A favorite saying of mine is from John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy”—“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In my life, today, that usually means Booker.
Booker is a mixed-breed dog we got last year from the Sterling Animal Shelter, after a number of years of having no dogs. My husband swore we were done with dogs, while I was never quite so sure. My grandchildren’s favorite story is the one about how we got Booker—especially the part where my curmudgeon husband says, “This is a great dog! Let’s get him today!” (The shelter won’t hold dogs for would-be buyers, and before meeting Booker, my husband had insisted that if there was any remote possibility that we would get a dog, it wouldn’t be that day, because we were planning a yard sale for the following day and he didn’t want to be dealing with a new dog.)
As with any mutt, Booker’s ancestry is a question. We feel certain a big component is German shepherd, but the rest is anybody’s guess. He’s sort of shepherd-shaped, except for his ever-wagging tail, which tends to curl upward, like an Akita’s. His facial markings seem collie-like to me—a black face with a strip of white down his nose—but his head and face are not long and slender like a collie’s. Although one of his short ears stands up like a shepherd’s, the other is flopped over like a collie’s. We’ve noticed that when Booker’s “on alert” a strip of hair running down his spine stands straight up on end. Might this be a throwback to Rhodesian Ridgeback ancestry? When we take him for walks, people frequently comment what a nice-looking dog he is and ask me about his breed. I usually tell them he’s a mutt, but one woman suggested I make up a name that sounds more pure-bred. So I’m leaning toward an Akita Ridgeback Shepherd.
Booker enjoys his first experience with snow last winter.
Booker has been a great dog from the start and has been quick to learn things, whether we’ve taught them on purpose or not. It didn’t take him long to figure out that after I’ve eaten my breakfast, I habitually head upstairs to the office to check my e-mail. I realized this one day when I saw him dash to the stairs as I headed in that direction with my mug of tea. Now all I have to say is “Want to go to the office?” and he grabs a toy to take with him and races up the stairs. He will lie on the floor contentedly playing with a toy or chewing a bone for hours while I work. I usually make him take his toys downstairs when we leave—I carry one and he carries one—but the office floor is still often littered with playthings he has left there—a ball, a rag, or a couple of munched-on rawhide bones.
Something else he learned pretty quickly was the cat’s name—KT Kitty. And he’s fascinated by her. Even after a year, he still doesn’t know what to make of her and loses his mind when she comes near him, emitting that obnoxious high-pitched doggy whine while racing around like a maniac. I think he’s hoping she’ll play with him, but so far she hasn’t caught on. If you say “KT Kitty”—or any variation—in his presence, his ears go up and he looks around expectantly for her.
One thing we did teach him early on was to ring a bell we hung on the back door when he needed to go out to do his business. He understands the importance of “doing his thing” outside, and if we don’t hear the bell or we’re to slow to come when he rings it, he barks, and if that doesn’t work, he runs into whatever room we’re in and gives us “the look.” If I’m in the office at the computer, he nudges my mouse hand until he gets my attention. When we finally catch on and ask, “Want to go out?” he races to the door, in case there’s any question.
Booker caught on to the bell trick almost immediately, and just as quickly trained us to take him out whenever he rings it. I can tell you my husband and I have both answered our share of false alarms. I think Booker would tell you his training of us is going very well. When he puts his chin on my husband’s leg at the dinner table, giving him those “puppy eyes,” it’s sure to draw a hearty laugh—and a treat from my husband’s dinner plate.
Booker is a great watch dog. He’s very wary and is always peeking out the window panel next to the front door to see what’s going on. If there’s anything suspicious, he starts barking. I have to open the door and let him see what’s happening and tell him “It’s OK” before he’ll settle down. When people come to the door, he has a ferocious bark, but when they enter, his tail goes into super-wag mode and he has to jump and lick everyone. I have to just about wrestle him to the floor to keep him from jumping—despite having trained him and tested him in obedience classes. The sight of my grandkids can set his mind in “forget-the-sit-stay-commands” mode in a heartbeat, while a lick-fest ensues.
Booker enjoys some laptime with the grandkids (glowing eyes and all ...).
I find that I never accomplish in a week what I set out to do. When I reflect on why that might be, I see Booker ringing the bell, chasing the cat, nudging my computer mouse hand, or barking at someone walking past our house. But I have to confess that my husband and I really love this 47-pound lap dog that makes his way onto the couch to snuggle with us every evening.