Back ... By Popular Demand ...
...the hardest working dog in show business: BUCKY! For fans who thrilled to his rat adventure, here's some Entertainment Tonight on the Buckster:
And that's what he's called, along with Colonel B., babyBucky, dogboy, dogbaby, babyboy and, of course, RATBOY!
But let's talk dog psychology. Jim and Bucky have a battle of wills going in which my role is spectator. In our pack, I've already given up on beta status, with Jim holding onto alpha with clenched fist, Bucky firmly in beta (but always onto movin' on up) and me slipping between gamma and delta, depending on who's in the room.
Jim remembers our dear departed terrier, Saintly Asta, who knew what you wanted before you knew, and did it, looking up fetchingly at you as she batted her long eyelashes. Those days are over.
Bucky is a bit more freewheeling.
Take the command, "Come." B. doesn't like the word command; he sees the human/dog interaction more in terms of ongoing negotiation.
In his mind, Come means: proceed toward the human issuing the verb, come closer, come closer, come closer, VEER OFF ABRUPTLY! And continue doing whatever you were doing before they attempted to interrupt you.
This type of thing has caused Jim to dust off his How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend manual by the monks of New Skete, famed for their German Shepherd training. And he reads it as other men might read porn, wistfully looking at pictures showing dogs who are willing to DownStay just because their master asked them to! Master! Asked! Them! To!
Then there's the twice daily joust, I mean walk to the park. Jim helps Buck into his harness, this contraption recommended by the Zen dog trainer we first consulted (that's another blog installment) that we call his uniform. At this point, he becomes Colonel B. With the donning of the uniform, he assumes an altogether martial air and he is now ready for patrol.
Patrol involves walking our north Seattle neighborhood to Greenwood Park. Many bushes require his minute attention on the way and there is much bristling and growling at any dogs behind fences (they could be chihuahuas, he doesn't care. If they have the temerity to be on his patrol route, they're a threat to national security and he isn't giving anybody a pass).
The harness, I mean uniform, has calmed down the lunging a bit. That was a major concern the first few weeks as, worst case, whenever J and B passed an elderly neighbor walking her Pomeranians, Bucky would go into full attack mode, snapping, barking and lunging at the furballs, who would shrink back behind their senior citizen, who would give Jim a filthy look as she deep-sighed and crossed the street to get away from the man-who-cannot-control-his-dog. Or at least, this is how J saw it. He's sensitive about that. But that's not happening so much now, as the bond has grown between Jim and Bucky.
And that bond is pretty amazing, given this dog's background.
We adopted Buck about seven months ago from an organization in California specializing in placing dogs rescued from Puerto Rico. Administered by a couple who'd been in the military, their site had also shown this majestic shepherd/lab mix -- Bucky -- whose military family had been transferred out of the country. Jim, who'd had a much loved shepherd as a kid, fell in love with the picture and the adoption was arranged, with Bucky traveling to Washington from California.
Only seven years old, Bucky had already experienced more than most dogs do in a lifetime.
When he was thought to be about a year old, the Marine captain who had owned him was hunting and found this beautiful dog in the North Carolina woods, shot through the chest.
The captain got him to a vet, he recovered and became that family's dog -- moving with them to their various posts -- until their transfer out of the country. And then he became ours.
We have no idea what his first year was like. No one does. We only know he has an unreasonable fear of things frying on the stove -- it is virtually the only thing that will make him cower.
We believe that he was very attached to the Marine captain, but didn't have much to do with the rest of that family -- he had been kept on an enclosed porch, so a semi-"outside dog" whose interaction with humans was mostly with that man.
He'd never been taught to walk on a leash, he'd never been taught any "come, stay, down" -- here we had this wonderfully intelligent, virtually untrained (except for housetraining, his record is spotless in that regard) dog in his middle years.
His most comfortable activity was riding in the car. Apparently he and the captain had done a lot of that -- and Buck was used to riding shotgun (a sore disappointment to him when he discovered I'd claimed the front seat and wasn't giving it up).
So it's been seven months of discovery -- and some of it has been wonderful. Jim must take credit for slowly, patiently regaining Bucky's trust in humans -- this is a dog who had been bounced around a lot and, resilient as he is, it took a toll.
Bucky is part of us now. He'll never be a lapdog but he's loving in his own way. And more loving every day -- as he realizes we're not going anywhere and neither is he.
I'm sure there'll be more to say about him ... and it'll be surprising, and sometimes funny. I'll tell him you're interested.