the new pack
because i’ve been telling every one of my friends that i wasn’t ready to love a new dog following the death of my beloved Pinko last year, two new dogs arrived on my doorstep. was i ready to love them? it doesn’t matter because they were ready to be loved, and that trumped everything else, including my better judgment.
one dog i was somewhat expecting, given that Tico had stated his desire to get his own dog and had been visiting shelters throughout Los Angeles in search of a new best friend. but as his visits dragged on for months without a victor, i dismissed his intention as not being very serious and settled into a new routine with Juice as my main bitch. sure, there were a few contenders, but none of them stuck until one of them finally did. when Tico took me to the North Central Animal Shelter to check out a Weimaraner mix he thought “had potential,” i was skeptical. the dog seemed fearful and unfriendly, never coming too far out of his kennel and toward the gate where we were beckoning him.
i suggested he keep looking, worried that the dog wouldn’t be friendly with us nor other dogs, as i had Juice to consider at home. but Tico remained undeterred, and when the dog finally came up for adoption a week later, a handler took him out of the kennel to meet us. that’s when the magic happened. the dog, now named Indy (in honor of Tico’s childhood obsession with Indiana Jones), was still skittish but also sweet, curious and calm, never once barking or displaying aggression. it was clear he had a few issues that would need to be addressed, but we knew his fear would eventually melt away with a lot of love, patience and guidance.
first meeting at the shelter. sparks flew.
while filling out the paperwork for Indy — feeling equal parts stunned, excited and petrified — delirium must have taken over because we decided to get a second dog. just like that, as though he were a candy bar added at checkout. we spotted another couple playing with him first and marveled at his cuteness. he was an owner surrender brought in that morning, meaning he was up for adoption immediately, as opposed to strays like Indy that had to first hang out at the shelter for a week. we played with him while waiting for the vet to swing by and discuss Indy’s snip surgery and began to feel the familiar pinch of cupid and his arrow again. evidently, lightning can strike twice in the same place, and sometimes within the same hour.
he was an impulse buy, snatched up because 1) he was a Boston Terrier and Tico has always been interested in that breed; 2) he was an adorable puppy that would quickly be adopted by virtue of his adorable puppiness and the savviness that propelled him to lick the face of anyone holding him, so we needed to decide fast. after one minute of excited discussion, we agreed to get him, figuring we would be turning our world upside down with one dog anyway, so why not just go big and ruin our lives with two?
how could i resist this face?
Tico decided to name the puppy Zilla, short for Godzilla (another childhood obsession). it seemed fitting, too, as the puppy showed up like a wrecking ball to destroy everything, just like that overgrown lizard did. within a day, Zilla had been shortened to Z, which is how he’s known now. he is the dog at the end of the alphabet.
beginning of boot camp
beginning of boot camp
i can’t deny that the first week was really, really hard — like really, really. everyone was snapping at everyone else, humans and dogs included. Z’s thimble-sized bladder kept him peeing inside the house, while Indy refused to have a bowel movement for three days. Juice seemed edgy about the new additions and even bit Indy’s snout after i took him on a lengthy walk without her. unattended items were chewed and vets were visited after Indy irritated his remaining ball sack following surgery and again when his nose started leaking mucus, indicating a bronchial infection that required antibiotics.
meanwhile, Tico was trying to Cesar Milan his way through the days between bouts of frustration, while i kept questioning his tactics, having learned a few of my own from raising puppies. the house was a wreck with a strong smell of vinegar (used to mask the trail of dog piss), the dogs’ energies were near explosive most of the time, but especially at mealtimes, and tempers flared as voices rose, with most of the shouting directed at the puppy, who was the epicenter of drama with his inexhaustible supply of energy and mischief. but mostly, we were all exhausted and needed naps.
buyer’s remorse? hell yes.
a month later, the days are still very hard, with probably more bad-to-neutral ones than good ones, as the tally of items destroyed by Indy and peed on by Z grow daily. that’s not to suggest Tico and i don’t love these two idiots — we do more so each day, as evidenced by the fact that we haven’t taken them back to the pound — but we still want to murder them sometimes. case in point: that time one of them (likely Z) got into a bag of baby powder left in the back of the closet and proceeded to dust the entire house with it. our mistake for thinking the puppy had been behaving more, so let’s trust him outside his crate for one hour while we go to Home Depot.
first thought upon seeing this: i’m going to get back in the car and drive away.
my second thought: i should probably go in and kill the puppy first.
Z’s nicknames: crackhead, crazy, the little shit, rata, poop machine, sparky, zeetchka
you’d never guess by looking at that sweet face, but this one is the shit starter. granted, he’s just a puppy, now five months old, so part of his job is to misbehave. i can’t say it’s not endearing sometimes, as his antics can be ridiculously cute, clumsy and innocent. and he does have moments of acting like the Best Puppy on the Planet when he gets kissy-faced and cuddly. so yes, i’m a sucker for that face and think i’m really onto something with my business idea of opening a store to provide puppy therapy to sad stiffs who need a mood-lifter. just a dollar a minute to sit inside a pen with puppies. i think it will make me rich.
i think he’s a Boston Terrier-Chihuahua mix; Tico thinks Boston and Border Collie (because he hates Chihuahuas). he’s roughly 10 pounds now.
Z is exceptionally smart, maybe as smart as Juice, which would be impressive. he learned how to shake, stay and sit after only a few minutes of instruction and is savvy about reading people and other dogs, easily identifying the suckers at the dog park who will feed him treats and the weakest dogs to dominate. he’s tough, fearless, quick, independent and could probably enter any one of your houses and forget that Tico and i ever existed within a matter of hours. he is interested in everyone and everything.
Indy’s nicknames: snake eyes, Indosha, pendejo, chewy, hungry hippo, floppy
Tico picked about 30 ticks off of Indy on his first day home, an exercise that must have cemented a special bond in Indy’s heart because he is now lost whenever Tico steps out of the room. unlike Z, Indy has been hard to train and sort of dopey, with a cartoon face and big head that manage to hit each wall he walks by. he can also be defiant, what i call his "teenager energy," born of frustration when he doesn’t get his way. then, he throws an epic tantrum full of wails that sound like Chewbacca.
i think he’s a Weimaraner and pit mix; Tico thinks Weimie-Lab. vet said he is probably 1.5 to 2 years old and shouldn’t get much bigger. he’s 70 pounds of muscle now.
when at home and relaxed, Indy is a big sugar who wants to cuddle and sleep on top of us to make sure we don’t leave. when we’re up and moving around, however, he becomes a shadow that gets underfoot and seeks out negative attention. once a passive super-champ at the dog park, Indy became rattled after a mastiff bit his head and now becomes aggressive with dogs that try to dominate him. he’s unsure of strangers, men especially, and takes his time warming up to new people. he will not want to enter your house or let you pet him until you offer him several treats and/or Tico or i embrace you to show him you’re not a threat. but once you’re in, he’ll want to sit on your lap.
after some initial sibling rivalry, these two are approaching a happier place and have begun to cuddle more. i’m hoping they join forces and begin to regard Z as their kid, but so far Juice has had to school both the boys.
Juice will turn 13 next month. her nicknames: jooca, joocasheena, big mama J, pretty girl, jooks, the OG.
i assure you that Juice has not been forgotten in this new world order. in fact, she is more critical than ever, helping play trainer and referee with the brothers. her relaxed energy calms all of us down, providing a welcome reminder of how training, dedication and time can transform a dog from beast to best friend. i well remember how, in her first year of life, she climbed onto my parents’ dinner table when no one was looking and ate the roast chicken clean. so when Z has peed yet again 10 minutes after being let outside and Indy has chewed up another item, i’ll calmly whisper to myself, “Juice and the chicken, Juice and the chicken.”
the puppy adores her and often uses her body as his launching pad, pillow and tabletop. she allows it (most of the time).
the brothers have rocked Juice’s world as much as they’ve rocked ours and i’ve find myself asking her daily whether i ruined her life, especially when the house reaches chaotic levels because the puppies won’t CHILL THE FUCK OUT ALREADY. in reply, she’ll lick her chops and look at the cupboard with the dog treats. i always abide, sneaking her plenty when they aren’t looking, and lavishing her with affection and apologies whenever i can. she is a rockstar and a rock.
the boys are ridiculously good-looking. of course, i’m totally objective.
these two know they are the new kids on the block and have bonded in a way that none of us were prepared for. they love and trust each other more than the rest of us outsiders with our dumb rules that limit their collective wrestling, barking, overeating, chewing, jumping, howling, begging, scratching and psychotic episodes that find them slamming into shins and knocking over items as they sprint through the house. they also gang up on dogs at the dog park, with Indy making a mighty display of himself whenever another dog dares to step up to his kid brother.
a well-worn position
tug of war with Tico’s sock.
we’ve had to separate them more to keep the peace and our sanity intact. and when we have, they act like miraculously well-behaved angels. this is troubling because we need to function calmly as a pack, so the focus is now on showing the puppies how to co-exist without needing to chew each other’s faces off. it’s been difficult as their inclination, Z’s especially, is to roughhouse until they rile each other up to satanic levels of barking and body slams, but they will learn, goddamnit, or we will die trying to teach them.
one of the other issues with the brothers becoming so close is that Juice is left out of their clubhouse. i had hoped a new friend would keep her company and stop the uncontrollable shaking she exhibited every time i said goodbye to her before leaving for work in the morning. and the boys have done that, but at 13, she’s not up for puppy playfulness, so she’s left on the sidelines as the buzz-killing matriarch that snaps at them until they stop wrestling and then demonstrates how to share toys. they both respect her, maybe more than they do us, but they rarely engage her in play. i’m hoping this will change as they mature.
but sometimes, all three of them can get in on a good tug-of-war, which warms the cockles of my heart.
other times, the puppy will sleep on my lap while my man sleeps alongside me, and i’ll think, “this is a good time for a selfie.”
bipeds not allowed on couch.
Tico and i have been working well as a team through this despite the usual bickering that characterizes our couplehood. both of us have raised dogs before so we have established parenting styles to borrow from. thankfully, they are more alike than dissimilar and include a lot of Dog Whisperer tricks (Cesar Milan once worked with Juice before he became a megastar). in general, we believe in consistency, consistency, consistency. training during the first few months is intense. this means rewards for good behavior and, yes, punishment for bad behavior (solitary confinement in the crate or on the deck). i’m sure the pups regard us as humorless stiffs, but once we get through the boot camp of learning house rules, we’ve assured them that a better time lies ahead.
if Z could surgically join himself to Indy, i think he would be happy. Indy’s choice would be to surgically join himself to Tico. Juice just wants all the dog treats in the world. Tico wants a motorcycle and i would like a spa day.
somewhere off the 5 freeway, taken on our first road trip together.
Tico is very much the disciplinary dad, while i am the more lenient mom. together, we make the ultimate cliche of gender-based parenting. like all new parents, we have moments when we lose our cool and wonder why we wrecked our formerly breezy life with one old dog. but then we’ll remember that life before the two dummies was not nearly as interesting, challenging or joyful. that’s when we’ll share a smile as the boys wrestle (semi-calmly) at our feet while Juice snores gently nearby. we may even give each other a high-five, proud of how far the new pack has already come, and confident that we can go the remaining distance.
it’s a warm, empowering feeling, usually interrupted by the puppy shitting in the living room.
it’s a warm, empowering feeling, usually interrupted by the puppy shitting in the living room.