Life as a Veterinarian, Pet Care, Ranch Life

A “Tail” of Two Dogs

It was serendipitous…almost seemingly meant to be.  He had been this little fluffy puppy that came for his puppy vaccine series and socialization classes at the clinic. All the staff would alert me when he came thru the door so I could find him and dote on him… I even took some photos (all blurry because he was running like a maniac) when he was just a little puppy.

When his picture and rehoming ad come up on a local Facebook page my phone blew up with tags, messages, and calls. I couldn’t deny all these people that seemed to think we would be a good match so I went to meet the big brown furry guy. He ran to me and I cried.  My heart was full and there was no doubt he needed to come home with me…. and so we added a 1 year old Newfoundland, that the kids renamed Finn (his former name was great but it just didn’t flow for the boys, so we started fresh).

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I had lost my soul dog over a year ago, my Newf Roscoe, who I had  acquired as a return to breeder at around the exact same age as Finn. Though I hadn’t planned it this way, Finn seems to be Roscoe reincarnate! Though I know my house would be significantly cleaner without 100 pounds of slobber and hair,  I just adore Newfoundlands and feel complete to have one in our family again.

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We have always maintained a pack of dogs and fairly peacefully. We went from a pack of geriatrics to adding these two boisterous teenagers with very different quirks and issues. It has been a time of adjusting. We had also lost Shep, our senior former ranch dog, last year (rough year for losses). We got Ripp as a puppy to learn the ways of the ranch and essentially take Shep’s place as a working dog. I have heard some ranchers say a good working dog is worth 10 hired men. Plus they never show up late and their pay is pretty cheap. Though we wanted dogs to fill the voids left by our two former dogs, we hadn’t intended to re-create their near identical likenesses as we seemingly have.

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Ripp, our Aussie, is a more challenging dog.  All the qualities that will make him a great cattle dog make him a bit hard to live with some times.  He’s a bit sensitive and reactive, a bit hot-headed…he has more gas than break. My Hubby adores Ripp and Ripp adores my Hubby. If the rancher is King, his cow dog is the Prince, his right-hand “man” and top adviser. The ranch belongs to the Ranch Dog. He is bred to assist the rancher, to herd the stock, watch the gaits, break up fighting bulls, and tell that bossy cow just what the plan is going to be. It seems to the ranch dog that all other dogs are just a little “slow”, maybe better left to lounge on the deck and guard the yard from intruders and varmint.

As an Aussie, Ripp is intense, always willing and waiting for a job. He has two speeds…Sit or Run Like a Maniac.  Simply walking requires mental effort and impulse control on his part. Since a puppy he came in cocky and in charge and the other dogs in our pack deferred to the new Prince of the Ranch. So adding another dog didn’t seem like it would be that much of a change.

Finn’s initial introduction was great; Ripp had a great new playmate. But Finn wasn’t so sure about his new Prince and didn’t just back-down to Ripp’s instructions as the Prince. Turns out Newfoundlands have their own quirks and ideas on life. If Ripp is “always ready and waiting for a job”,  Finn is more the type to say “Hey, I will be over here sniffing. Try not to bother me”.  I adore the goofiness, slobber, and gentle but often stubborn soul of a Newfie. My Hubby not so much. He adores the tenaciouness, work-ethic, and intelligence of a Aussie. Myself not always so much.

These two pals so opposite in their temperaments start out like two guys sitting at the bar…one big in stature, seemingly friendly but not always on par socially, saying and doing some questionable things and the other guy, small but smart and witty and what he lacks in size he makes up for in tenacity. They have a great ol’ time until the big dim one commits some social faux pau like bumping the little one. The little guy is a bit shorter tempered and puffs his chest “Hey buddy, did you just bump me”. Being a bit socially ackward the big guy just sort of stands there taken aback but willing to stand his ground. But instead of the typical bar scene, we have these two running a ranch.

So here we sit with our new soul dogs, clearly in love with the quirks that make them so. Our pack is restructuring, adjusting and requiring us to step it up to ensure peace and harmony. We have quite an assortment of critters and we adore each and everyone for their unique attributes but they each bring their own quirks and challenges. We are just a week in and we are all learning and adjusting.

When clients bring me pets with behavioral consults, I list the to-dos, things to avoid, tips and tricks…it is easy to tell someone what to do but often the reality of implementing structure and guidance isn’t easy. There isn’t really a magic solution…though we all wish there were. Rarely is a pet or person for that matter, perfect right out of the box. It takes time and patience to become our best selves and change our way of thinking.

Welcome Finn to our Funny Farm!

 

*Update: I wrote this weeks after we acquired Finn and wanted to update everyone on their progress. We joke that our dogs, Finn and Ripp, have a psychologist! We did a consult with a boarded veterinary behaviorist and have started them on medications in combination with behavioral modification.  Ripp is learning tolerance and less reactivity and Finn is working on his impulsivity and perceived poor manners (body slamming, jumping on the other dogs, etc). We are seeing improvement and going slow to maintain peace in the pack. There was question regarding if this is the right path for them and our family and the consult certainly helped with that. They each have their “quirks” to work thru and we remain committed to helping them become the most emotionally stable dogs they can be.

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