Missing not having a dog in our lives for many years, my husband, Jerry, and I decided to check out some eight week old golden retrievers. Owning a different breed was not an option for us. Our last golden, Jenny, had all the attributes of her breed: intelligence, sense of humor, friendliness to children and desire to please.
We drove to a small town in New York State in pursuit of a puppy. The five pups for sale all had winning personalities as they approached us with happy grins and tails awagging. We chose Sweetpea because of her eyes and expressive face. She came home with us that day.
A few week’s later we realized that we were overdue for a dog obedience class. Sweetpea had gnawed through the knobs on our new kitchen cabinets and had drawn some blood from my arms and lip through her rough play. She treated me as she would a litter mate.
Our trainer gave us one private lesson with Sweetpea after I was in tears one day from her aggression. She put Sweetpea in a “down stay” thirteen times! It took grabbing Sweetpea by the scruff of her neck and shaking her for her to obey the trainer. “She’s a tough one,” she said.
Besides the group lessons the trainer recommended providing Sweetpea with daily puppy play time to work out her considerable energy. She advised finding other young dogs in the neighborhood and setting up play dates. We developed a routine with Liberty, Bear, Cassie, and Edison. Their owners were amicable to our bringing Sweetpea to their yards for play. Since they all had invisible fences, for the most part she stayed on their property.
At first we had no invisible fence and tried to monitor Sweetpea on our own property when we were working in the yard. In spite of our vigilance, she managed to escape to other yards. She was so quick that we often were unable to find her within seconds of her absconding from our yard. It was then that we began to hear from some neighbors, “She’s trouble with a capital T.” Fortunately most pronouncements were made without rancor.
Our next door neighbors, Peter and Kathy, had a young shih tzu named Lucy whom they were training to use a newly installed doggy door leading from their kitchen to their back yard. On more than one occasion Sweetpea observed them coaxing Lucy with treats to use the door. She must have stored that useful bit of information in her memory bank because early one Sunday morning, after Sweetpea’s walk, she bolted from our property and disappeared. I went inside to seek Jerry’s help. Moments later our telephone rang. “Who could be calling us at 7:30 on a Sunday morning?” I asked. The call was from Peter. He said, “Kathy and I are in bed and Sweetpea is pressing her nose into Kathy’s neck.. She scared us half to death. We heard a loud bang when the door to our bedroom flew open and then the wet nose.” If I hadn’t felt so badly, I might have laughed. We all concluded that Sweetpea had used Lucy’s doggy door to enter the house and finding the downstairs empty, she went upstairs in search of companionship.
Jerry and I were thorouhly embarrassed but not enough so apparently to spend the money to buy an invisible fence. After yet another encounter with a neighbor, an irate one at that, we decided that we didn’t want to be the pariahs of the neighborhood and we installed an invisible fence with Peter’s help. The second incident came at a time that I was mending from some surgery and instructed not to walk Sweetpea. She had whined to be let out and believing that she needed to relieve herself, I took her out sans leash so she would not pull on my stitches. Immediately Sweetpea took off. She quickly reappeared with what looked like a limp bunny hanging from her mouth. Oh, and what looked like a pair of chop sticks angled into a V pushed into the poor bunny. As she drew nearer, I realized that the bunny was in fact part of an unfinished sweater sleeve and the chopsticks were knitting needles. I asked for Peterl and Kathy’s help to get Sweetpea to release the partial sweater. Sweetpea milked the game of “Catch me if you can” by dashing past our friends (but friends for how much longer) in their attempts to grab her. Eventually Sweetpea released the knitting and I scooped it up. It looked none the worse for wear except for some loose grass that I removed. I followed the yarn to a neighbor’s yard two door away. The yarn was attached to a skein sitting in a tote bag on their garage floor. The attraction was two bowls of dog food which she must have discovered during one of her disappearances.
Sweetpea’s least favorite playmate was a black lab named Bear. His name well suited him as he was strong and muscular and rowdy. During the time I was in his yard overseeing the two dogs play, I had a glove ripped and another time I was knocked over by Bear to the extent that my glasses went flying and I was leveled to the ground. When Sweetpea could not “bear” Bear any longer, she removed herself from him by lying on the grass near the outside boundary line of the invisible fence. Bear could not cross the line without getting zapped. He yelped and moaned but Sweetpea held fast. I felt proud of her because I thought he had a thing coming to him. Jerry and I imagined that Sweetpea was having the last laugh at Bear’s misfortune. Maybe only humans like to get revenge but we would like to think Sweetpea did that day.
My last story involves Sweetpea and her friend Liberty, a yellow lab. My husband had walked Sweetpea to Liberty’s home for play in their spacious wooded back yard that had a creek running through it. Liberty was waiting at the dining room window and signaled the family’s baby sitter that Sweetpea was arriving. Out sprung Liberty from their front door and the two pals darted to the back yard for their rough and tumble play. To cool off, they would break through a thin layer of ice on the creek and submerge themselves in the chilling water. This particular day, however, after a brief chase, Sweetpea left the property and Liberty who was not wearing her collar ran after her. My husband called me to help him find the two run-a-ways. Immediately after his call, our phone rang and a neighbor called to say, “We have Sweetpea here in our garage and she brought a friend with her. They have polished off our dogs’ food and they look very pleased with themselves.” I inwardly groaned. Can you believe my bad luck? It was the needle knitting neighbor. Fortunately she found their escapade funny.
Today Sweetpea is twelve year’s old. She continues to stalk bunnies, can sprint short distances and teases the daylights out of us. She no longer takes off on us and is content to sit under a tree when we do yard work. The neighbors all know her but not as “trouble.” I must admit that she is the best loved dog in our neighborhood
copyright Sandra Gurev, 2014
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