One Crazy Hound!
The first time I met Jazzie was at a dinner party. It was an invitation to a blind date, "We've got someone we want you to meet," my friends said. How lovely, I thought. After a dearth of few prospects on the dating horizon, I was willing to check out someone my friends thought I'd like. I didn't know the someone they had in mind for me was a real dog. I also didn't know my friends knew I was a sure bet to take home items left behind in other people's life transitions. My three fish were acquired when a friend moved cities, many of my plants when a friend of a friend passed away.
So it was no surprise that at the end of that dinner, Jazzie, a 2 year old Jack Russell Terrier, whose owners were moving to Toronto, came home with me.
It didn't take me long to discover that their reason for leaving Jazzie behind -- 'we bought a condo but it doesn't allow pets', really meant, 'we bought a condo that purposefully doesn't allow pets so we don't have to lie about why we don't want to take Jazzie with us'.
She was a handful. All 18 pounds of quivering mess of excitable anxiety of her.
Lovable. Smart. Funny. Affectionate. She was also the most emotionally needy dog I've ever met. Jazzie loved attention. Her favourite place to sleep was on your head, whether sitting in a chair reading a book or lying in bed. Jazzie couldn't get close enough.
She loved to run. And run. At the time, I was training for a marathon and would take her out on my two and three hour training runs. And it still wasn't enough. I'd arrive home, tired, eager to jump into a warm bath and Jazzie would run through the house, barking and spinning circles in every room. Never stopping, until she reached the bathroom. At the sight of all those bubbles popping in the air she would take one flying leap, from doorway to tub, and land with a splash! smack dab in the middle of all those bubbles. Whether I was already in the bath or not.
It became a competition. We'd come back from a run, I'd run up to the bathroom, shut the door, run the bath, sneak out to grab whatever I needed from the bedroom before Jazzie figured out where I'd gone. Sometimes I'd win. Most often I'd lose. At even a hint of the door opening while the bath ran, Jazzie would slip through the crack and take a flying leap into the tub. I started undressing in the tub before the water even started running, forgoing my book and glass of wine.
And on those rare occassions when I'd actually get the bath run, my book and wine set-up by the tub and no Jazzie in sight, I'd sink into the soothing waters and try to relax. Which is hard to do when all you can hear is the sound of eighteen pounds throwing itself against the door and barking for entrance.
"It's a boundary thing," I told my daughters who thought it was cute to bathe with a dog. "I refuse to share my bath with a four legged creature." In the end, Jazzie won. Realizing I was not going to relent, she quit throwing her body against the door and chewed her way right through it.
Just as she chewed through every leather shoe she could get her sharp little canine teeth on. The legs of an antique desk. The feet of a huge paper-maché Cheshire Cat I'd fallen in love with in this sweet little art gallery in Carmel and flown back, at great expense, because I simply couldn't leave it behind. Jazzie liked the taste of paper-maché. Just as she liked the taste of the black leather trim lining the back window of my car. My favourite sweater. My favourite pants. My favourite scarf. She even chewed the heads of dolls and my daughters favourite stuffed animals.
They didn't seem to mind. "But she's so cute!" they'd exclaim and Jazzie would get an extension on her lease on life in our household.
Jazzie had big dog attitude in a pint sized body.
She once took on a coyote at Nose Hill Park. Her teeth bared, her body quivering in anger, she raced up to it, barks flying with the ferocity of lightening striking a tree. Imagine the conversation aroudn that coyote's campfire later that night. "You shoulda seen this crazy bitch come tearing after me. I high-tailed it outta there, dog. Man, she was one crazy hound!" She even caught a gopher once. It had made the mistake of poking its head out of its hole just as Jazzie put her nose in to sniff. She dug faster than it could retreat and suddenly, there she was, much to my amazement and possibly hers, gopher in mouth, shaking it for all its worth. I read later that shaking was how Jack Russel's used to kill the rats, fox and badgers they were bred to hunt.
I made her release the poor fella. She was not impressed.
Life with Jazzie was a constant negotiation of 'you leave me alone and I'll make you pay' versus, 'take me with you and I'll make you pay.' Just as she could not be trusted alone in the house, she could not be trusted to be left in the car, even for a minute. Inevitably, some strip of leather, some piece of cloth would find its way into her jaw and she would leave her mark.
A trainer once told me to kennel her. "You have to teach her to self-soothe. You have to let her know who's boss."
Right. Me. I'm boss.
I quickly learned how wrong I was to even give the notion fleeting thought.
Kenneling an emotionally needy dog is not a solution. It only inspires her to take her angst out on more inanimate objects in her path.
And as to being boss, now that was a joke. Jazzie ruled, and she knew it. Not just our home, but also our hearts. She was just so danged cute!
She made us laugh. She let the girls dress her up in doll's clothes and even let them push her around in a buggy. She had this crazy habit of burrowing into your bed, under the covers, way down by your feet. She loved to sit on your head, her chin draped over your brow, following along as you read. She could be incredibly endearing, but, there was one habit that no matter how hard I tried to adjust my ideals around, I could not accept. Jazzie preferred using the indoors as her toilet. And no matter how hard I tried, what encouragements I used, or what punishment I doled out, Jazzie could not be convinced to change.
Coming home to Jazzie was a delicate navigation of opening the door, stepping aside and getting Jazzie out before you greeted her. To greet her on the front hall rug was an invitation for a soppy mess.
Visitors were always advised to wait outside so that Jazzie could come out to greet them -- woe the day she wasn't allowed to greet every visitor. Those events always resulted in more substantial deposits being left somewhere in the house. It was as if she knew, don't dump in the open. Let them find them, accidentally in the night, or when sweeping under the bed or behind the furniture.
Jazzie was smart, funny and hyperactive. She also almost drove me crazy. After a year and a half of trying everything to work through her personality defects, I had to admit defeat. I did not want a pet who held my home in such total disregard.
"I don't want to be constantly angry with her," I told my daughters when I finally succumbed to the truth. Jazzie had to go. "And I think she deserves to live some place where she can run free, or at least where someone is home all day so that she doesn't experience so much separation anxiety she chews up every piece of furniture in the house."
My eldest daughter shared my pragmatism. Jazzie had deposited a 'gift' one too many times on her bedroom floor.
The youngest was more accepting of the trade-offs in Jazzie's nature. She believed love really could conquer all, even a dog who had ruined several rugs, not mention destroyed most of the furniture in the house.
In the end, I did find a home for Jazzie with a friend of my sister's. I told the woman all about Jazzie and her challenging behaviours. I didn't think it wise to call them 'personality defects' and I definitely didn't say she was crazy, but I did suggest she might want to put plastic down on all her rugs and take the legs off all her furniture.
The woman thought I was joking. "All a dog really needs is a warm, loving home," she told me the day my daughters and I dropped Jazzie off and bid her a tearful good-bye. "You know, it's never the dog's fault. It's always the master," she added as she closed the door.
Jazzie didn't even notice we were gone. The last I saw of her she was chewing on the foot of the wooden coat-tree standing in the hallway by the front door. And the last I heard was the woman's loving voice laughing and saying, "Now Jazzie. We don't allow that kind of behaviour in our home." That was just before the crash of the coat-tree falling down filled the air behind me as I walked away.
I did not turn back. I did not pass go. I high-tailed it out of there as fast as I could.
Last I heard, Jazzie's behaviour hadn't changed. But the woman had adopted a second Jack Russell Terrier. Proving the woman right. "It's never the dog's fault. It's always the master."
I think she's crazy.