“I am not a dog person.”
That’s what I wrote in my journal on December 7, 2009. Less than a year later, I became a dog person.
Our family adopted a dog – a German Shorthair/Black Lab cross – from the Morrison County Animal Humane Society after hearing a three-hour car-ride cajoling from our youngest child on why we should have a dog. Not least among his arguments was that he had wanted a dog for a long time, years and years, back to the time when he was in kindergarten, although he had never asked for a dog then.
We chose a puppy from a group of three siblings. There were two males and one female in the pen, all of whom were black but had slightly different fur and ears and personalities. We were later introduced to another sibling, who looked nothing like the other three in terms of coloring. He was white with the typical black spotting of a German Shorthair. We let our son have the final say and he chose one of the all-black males, the one called Tom who didn’t have a collar. Tom was named Aleksandr by our son, who insisted on the Russian spelling of the name.
Aleksandr is the first dog we’ve had that I have formally tried to train. We had previously adopted a dog from the Humane Society in St. Cloud when our daughter was a toddler (before our youngest son came along), but we didn’t have the dog long because it was a biter. Between owning that dog and getting Aleksandr, we went from not having cable television or internet in our home to cable with hundreds of specialty channels and high speed internet. With dog training shows such as “Dog Whisperer” with Cesar Millan and “It’s Me or the Dog” with Victoria Stilwell, along with the ability to search for dog training tips online, my knowledge of dog behavior has increased. These resources allow me to find solutions to any dog-related problems that arise.
We have long owned cats and currently have three of them in the house. The difference between interacting with cats and dogs is immense, with dogs taking much more time. The most labor intensive task is walking the dog, which we do twice a day because Aleksandr is a high-energy breed. I do the bulk of the dog-walking in our household (hmm, who asked for the dog?), which has allowed me to see things around Little Falls that I never used to see.
Our dog is skittish around unfamiliar dogs and people, so I’ve gotten to be very good at reading dog signs on our walks. Scouting for paw prints, dog scat, and barking from backyards or in houses makes me feel like an urban naturalist. Based on what I’ve observed, there are lots of dogs in Little Falls. What surprised me, having walked Aleksandr almost every day through this very long Minnesota winter, was how few dog owners I saw out walking their pooches. I heard some awfully deep dog woofs coming from inside houses. Surely, those big dogs need exercise, even in winter. Now that it’s warming up, I’m seeing more dogs and their owners out for a stroll.
Another thing I do while on our walks is study the architecture of homes. I can spot older houses tucked among newer homes, which makes me wonder about the timing of development. Roof details, siding, windows, yard art, and exterior buildings pique my interest. My husband and I walked by a building that on first glance looks like a house, particularly the siding, but a set of double doors with a red warning sign and some odd vents and roof equipment made us pause. If this was a house, there were strange things going on there. A search of the Morrison County government’s property records online revealed that it was one of the city’s municipal buildings. Ah, the stuff one learns while walking the dog!
One thing we don’t have in Little Falls is a dog park, a neutral, fenced ground that allows dogs and their owners to meet each other while the dogs are off-leash. Dogs in the city are to be on a leash or behind an enclosure at all times, which is a good thing for keeping dogs from rushing up to other dogs or people, but not so good from a dog socialization standpoint.
The other thing I haven’t pinned down yet is whether there are dog obedience classes available in Morrison County. There are a number of things Aleksandr still has to learn, like how to properly meet people and dogs and how to stop pulling on the leash while we are walking. He’s a good 60 pounds to my 110 pounds, which means he can pull me wherever he likes. As a new dog owner, I still need help with certain training techniques, but it appears that the closest place to get that help is St. Cloud. With all the dogs in Little Falls, surely there is a market for some enterprising dog trainer.
We adopted Aleksandr on October 7, 2010, and have had him almost six months. In that short time, he has completely upended our household routine. In so doing, he has turned me into a dog person. I’m blaming it on his beautiful brown eyes and soft, floppy ears.