Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. I had heard that first from my mother when I wanted something that she thought was inappropriate for me at a certain age. I heard it again when I found I was pregnant and later found out that I was carrying twins. On both of those occasions what I wished for came true and I never regretted the outcome. However, that was before AJ.
Whenever Todd brought out any of his dogs to hunt with us, they were always in a crate in the back of his truck. So to play it safe, we took a large travel crate with us in case AJ didn’t travel too well in cars, or if he and Buddy didn’t get along in the back of the station wagon. We met Todd at the hunting preserve and after we took care of the preliminaries, we paid Todd and he gave us AJ’s registration papers (imagine that – our first registered dog!), Todd let AJ out of his kennel so he and Buddy could get reacquainted. AJ was a little reserved around us, he was waiting to get to work and start looking for birds, but we didn’t have any guns with us. To AJ, we were just more hunters there to hunt with, he didn’t know yet that everything he was used to was going to change drastically.
I asked Todd if AJ was housebroken and he just laughed at me.
“He’s a hunting dog. He doesn’t come in the house. Just give him a doghouse and put him on a chain, he’ll be fine.” Todd said.
“That wouldn’t be right. Buddy is a hunting dog and he stays in the house. AJ will stay in the house too. We’ll just work at house training him,” I said.
“You are going to be sorry if you do that. AJ is a male, he will mark every wall and piece of furniture you have before you get him house trained.”
“Well we thought about that and we’re not interested in using him for stud,” Mitch said, “So we will probably have him neutered.”
Todd said, “That would probably be a good idea. But I still think you’d be better off leaving him outside.”
When it came time to load up, AJ wouldn’t get in the back of the station wagon. It wasn’t what he was used to. This was the first clue, but we weren’t paying attention. We coaxed and pleaded and Todd ordered AJ in his oh so “stern” voice, to get in the crate. Buddy was jumping in and out of the back of the car and barking at all of us and being a general pain in the neck. Finally we got AJ into the car, but he wouldn’t get in the crate so Mitch just said to leave him out. Buddy was still barking and now AJ wasn’t sure what was going on but he didn’t like it at all. He looked up at Todd with this scared look on his face as if to say, “Please don’t leave me with these people. That dog won’t shut up and the woman keeps touching me. Make her stop!”
We said our goodbyes and started off down the road. AJ just stood in the back of the station wagon and watched not real sure about everything yet, but he didn’t panic. Buddy settled down and picked his favorite spot to lie down and take up as much room as possible. We stopped at every rest stop to give both dogs plenty of pee and sniff time. AJ started warming up to us a little more and actually started to relax and lie down.
The first of many challenges we encountered with AJ was when we got home. We let the dogs out of the car and let them wander around and stretch before going inside. Buddy went down the steps to the door of our home and AJ just stood at the top of the landing and wouldn’t budge. Being a strict “outside dog”, AJ didn’t know how to go up or down steps. This was going to be really interesting trying to teach AJ the mechanics of going up and down steps in one easy lesson. It ended up that Mitch had to carry him down the steps and into the house.
Mitch said, “He better figure out stairs real quick.”
Challenge number two became immediately apparent when we finally got inside. AJ didn’t know what linoleum was. I had never seen a dog stand on his tiptoes before. I didn’t know a dog had tiptoes for that matter, but AJ did. He locked his legs, extended his toenails out and lifted the pads of his feet and wouldn’t move. He just froze. He didn’t know how to walk on the smooth cold surface. It never occurred to either of us that a dog would be afraid of a floor. We stood there and laughed at him and each other, because not only was Stairs 101 on the lesson plan, but now we had added Hard Floors 101 also.
I took all of the throw rugs and extra towels and laid them end-to-end as a sort of pathway for the dog to walk on, covering all of the smooth surfaces throughout the house. Didn’t that just look special? I couldn’t believe it. Housebreaking was going to be a little tougher because you had to walk on smooth surfaces to get to the doors. AJ was a real “outside” dog. I was beginning to wonder at the wisdom of our decision. We decided that this was enough stress on all of us for one night and put AJ in the bedroom with us and closed the door so if he got any “urges”, I would wake up and take him outside.
Please come back and read more of AJ in the second excerpt.