Getting to know a new dog is like going on your first blind date after the end of a long relationship. You vividly remember the high points of the relationship just ended — and totally forget all those awkward getting-to-know-you moments you had at the beginning.
For me with Spike, those early days were an unsettling mixture of grief for my late dog Joey, misgivings about whether I was ready for a new dog yet — and uncertainty whether Spike was the right choice for me.
Joey was an elegant, fine-boned, long-legged, Cary Grant-like terrier mix. Spike is a stout, short-legged, Brussels Griffon mix with patches of short black and brown fur mingled with long, flowing coarse white hair. (Think Danny DeVito sedated.)
Joey was aloof and reserved despite all efforts to socialize him. He had a terrier’s prey drive, loved treats and learned quickly what to do to earn them.
Spike is placid; he readily comes to people for petting. Cats, squirrels and toys that roll have no interest for him. He’s not interested in treats; doesn’t know any basic commands and is much lower energy than Joey.
I purposely picked a new dog that was different than Joey, hoping that it would help me see the new dog on his own merits instead of standing in Joey’s shadow. But the differences only highlighted that Joey was one-of-a-kind — and now gone forever.
As the past weeks have unfolded, I’m discovering that Spike also is one-of-a-kind. I’m becoming enchanted with his round, almost-human brown eyes. I’m vicariously joyful watching his excitement about going out for a long walk in the morning. I’m enjoying brushing his piebald fur in the morning after his breakfast — checking for burrs he may have picked up, arranging the star of silky white fur on his round forehead and admiring the watercolor-like circle of short brown fur shading into black on his right side.
I’ve given him the collar I won in a raffle from L.A. Saddlery. It was custom-made for Joey who never wore it. (It required a harness to attach a leash to. Joey hated the handling involved in putting on a harness. Spike, who has always worn a harness and has no problem having his legs handled, wears the new collar well — on the very last hole for the buckle.)
Spike is changing, too. He’s no longer the politely confused dog of the first couple of days wondering what he was doing in my house. He’s starting to anticipate the routines of the household. He’s eating a little better as I discover his tastes. There’s even been a little interest in treats. We’re signed up for obedience classes in mid-July.
We’re both starting to enjoy the process of going steady again.