Friday, December 11, 2009

Wish They All Could Be California Girls

For Karen and me, not much good came out of Los Angeles in 1984. We'd moved there without a plan, with our two dogs, Lyric and Holden, and were soon overcome by a fear and loathing of the mass of humanity we found ourselves amidst. We decided that the logical reaction to our new found misanthropy would be to increase the canine to human ratio in our household. We decided to get a puppy.

There were two primary rationales for getting a puppy. Lyric, the Seeing Eye dog, was smart, young and strong, everything a German shepherd should be. Our other dog, Holden, was a fat, dim-witted, beagle mix, and he was simply not an ideal playmate for her. Often, in her fun, Lyric would send Holden sprawling, and we didn't want him to get hurt. We wanted Lyric to have as full a life as possible, and we thought that should include a relationship with a dog with which she could have some parity. Forcing her to play with Holden seemed like forcing Bobby Fisher to play chess with Sling Blade (look, he liked fried potatoes, OK?). It couldn't be very satisfying for Lyric.

Furthermore, Sling Blade…I mean, Holden, needed another dog, too, we believed. Though he may have been satisfied with Lyric as a playmate, since Lyric was a guide dog, when we went out, Holden would be left alone. Holden was a bad boy when left alone, prone to tremendous acts of destruction, and we reasoned that if he wasn't left all alone, but had a better behaved dog keeping him company, then maybe that would help him straighten up and fly right. We knew even then that was unlikely, but, who knows, maybe.

Let me say right now that both of the above rationales were based on false premises. After thirty years as a dogman, I'll say, with some certainty, that an intelligent dog does not need an equal for a playmate, and, with total certainty, that leaving a good dog home alone with a destructive one is much more likely to corrupt the good one than it is to mend the ways of the bad. But, back in 1984, we were at the beginning of our learning curve, and those two reasons for getting another dog seemed reasonable enough.

Anyway, Los Angeles sucked and we wanted a puppy!

We found an ad in the paper and decided to get a three month old, German shepherd/Australian shepherd mix, puppy. We figured this would be a dog that could keep up with Lyric and who might be smart enough to reform Holden. We got to the house, and met both the parents. The father, a German shepherd, was a very friendly, stable, fellow. The Australian shepherd mother seemed just a little "off," but to be fair a couple of strangers were looking over her puppies, so I guess she had every right to be.

There were four or five puppies, but we were instantly drawn to one little grey and white female who seemed more outgoing than the others. We named her Chelsea, and took her away in the car to begin her new life.

Chelsea was not only adorable, she was perfect. She was alert and interested, liked the car ride, and didn't cry for a second when separated from everything she'd ever known. She was infested with fleas, so the very first thing we had to do, before we even brought her in the house, was give her a flea dip.

It's easy to forget now just how awful a problem fleas used to be. Whatever horrifying odorless poison is in the Frontline Plus and other flea and tick products we use today is an absolute godsend. Back in 1984, the only way to de-flea a dog was to immerse it in a fluid that stunk like kerosene, let it dry, and then dip the dog again. When we first saw Chelsea, we thought she had some small scabs on her. On closer inspection, we saw they were flea colonies, massed so as to appear solid. The flea treatment had to be traumatic for a three month old puppy, but Chelsea went through the ordeal with a happy dignity.

I haven't thought about Chelsea as a puppy for a long time, and now the memory of her is flooding me with warmth. The pictures that appear with this article are not Chelsea, but they show basically what she looked like then. She was so smart, and happy, and bright-eyed, and eager to join her family.

Lyric and Holden both accepted Chelsea at once, and she was thrilled to have two other dogs to play and live with. Everyone was happy, at least for a while.

Lyric, Holden and Chelsea would live together for the rest of their long lives. Other dogs would come and go, but those three remained the core of the pack for their entire lives. Going to California might have been a bad idea, but when we left, we had our Chelsea, so, as it turns out, something good came out of us being in Los Angeles that awful summer of 1984.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands


who wouda thunk it?? said...

in my experience, dogs only teach each other their BAD habits.... ie, the one that opened the door, taught Cleo-(the one that took things off the counter)how to open the door, so she could teach him how to take things off the counter

lilyruth said...

I truely enjoyed reading such heart warmng story and that it had a Happy ending. I truely loved the pictures you posted and if that is what your dogs look like they are beautiful and your a lucky man to have them. I do not beleive dogs teach other dogs bad habits if the traits are there then thats it but you as their owner can train them to outgrow and learn new good habits. It just takes love and plenty of patience I know I have five dogs who live inside the house and as for fleas take a look at my blog at I have found several home remedies for fleas that really work and are less expensive then advantage or frontline believe me I had to try to home remedies because the other products got to expensive for me to afford and then with five dogs I ws going more broke then I already was on disablitliy. Smile so check my blog out I have lots of home remedies for fleas and other dog skin allergies etc. etc. that really work try them. Like Dawn dishwashing liquid used as a shampoo and left for five minutes also kills the fleas but make sure its the Blue Dawn. Lots of other tid-bits that will be of use to you and your dogs on my blog do check it out. Also know Im new to adgitize but I will adigitze your ads here and look forward to you adgitize my ads. thawks. I added you onto my blogrolls.

Victor Tabbycat said...

So, why no pictures of Chelsea? I lived in LA from birth until college grad and marriage in 1992. I agree; LA sucks. And my neighbors' Australian Shepherds were never taught not to bark, so bark they did, in a concrete backyard, under our bedroom windows, 24/7. Not that I don't like Australian Shepherds, but... Thanks for buying our Entrecard ad; blogging has been lite as work/life/etc has been heavy.

Rich Sands said...

Sadly, all my pictures of everything have been lost to time, circumstance and carelessness. I've just got to work with memory and approximations.

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