Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A paean to Vargas, she of the obdurate spirit & massive mug.

So, Vargas.

I'm appreciating the evolution of my relationship with her--which, let's be honest, is really just my attitude towards her. She remains as aloof, resentful, long-suffering, indifferent as ever.

She was the dog I came home with when I went looking for a replacement for my beloved, extremely crazy husky Watt. I was done w/ sled dogs, with all that hair. Early '00s internet research wasn't as thorough as it is today. Dog books and internet info sent me toward the bullmastiff, 'nightwatchman's guardian' etc ad nauseaum. Breeders and 'fanciers' all have some special trait that makes each particular favored breed unique, but it's all the same pablum. Watch Dogs 101 and consider how similar each breed's 'unique' traits are.

I did pick the least-active puppy in the pen, the most indifferent to visitors--because I liked her color. (Yes, shame on me.) All the research about how awesome and active these dogs are was bullshit. Basically, they eat a lot, crap a lot, and sleep a lot. Period. I wanted a dog to play with, to do stuff with. According to all the insider information I found, the bullmastiff is the perfect dog for...everything.
From there, I went searching for training classes, ran into the worst clicker trainer on the planet, and found myself in Hudson, Wisc., for what's been a six+ year run w/ serious dog training, protection dog work, sport dog competitions, crazy dog people immersion. I'm grateful to Vargas for that.
Of course, training her for basic obedience was hellish. No food drive, no ball drive, no toy drive... just stolid indifference, and waiting until I went away so she could go back to sleep.

She is, largely, the best pet dog for 90% of most people--provided they don't let her eat their winter storage. She sleeps in, goes out & potties, gets excited for breakfast, forgets she's eaten breakfast and gets excited all over again, then sleeps until the next meal-time. Period.

She smells horrible, despite baths. She drools enough to have scarred the walls w/ miscellaneous semi-solid slobber. But she's sweet and mellow and has been perfect for the girls, Harper especially.

Vargas isn't dying, but she's not young. I see her legs wobble more frequently as she rises or attempts the stairs. She's eight or so, I don't really remember. That's good for a bullmastiff. I expect she'll outlive me, just for spite.

I got a presa in exchange for training at the kennel in Hudson, and rehomed Vargas. The presa grew up to be an ass, and with my schedule, there was no one in the house while I was on shift to make him behave. I/we don't need that. He threatened two babysitters, and that was it. I want a dog to be part of the family, not a threat to it. I got Shrike, the superlatively Malinois-crazy Malinois, and he's as sweet as can be, but he, too, is loaded to the gills. He's good with the girls, but he's a true risk from sheer energy. He's three and a half and no one but me can walk him. I'm bummed that, again, a family dog w/ working drive escapes us. Largely, it's my schedule. If I weren't on 24 hour shifts, it'd be far easier to manage the dog at both ends of the day, but when I'm gone, it's understandable that he gets bored. Still, he's sweet w/ the girls and generally quiet and mellow when kenneled.

When Shrike was 18 or 20 months, we got a call from the pound: the people who had Vargas had dropped her there w/o calling us; her microchip still had my number so I went out & reclaimed her. She'd just been too much of a lazy pig for them: wouldn't go out to potty but pooped all over the house; ate all the food she could scrounge from counters and such. I couldn't let her get put down over that, so back she came. What a juxtaposition: skinny, twitchy, high-drive Shrike & The Hippo, Vargas. I would get mad at her for being such a big lug, for stealing food and being a pain in the ass. She had a phase where she started crapping in the house, no matter how often I put her out. Then I feared I would have to put her down, but she stopped as randomly as she started.
Recently, as my frustrations with Shrike's endless hyperdriven energy have revealed that, despite my best intentions, it's not easy to raise a working dog in a non-working dog family, not with my schedule, I've come to appreciate Vargas. She is. Yes, yes, yes, yes, she is. She endures.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this piece. One more thing about Vargas: she's the only big dog who does not scare me or jump on me, and that goes a long way with this cat lady.