to Emmylou Harris on the iPod. (No terriers were harmed during this event.) But it seems John is such a nature spirit that even more animals were emboldened to come right up to the barn:
Took dgs out b 4 moon up. Had port spot. Red iz, grn iz, n yllo iz all look n bk at us from the deep drk wds. Spooky kool, like scene frm Amer. Were. W London. Stormy here lites on n off. Doggies vry wll b hvd.
I think that good doggie behavior was actually terror. Or maybe they weren’t as scared as they would have been if I had been there. Because I would have been under the covers shaking with them. Especially when the storms started and John and the terriers were plunged into darkness. No radio. No wi-fi and a dying cell phone. Didn’t phase John. He used the downtime for Terrier Re-education.
Terrier Breakthrough #1: Lucy learns to play well with others in close quarters.
Did I mention that John had brought his own dogs — a Border Collie and a Lab (who did NOT sleep on the bed.) Lucy is not generally very good about sharing her space with other dogs. But, once the wild animals started showing up, she recognized the value of a larger pack. Peace reigned. And Oscar found a dog with almost as much energy as he has.
Terrier Breakthrough #2: Oscar meets the new Alpha Dog.
Anyone who’s been to Two Terrier Vineyards knows that Oscar is obsessed by water. He’ll stand and bark and bark at the pond for hours. He’ll do anything to avoid having this fun past-time curtailed. He’s developed a sixth sense about when people are trying to get him into the barn with designs on locking him in and taking off for town. In response, he’ll jump in the pond and swim in circles for hours just out of reach. Oscar’s first mistake was trying this on John. His second mistake was trying this when John had decided to go to town for a Bob’s Margarita at Maya Restaurant’s Tower of Tequila Bar. It seems getting between John and tequila is as dangerous as getting between a hippo and a water source. The results are ugly.
Oscar jumped in the pond. John jumped right after him. As John noted: “The doggie paddle can’t beat the Australian Crawl.” Oscar was dragged dripping from Lake Charles, bundled into the barn and, from that moment, became a submissive and obedient little doggie. When John yelled jump, Oscar jumped and didn’t even expect a cookie for it.
Terrier Breakthrough #3: Lucy loses weight.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that Lucy is the Marilyn Monroe of Smooth Fox Terriers. She’s voluptuous, riddled with neuroses and often on pharmaceuticals. No matter how little we feed her and how much we exercise her, she remains zaftig. It seems we weren’t trying hard enough. Where I give the dogs one good long walk a day, and maybe a run behind the ATV, John was logging three walks before breakfast. I returned home to find a newly-svelte Lucy. Well, not exactly svelte. She’ll never be show dog trim. But those dogs are like Supermodels. Their bodies are impossible to attain. But let’s just say, for the first time since she was a pup, Lucy can now jump up on the bed without a big boost to the haunches.
Now the big question is: Can this new regimen be maintained? Probably not by me. I forgot to mention that John made good on his threat to drive off the destructive wild turkeys that have been digging up our plants. True to his word, he took my shotgun and bagged the leader of the flock at 20 paces. Apparently there was nothing left to photograph, but he thoughtfully texted me a dramatic recreation — a shredded metal can shot at the same distance.
I’m imagining the terriers weren’t going to challenge John after that display.
Eco note: turkeys are not native to California but were imported as game birds. They destroy habitat that native birds need and cause erosion by digging up fragile plant cover. They are so destructive that if you have a nursery or vineyard that is threatened by turkeys, you can get a “Pest License” and shoot them out of season.
Sounds like you had exactly the right dog sitter! A little tough-love is great for terriers, and I’m sure they are none the worse for the wear. Does Lucy like to play with toys? Nutmeg is a reformed showgirl, and keeps her trim figure with hours and hours of indoor and outdoor toy play. She says that Oscar and Lucy are invited to come chase racquetballs anytime!
Lucy isn’t much for toys unless she can take them away from Oscar. She prefers sitting on a pillow, eating dog biscuits — hence the weight issues. Oscar has to be severely rationed on toys — especially squeaky toys and balls as he gets so wound up he can’t calm down.
My sister has a three year old Australian shepherd who carried on a conversation with the coyotes a month or so ago. Very eerie. Sheila sleeps in the house in her crate, happily most of the time. They have three acres on a private lane shared by about six other homes. Ample wild life and an almost dry pond that Sheila dearly loves.
I believe her training has worn off for the most part, as evidenced by her nudging the backs of my knees to herd me around in the house last summer.
Sounds like JtB boot camp was a wonderful time for Oscar and Lucy. If not they will let you know soon enough 🙂
Oh, oh, can I convince him to come to Michigan for a week in Feb? Looking for someone to whip Jigzy (and Yugi) into shape!!
John is a miracle worker – it is like he was running his own Biggest Loser camp for your pampered pooches. His texts totally cracked me up!!! Having only sent one text in my life I should take note of some of his abbreviations!
Glad the terriers got on so well so you could enjoy your trip to London.
You captured the essence of what it is to be a terrier owner – more specifically, TWO Smooth Fox Terriers! For the uninitiated, I will vouch for every terrier behavior description in this post, right down to sleeping in bed, under the covers, with their heads on a pillow. Sammie and Flash are the same way (including Flash’s water obsession).
I have had Aussie Shepherds and now have a Border Collie, when we walk in the woods the dogs (both breeds) would get behind the lagger and nudge behind the knees. They then would run ahead of the person in the lead and back down tightening up the herd. Quite amazing as I never trained them to do this.