Our ferocious watchdog puppy
I’m approaching my 66th birthday, so our family is going through many of the same issues that others of my generation are experiencing. It’s just that so far nothing has turned out exactly the way everyone, including me, would expect. Things have worked out well, but not as planned. This is when it helps to be 65 years old--you realize just how big a role random chance plays in life, and how no degree of planning will guarantee a particular result. We know we have to remain adaptable, changing course when necessary, and keep a sense of humor.
About three years ago my wife and I began discussing having my in-laws move in with us, and about one year ago, that plan came to fruition, sort of. The background story is that we sold our family home, a 1790s brick farmhouse on a lake in central Massachusetts, and purchased a new home, with a potential in-law apartment, in a neighboring, more rural town. Nothing unusual in the concept, but from there things veered off track.
First off, we upsized instead of downsizing, which was not our original intent but we were getting desperate. We had sold our nice family home immediately, even before listing it, and then couldn’t find a suitable new house right away, so moved in with my wife’s parents, putting all our belongings in storage. Eighteen long months later we were still there, when we finally found our new ‘dream house’--it's much bigger than our old place, more expensive than we'd anticipated, and was situated out in the country, on what had been a horse farm (we don't have a horse). Our new home is on a rural street on six acres and bordered on all sides by forests and conservation land—it’s gorgeous but isolated. As an aside, of course the new house came furnished, meaning we paid to move and store our old furniture for nearly two years, and then used hardly any of it.
This rural isolation resulted in me successfully making the case that we needed a watchdog. At this point we already had a dog, but he was a ‘challenged’ pug, making him the worst watchdog imaginable. Our pug, which we rescued, is relentlessly affectionate, but can only hear in one ear, can’t see well, and is not the fastest learner I’ve ever seen. It literally took him until age 6 to learn his name (Pugsley), but even now, due to his lack of stereophonic hearing, if you call him and he realizes he should respond in some way, he’ll run off in a random direction, not knowing where the sound is originating. This makes him look even dumber than he actually is.
Pugsley is not much of a watchdog
Perhaps more on Pugsley in a future article. For now I’ll write about Scout, our watchdog. Scout is a tremendous, loyal dog now, but the unfortunate thing about getting a dog is that you generally start with a puppy, and it was the puppy stage that made me seriously wonder if perhaps it would have been more cost effective and less nerve wracking to take my chances with a burglar. Here is a comparison to determine which is worse, a watchdog puppy, or a burglar.
Certainly on the plus side, a burglar gets a zero. There’s nothing good about a burglar, aside from not having the bad attributes of a puppy. On the other hand, puppies have some good qualities—they are cute, playful, and above all, eventually turn into dogs, and dogs are great. However, puppies have lots of bad qualities too, and it’s those that made me wonder what I was thinking when I decided that we needed a dog for this new homestead.
First off, Scout is a peculiar mix, which makes her a great watchdog and a very ambitious puppy. She’s half German Shepard, and half Red Bone Coon Hound. I had never even heard of a RBCH before owning half of one, but I do think that side of her contributes to the general level of excitement she brings to our household.
Shoes as chew toys
So here’s a list of bad things our puppy did that a burglar would not typically do:
Scout chewed anything containing foam rubber. That particular taste in chew toys resulted in our real sunroom furniture being replaced by lawn furniture, as she ruined all the cushions on our nice set of real sunroom chairs and sofa, strewing foam rubber and fabric fragments all over the place. It’s around $800 or so to replace those cushions, which we won’t spend until Scout is a dog for at least a year. A burglar would be hard pressed to find $800 street value worth of stuff in our house to rob.
A destroyed pillow next to lawn furniture, since real furniture was chewed up
Scout chewed a lot of other things too. It’s unlikely a burglar would chew huge pieces of Styrofoam and a bag of kitty litter in our workshop, creating a virtual snow storm of white and grey particles everywhere.
Carnage in the workshop
She expressed her creative side by chewing up a dozen or so colored pencils.
The artist as a young dog
Moving outdoors for more puppy destruction, as part of the purchase of our new home a new septic system was installed, resulting in our yard needing a lot of hydroseeding. A burglar wouldn’t have dug holes in our newly planted lawn, but our puppy did. Scout seems to like anything having to do with dirt, which is perhaps why she would constantly dig up freshly planted flowers in the yard. Only at our place did plants need to be replanted an average of three times.
A meteor crater (or dog hole) atop our new septic system leach field
Scout created a reproduction of the Western Front during WWI
And although a burglar might have a pierced tongue these days, to complement the tattoos, we wouldn’t have had to pay for it, while we did get charged for Scout’s piercing removal. She discovered a porcupine in our yard, resulting in just one quill stuck in her mouth, smack though the middle of her tongue. We’re not sure how she pulled this one off…..maybe trying to lick the porcupine? This led to yet another trip to the vet, to complement the other array of shots and pills and ‘getting fixed’ we’d already paid for. Strangely, Scout was happy on the trip to the vet, and didn’t seem to mind (or even notice) that she had this big quill flopping around through her tongue.
Scout punk rocking with a quill through her tongue
Both burglars and puppies are very impolite, but even here it’s a close call which is worse. Of course breaking into a house displays a complete lack of civilized values, but if you think about it, puppies are even worse, defecating at random around the house, muddy paws jumping up on people, climbing on furniture when they shouldn’t, while shredding everything and shedding everywhere. Plus Scout “breaks in” too—besides creating permanent entrances though our screen doors, she’s also learned to open doors, so just lets herself in….and never shuts the door behind her.
Scout helps open boxes left outside by UPS, like this one from L.L. Bean
But in answer to our original question—which is better? ……even though it might not be logical, I’ll take our puppy over a burglar any day. Soon enough (or not soon enough) Scout became a loyal, obedient, affectionate dog who prevents burglaries, while a burglar will most likely always be a burglar.
Must have been an emergency
Does that look like a burglar or Scout making off with the baby swimming pool at 6:30 AM, waking us up with weird scratching noises?
Epilogue: Scout is now a good watchdog who chases off coyotes and turkeys that stroll through the yard. However she really likes people, so it's lucky she looks like a German Shepard. That's the best kind of watchdog--barks authoritatively and looks scary, but won't actually bite anyone.