It is not lost on me that the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has crossed my mind and vocal cords often during the past 60 years.

Today, I took Gillis, the 56-pound puppy on our daily walk. When we got on the path in the park, where there are loads of woods and green fields, I took Gillis off his leash. I wanted to let him run and get some of his abundant energy out of him. Wearing him out in the morning makes the day go better for the rest of us in the house.

I was walking along quite cocky and confident as Gillis would move ahead of me 10-15 yards, sniff at some grass near the sidewalk and then look to see where I was on the path. Sometimes I will stop in my steps to let him get ahead and then he’ll come back to where I am standing. He does that quite well. As long as he is not distracted.

What I had not banked on was that a few minutes after I let him off the leash, Gillis saw a rabbit jump out of its warren and run for the woods and brush like a scalded tomcat. If  he had been on a leash at that moment, I would have been dragged to death like a charioteer in “Ben Hur.”

Gillis covered with stickers

I stood there for a few moments to watch him go through the thick grass and the woods. Finally, he emerged from the woods. My expression of pride changed dramatically to horror! This picture will show you a bit of what I saw. He looked like someone had poured sesame seed salad dressing all over his body. He was covered with thousands of stickers. And I do mean multiple thousands. He had so many stickers that the white part of his coat was grey with the stickers. It was particularly heavy and thick around his nose and muzzle.

I got him back on the leash and we headed home. When I got home, I doused him with water and began using our dog brushes to comb out the stickers. It was a daunting task, to say the least. It was also a pain in the ass. Not like the damn dog wanted to help me out in any way. He jumped back and forth, but after an hour and a half, I had a good portion of his back cleaned. But his undercarriage, legs, muzzle and butt were still covered with gazillions of these stickers.

As I tried to begin working on his muzzle, his contrariness began to demonstrate itself significantly. Patti and I finally decided we needed to get him to a groomer because, more than likely, he needed to be shaved of these bothersome monsters.

When we got him to the groomer, we confirmed that they would  first try to comb out the stickers, but if they couldn’t do that, then they would give him a shave. After 2-3 hours, the groomer called and said that Gillis was ready. They also sent the picture below of him — after they had cleaned him up and gave him a bath.

Gillis 'de-stickered'

I was amazed. No more stickers. And, they didn’t have to shave him, either. I can’t fault Gillis for what he did. He saw a rabbit and he loves to chase them. So off he went! Don’t chase a rabbit tomorrow, when you can chase the little devil RIGHT NOW!

So, today, THIS old dog learned a new trick: don’t take the dog off his leash until he is at least a year old and has had SIGNIFICANT leash training. Also, I learned that when Gillis is after a rabbit, his hearing loss is profound. He never heard me when I yelled for him to heel or to come back to the path. No, indeed. He had a singular purpose and we both paid for it with him loaded stem to stern with thousands of the stickers.

So, the next time this old dog takes the young pup for a walk, you can bet that he’ll be on the leash. After all, what kind of master would I be if this dog thought that HE ran things around here?

He’s the one that got the tender-loving care from the groomer and the nifty bath that made him smell like a French poodle fresh out of the spa.

After 11 years, I finally have a “real’ dog.

Most of you who know me, know that for the past 11 years, we have had Macy, a cockapoo.  She is a lapdog. Even though she is Macy, I call her DeeDee, which is short for damn dog.  Sometimes I call her Moose, kind of an oxymoron. She has no teeth and is blind in one eye. Occasionally it is funny watching her bump into furniture.

Macy or "DeeDee"

About 11 years ago at Christmastime, when we lived in Ohio, Casey was 13 and told us that she wanted a kitty for Christmas. Patti and I got her the kitty toys, a litter holder, etc. Then, the day after Christmas we went to the Geauga County rescue center to look for a kitty cat. After just a few minutes there, we noticed that Casey was spending more time with the pups/dogs than the kitties/cats.

Timeout. Patti, Casey and I left the center, went to lunch to discuss this observation. “But I really want a dog,” she said, confessing that she wanted a lapdog because for many years we had black labs. Even though our labs would have been lapdogs if they could have gotten away with it, they weren’t. They were happy to run around outside, chasing chipmunks, possums, squirrels, neighbors’ pets. The labs were “real dogs,” in my vernacular. They chased thrown toys/balls, they ran unceasingly and jumped into the lake and swam to their hearts’ content. They fell asleep at my feet or in front of the fireplace. Yep, real dogs. As I write this, I feel like springing into song, “I am a lumberjack and I’m OK…”

She said that she wanted a cuddle dog, a dog that would curl up in her lap and watch TV with her. She wanted a sissy dog. While any dog is better than a cat (sorry, Kim), we were glad that instead of a cat we were looking at another dog. At the time, we had a black lab named Morgan. Casey did her research and built a spreadsheet (wow, was I impressed), showing the different sissy dog breeds and where we could shop for a lapdog. After some back and forth, she landed on a cockapoo, we found a source and the next thing we knew, we were a two-dog family. I had my “real” dog and Casey had her sissy dog. She named her Macy after the store.

Now, an important part of this story is the fact that small dogs live for quite some time. Another important part of this story is the following: Remember how old I said Casey was at the time we landed Macy? 13. So, if I had had any foresight at all, I would have known that sooner or later, Casey would go to college and she would not be able to take DeeDee (the damn dog Macy) with her.

I used to like syllogisms when I was younger, so knowing that sooner or later, Casey would head off to college, one plus one would mean that the damn dog would be staying home with us. And, THAT is what happened.

Over time, whenever I would come home from work, I would bark out, “where’s that damn dog?” Then, this little waif of a dog would come bouncing out of the woodwork, or out from under a bed, twisting her little tail and jump in my lap. Seems that dogs can sense who in the family is “not a fan.” Then, they work their little demonic doggie  charms and the next thing you know, the dog appears to be “mine.”

To this day, when Casey is visiting and Macy jumps in her lap, if I should enter a room and take a seat, the damn dog will immediately leave Casey’s lap and come to mine. Really ticks Casey off quite a bit, and I can understand, but Casey doesn’t feed her these days. It’s just a simple survival of the fittest thing and Macy knows who in the family is the food distributor.

Well, after 11 years of Macy, I have been yearning for a real dog — a dog I can take on walks, a dog I can sit with outside and read (I’ll read, the real dog will just sit there and look majestic, just like Elsa the lioness in the years ago movie “Born Free”).

So, Patti and I have been doing some research. We loved the labs, so we knew they were in the mix. But we knew they shed, and we had also had a labradoodle in the past (Marty) and Marty was the absolute smartest dog we ever had. And, labradoodles don’t shed. So we started researching the labradoodles. Well, upon a visit to the vet for Macy, the groomer there said she had a labradoodle puppy that was a rescue and he  was free to a good home. At the time, she had named him Sarge.

So, we brought Sarge home and introduced him to the ranch house here in Murphy … and to Macy. This is the first male dog we’ve had in quite some time and occasionally I still don’t get the gender right. “Where is she? What’s she chewing on?” He will probably need therapy by the time we’re finished with him. He’ll have to get over it, I don’t pay for freakin’ dog therapy.

New family member Gillis

Oh, and names. Sarge just wasn’t going to cut it at all. Casey wanted to name him Harper, after Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” So for awhile he was Harper. Then, that just didn’t seem to fit, for one reason or another, and I decided to name him Faith. Yeah, I know it’s a female name, but really true faith knows no gender and that was my reasoning for naming HIM Faith even though Faith is a he and not a she. Well, after that didn’t work, Patti and I went through some names again, and we settled on Angus, because I thought the dog looked a bit like an Irish wolfhound instead of a labradoodle. Then,  I found out Angus is Scottish and not Irish, much to my chagrin. I really liked Angus.

We looked at names again and settled on Gillis because it is Gaelic (Irish) for “servant of Jesus.”  Now, his behavior would not lead anyone to believe that he is a servant of Jesus. In just two weeks, he has already killed a rabbit in the yard,  chewed his crate into raw, unfettered plastic, put his mouth completely around Macy several times. Only by the grace of God, has Gillis not killed the damn dog.

He has found all sorts of items in the house to chew into smithereens. At five months old (and weighing 57 pounds), he has the chewing tendencies. In another week or two when the he becomes an it, the vet has assured us some of the stored energy will subside a bit. Let’s hope!

But he is taking housebreaking very well and is starting to warm up a bit to Macy. The rabbits have gotten much faster in the back yard. We haven’t sprung Gillis on the horses in the barn yet — no sense in rushing that pending apocalypse.

And, I have a partner to take on walks. He is starting to better understand heel, and we walk to the nearest hike/bike trail which goes by a small park. I will stop and read on a bench while he regroups, then after a bit of rest, we will walk further or back home. He is becoming a good walking companion — and I can use the exercise.

Much has been written about the therapeutic value of dogs and pets with people. Yeah, I know that a lot of that has to do with patients in the hospital, or the elderly in nursing homes.  Well, cancer-boy here reminds Patti after Gillis has chewed on something she values that I need Gillis for “therapeutic reasons.” Then, I’ll give her that faint, weak fake cough and say that Gillis is good therapy and the real dog has a home for yet another day.

I think Gillis has found a home.