Seeing as I had two Labs, I always wanted them to be adventure dogs. Labs are bred for hunting, right? I am no fan of hunting, but I did expect that there was some sort of innate spirit of adventure borne in all Labs. Like the idea of “bite inhibition” or “soft mouth,” that thing where a Lab is really good at retrieving (duh) without injuring the prey in its mouth. Some can even carry an egg without breaking it. Dex certainly got that –not the egg part of course (food!), but the soft mouth. He didn’t HAVE to destroy things, and he had enough dexterity to gently open laptop bag using the zipper. He could also be quite gentle with a toy when he wanted to be. Stuffed animals often fared well for a quite a while. Where Zeta would rip them to shreds and pull out the stuffing immediately, he’d carry them around like a security blanket.
On the other hand, it was nearly impossible to find a chew toy that he couldn’t mangle. We’d laugh outright at toys claiming they were indestructible. Ha! They clearly didn’t test these with Dexter. The thickest Nylabone was no match for Alligator Jaws. Tennis balls were a joke. He could easily squeeze open the largest Kong to get out whatever was inside there.
Soft mouth aside, he absolutely was NOT an adventure dog. The primary obstacle was the car. No matter how many non-vet car rides we’d take, being in the truck always represented something scary to him. Rides down to the surgeon were very long – about 30 minutes. He had a long while to get more and more anxious. This was a place of incredible pain. They did some really unimaginable things to him – all for the greater good and a better quality of life, but very painful and very scary.
So very early on, he became terrified of the car. Dexter was a nervous shitter. Car shits. Frightened shits. Excited shits. Soup shits. Shits with coins in them. Pretty much, intense emotion gave him diarrhea. It was hard to fault him really, but it’s amazing how much of our lives revolved around the poop. I don’t know how many people have had to clean dog shit out of their
automobile before, but it is a very, very unpleasant task. It is truly awful to ride in a car after the dog has shat all over the upholstery and then walked all over it in a terrified fit. You can tell how much you love a dog by whether you kick them out after a car-shitting episode, or just go along with it. Generally, we just went along with it. But after the first time, we carried 1) paper towels, 2) cleaning solution, 3) plastic bags and 4) rubber gloves at all times. At. All. Times.
Side note about dog crap (skip if squeamish): Dexter eventually became the dog that could pass literally anything. Plastic bags. Small plastic items. Coins. The daily Poop Report (after Hubby cleaned the cow pies) often featured highlights of Dexter’s gastric journey. “Milk carton lid today.” “Did Dex get a piece of tin foil?” “I guess Dexter’s system doesn’t like carrots.” My understanding is that most dog owners have this sort of poop report, but perhaps not. Not the best dinnertime conversation, though often quite entertaining, like a daily treasure hunt.
But back to the car. Eventually, things evened out some. Two things happened. First, Dexter decided the he really did want to go on an adventure. He desperately wanted out of the house and decided the car was the first step. I guess we took enough non-vet trips that he knew there was a possibility (however remote) that there was no doctor involved. He had the route to both vets (our local vet and the surgeon) memorized so at some point in the ride I think he realized he wasn’t going to the torture chamber.
Second, we came up with a process that helped keep things smooth.
- Take a walk before the trip, if possible.
- Walk out the door, head to the front yard. Wait for the crap.
- Get in the car, start it up and go.
- Roughly one block later, stop the car at the park
- Get out of the car, run to the park and let Dexter crap or pee.
- You may now go on your way.
Add to that our heightened awareness of the difference between the normal insane bark and the “Oh my god I’m going to shit any minute, STOP THE CAR STOP THE CAR STOP THE CAR!” bark, and you had a much better recipe for adventure. Or at least a less nasty trip.
This did NOT mean he was going to be an Adventure Dog, however.