The rat was enormous. And dead. I had seen it the day before, grotesquely splayed out on the sidewalk in front of a neighbor’s house. It was likely the recent trophy of a stray cat’s hunting expedition. For whatever reason the hunter decided to abandon the corpse after the kill. Maybe this was meant as a message to the other rats or a “gift” for the old lady that left bowls of food out for the strays. I don’t know. I don’t pretend to understand cats.
The next day my girlfriend Jamie and I took our two dogs Asha and Gomez for a walk. Asha is white pit bull mix with tan patches (including “tan pants,” as we like to call her tan little butt and thighs) and weighs around 40 pounds. We adopted her a year and a half ago and in the time that we’ve had her, we have watched (and helped!) her go from a timid, anxious girl to a well-behaved, confidant adorably snuggly pit bull ambassador. My girlfriend’s mother was none-too-thrilled when she got word that we’d adopted a pit bull. She’d “seen how those dogs are” on the news, after all. But after meeting Asha, she’s become a heartfelt pit ambassador. Asha is a total hearts-and-minds changer and we adore her.
On the day of this walk, Gomez – 70 pounds of pure chocolate, block-headed pit bull – had been with us for a week. And it had been a trying one. Every new dog comes with behavioral challenges/adjustment difficulties, yes. But Gomez’s issues were all of the physically exhausting variety and usually involved launching himself around the house at full speed without concern for who or what was in his wake. I was exhausted and, as much as I really liked the guy, was starting to wonder, “What have we done?”
So it was that, less than two minutes into one of our first walks as a family, I found myself in the very unenviable position of desperately trying to pry the enormous dead rat out of Gomez’s mouth. He had managed to see and grab the rat in about a fraction of a millisecond. And he wasn’t planning to let it go for anything. The look of unflappable, steely resolve on his face said, “Your pathetic attempts to open my jaws coupled with your cries and shrieks are fruitless. This rat is mine.” As our neighbors peeked out of their windows to see what the crazy lesbians with the pit bulls were screaming about this time, my mind raced to find a solution. That’s when I remembered we had a block of cheese in the fridge. I ran back to the house hoping Gomez would be willing to trade a rat for some cheddar. I ran up to him and shoved the cheese under his nose. “Gomez! Want some cheese?” I said, trying to hide the sheer terror in my voice that would give away that I had no plan B. I mean, aside from walking with him into traffic and ending it all. Which had certainly occurred to me.
Thankfully, he dropped the rat and sunk his teeth into the cheese block. What a wave of relief! Since I had been the one to come up with the brilliant cheese swap plan, I thought it was perfectly appropriate to inform my girlfriend that she was in charge of rat carcass disposal. The last time we found ourselves needing to perform a similar clean up operation was when a car hit and killed a raccoon right in front of our house. My vow to “help” with the raccoon manifested itself with Jamie scooping the poor, limp bodied fella up with a shovel while I screamed and threw a shoe box at it. I’m not proud of this, but facts are facts.
Was this rat incident destined to be one of those, “it was terrible at the time, but we can laugh about it now” moments or was it a sinister omen? I was determined to make sure it was in the former category, but I was worried. This dog was a handful. Had we made a giant mistake? Tammy Crenshaw of Fido Personal Dog Training (and one of my favorite people), did her best to reassure me that Gomez would learn and come around. It would take time and work, but he would get it! If I can trust anybody with dog-related stuff, it’s Tammy. She worked wonders with Asha and has a pit bull herself, so she’s certainly an excellent resource. So with a “one day at a time,” approach, I started to take some deeper breaths.
But when that anxiety would pop back up, I would scour the internet for “success stories.” I figured I can’t be the first person who ever had adopter’s remorse. I also figured that reading about the experiences of others who had a nice but nutty dog that drove them to drink before they eventually lived happily ever after would help ground me and give me hope.” I like to think I’m pretty dog savvy, but Gomez is by far the most “dog-like” dog I’ve ever had. Before adopting Asha, I had been involved in greyhound rescue, so most of my dog experience was with a breed that, and I mean this in a good way, were experts at lounging around like giant, skinny cats. But now here I was with a high energy, unflappable block headed guy who, in the first few moments of coming into our house, got his leash caught under the stove while he ran through the kitchen, dragging the heavy appliance several feet before he even noticed. Holy shit.
I loved the “Dog of the Week” feature on Your Pit Bull and You and certainly found some inspiration in those amazing stories of transformation. But I wanted more specific reassurance that I could do this. That others had done this. That’s when I reached out to Your Pit Bull and You to see if they’d ever consider doing a call for success stories. Lori Nanan wrote me back and told me she loved the idea. Then she asked if I’d be willing to start the ball rolling by documenting my own journey with Gomez. So that’s what I’ll be doing. It won’t give me the immediate satisfaction of vicariously riding the waves of other people’s training success, but it could turn out to be a pretty interesting exercise seeing as I’m essentially documenting it in real time. We have now had Gomez for two months and I can safely say we’ve had some really great steps forward. We love him and we’re glad he is ours. But there’s a lot of work to be done! I’m excited to share my trials and tribulations with you and hope you’ll likewise share yours with me!