This post really has nothing to do with hair combing or the city of Jackson…but, to make the title a bit more relevant, here is an interesting factoid about our household: neither human resident brushes their hair on a regular basis. I have dreadlocks and Boo keeps his remaining hair cut short. Once in awhile, I use a boar-bristle brush to distribute oils through my bangs in between washings, but the cat and the newest addition (already born) addition to our family are getting more combing and brushing than the two of us are.
In other words, we finally got a doggie friend for Clarice. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves; in reality, we got a doggie friend for Boo and I that the cat is only mildly interested in. Meet June Carter:
She’s a one-year-old Australian Cattle Dog, adopted from the Ozaukee County Humane Society Saturday afternoon. As with most endeavors we take on, we’ve (umm, Jason) spent quite a bit of time laying the groundwork for bringing a new resident into the homestead. We read some dog training books. We made sure a neighbor was available to let her out on days where we’re gone longer than the normal working hours. We researched a few different breeds. And then came the fun part – we started looking!
We knew three things: we wanted to adopt from a shelter, we couldn’t do a puppy at this point in our lives, and we wanted a dog that was “mostly” a working dog – shepherds/collies were our top picks. I say mostly because adopting from a shelter means that there’s a very good chance that you’ll get a mixed bag, which we were fine with.
In terms of breed, we felt that working dogs were a good middle-of-the-road way to go. They’re loyal, smart, built for running and endurance, but don’t have the crazy amounts of energy like setters or labs. I am not a drooling/wiggling/constant peeing/general obnoxiousness fan, though Jason might have been a bit more tolerant of that type of behavior.
We stopped by the Milwaukee branch of the Humane Society once a week for about a month and didn’t really see anything that appealed to us. We DID see quite a few pit bulls/pit bull mixes, which is pretty sad. Some of them looked like genuinely sweet dogs. I think that if this hadn’t been our first dog and if we didn’t have a baby on the way, we might have considered adopting one. Maybe somewhere down the road. It’s a shame that they’ve gotten such a bad reputation and been branded as something that they don’t have to be – pit bulls, with the right training and a good household, can be just as good a dog as any other breeds.
Anyway, we didn’t have big plans for the past weekend, so we decided to make the most of our Saturday and visit a few neighboring shelters. The Ozaukee County branch had a whole new batch of puppies, some that were older (10-11 months) and fit out breed preferences. The one that we had our eyes on in particular – an 11-month old Shepherd pup- had just been adopted right before we came. We ended up seeing two dogs to start out with. We had a few more on the list, but basically fell in love with the first one we met, and ended up taking her home, giving her a red bandana, and renaming her June. We’re big fans folk music fans, and June was our first choice for a girl. If we have adopted a boy, we would have called him Woody Guthrie.
(On a funny note, the second dog was an older puppy who, upon entering the meet-and-greet-area, went insane, peed everywhere, jumped in said pee, rolled in said pee, and sent me to the bathroom with wash off my hands and sandals. Jason liked her energy. I thought she was cute, but the constant peeing was too much.)
I think we initially envisioned ourselves getting a larger dog (more like a German Shepherd size), but while we don’t typically make a quick decision like we did, neither of us regret going with the first dog we met. June is amazing. She was a stray from Kentucky, and came without a tail or much information. However, all she wanted to do when we met was nuzzle up to us. No drooling, no compulsive peeing, no jumping, no general mayhem. She’s actually very, very submissive; we’ve already learned that the best route for training her is lots of positive reinforcement as she ends up cowering and shaking when we speak sternly to her or try to guide her physically. Poor girl, who knows what her life was like as a stray.
She was just spayed the day before we adopted her, so we’ve been keeping her exercise down to walks around the neighborhood. BUT – when she’s all healed up in a week or so, we’re both really excited to RUN with her! We’ve jogged a few laps in the yard, and as is her instinct as a herding dog, she stays right by our side like a champ. We don’t even need to leash her at home – she thinks of people as her “herd” and doesn’t let us get more than a few feet away. Of course, we leash her on walks just in case she gets curious and goes too close to the road. Cattle dogs are also said to make very good hiking partners because of their high endurance. We’ve yet to introduce her to water, but we’re also hoping she’ll make a good canoe dog.
She’s met most of our neighbors, including the toddler across the street and their lab/shepherd mix, and so far she gets along really well with everyone. Which makes us feel even better about our choice – we’re hoping that introducing her to the Smithling when it comes along will be a piece of cake. Another “sheep” for the herd, you might say ;)
Of course, she’s not without some flaws. Like I mentioned, she has some shy, cowering behaviors that I think will take some time to get over as she gets more comfortable with us. She wouldn’t eat or drink much for the first day, and it takes her awhile to do her duty outside because she gets anxious. Boo tried roughhousing with her the other afternoon, and it didn’t go well. She got so scared that she piddled a little. She’s done that a few times since then when she’s very nervous, but nothing I’m too concerned about.
Also, she has NO interest whatsoever in toys. We picked up a Kong, a bone, and some tennis balls and even the bone isn’t appealing to her. So, our mission, aside from helping her feel more comfortable with us, is to teach her to fetch. Because working dogs are so intelligent, they need some sort of mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise to keep them happy. Maybe if we fill her Kong with the right kind of treats, she’ll show some interest in it and even chase after it.
And for those of you who were curious about how Clarice took to her new housemate…she’s doing way better than we thought. They’re not friends, by any means, but they’re not enemies. Clarice spends a lot of time in the same room as June, just watching her. On occasion, she’ll creep up to her and take a sniff, as if she’s still trying to figure out what this other creature is. Mostly, she just flops on the ground and looks at us resentfully, as if she can’t believe we brought another animal into HER house.
June couldn’t really care less about the cat, which is a relief. I was a little worried that a herding dog might chase the cat around the house and make her life miserable, but she hasn’t done anything like that yet.
So, to close out this absurdly long post about our new canine, I’ll leave you with two interesting/funny pieces of information:
- Australian Cattle Dogs are a result of drovers breeding their herd dogs with dingoes back in the late nineteenth century. The ones with the all grey-and-white coloring are referred to as “Blue Heelers” due to the bluish tinge of their fur. June has a little patch of this on her chest :)
- In the absence of having a tail, June shakes her entire rear end when she’s excited about something. It’s so, so cute.