Thursday, April 16, 2009

Doggie quirks

Today marks the six-week anniversary of the day we brought Montana home. Opinions vary, but a lot of people have told us that it takes rescue dogs a little over a month to really settle in and become comfortable in their new homes. We have definitely seen signs of that with her.

When we got her, she had spent about ten weeks in the prison program, working with four different inmate handlers. Before that, she spent a short period of time with a puppy mill rescue program. And before that, it's anybody's guess. She's not purebred, so it seems unlikely that she was used for breeding in a puppy mill, but you never know--and certainly she had never before been in a stable, loving home. She's three or four years old. When she came to the prison program, she was timid, hesitant, and not spayed. She did not know how to act around people or other dogs. She refused to play with or even look at toys and balls. She was defensive and would never put herself in a vulnerable position.

When we got her, she had made improvements but she still displayed a lot of those characteristics. Over the past six weeks, she has learned to relax, to play with other dogs, and to even play with the occasional toy. She has learned to bark and generally verbalize, and she has learned not to be so clingy. She will even willingly roll on her back to have her tummy scratched. She is a lot more sure of herself now, and she is definitely coming out of her shell.

Still, she definitely has some bizarre habits/quirks remaining. Some of them we are certainly hoping will fade with time. Others I would cry if she lost, because they are just so damn cute.
  • People, especially Torsten and me, are the most important thing to her. We come before food, before peeing, before playing. She needs lots of reassurance and lots of love.
  • She is a total nuzzler. She likes to rub her face against us, anywhere she can reach--legs, stomach, whatever. When she gets in her dog bed she will usually bury her face in the pillowy side and roll all around.
  • She likes to know what's going on at all times. She loves to sit on the balcony, checking out everything that's going on in all directions. If she were a person, her favorite pastime would involve sitting in sidewalk cafes, people-watching.
  • She will not eat right away, and not at all if we stand there and watch her. When we put down her food, we have to walk away and ignore her--turning on the TV or picking up a book works best. Still, she will sit there watching us for a minute or two before she starts to eat. If we look over, we can see her big eyes, dark in her white face with her giant ears framing them, peering at us from over the trash can.
  • She has a serious lack of mouth coordination. On the rare occasions when we can get her to fetch (and that's been three times so far, so an average of once every two weeks), it takes her several times to figure out how to pick the ball up without dropping it again.
  • Similarly, she doesn't seem to know how to chew big things. She is very interested in large treats such as peanut butter-flavored nylabones, cow's ears, and rawhide bones. She will sniff them and sometimes lick them. But she does not understand how to put them in her mouth and chew them. If you break off a small piece of whatever large thing you're offering her, she will eat it, but this still does not teach her that she can have more of the same if she'll just chew on the big thing itself.
  • She likes to hoard treats. A couple times we've given her treats and she's walked down the hall with them, only to return quickly without them. We searched all over and couldn't find them, but as we've been packing up we've discovered a couple things buried in the corners of closets. So far, we have not seen her ever go back to something she's hidden and eat it later.
  • This makes me think that she would be the total bone-burying type. If only she could figure out how to pick up the damn bone with her mouth.
  • She never barks, ever, unless she wants to play with another dog. She is very verbal, though, and makes a variety of adorable throaty noises. She also snores sometimes.
  • She is verrrrrry interested in chocolate, which is scary because chocolate is lethal for dogs. She has already chewed up a couple of wrappers that had once contained chocolate, and snurfled a couple of tiny chocolate crumbs off the floor. So we have to be very vigilant.
  • She's pretty much the cutest dog in the world, ever.
I can't believe it's only been six weeks since we got her. It feels like she's always been in our lives. She makes everything better. She is the perfect dog.

Here, watch her fetch. I'm so glad we took this video because sometimes I need to remind myself that yes, every now and then, she WILL chase a ball.


  1. My little Papito, who I picked-up from the SPCA when he was just eight weeks old has a weird habit of chewing his nails. It's really loud and will wake me up from a dead sleep. I speculate that it's from being separated from his mommy-cat too early, but who knows. He could just be weird.

  2. She's so cute! I love her coloring. That is so sweet about her watching you while she eats.

    Shorty didn't bark for awhile after we got him either. Now he barks at strangers, but he's getting better about that too.

    He also had no interest in toys. Now he has two toy baskets in the house and routinely roots through them to find the "perfect" toy for the day, and then, if we're busy, he'll play by himself, throwing the toy in the air, catching it, running around while shaking it, and even growling at it. It's the best entertainment ever.

    He also does not understand the concept of fetch. He'll get the ball but then run as far away from us as possible to drop it.

  3. She looks like a big galoof chasing after that ball!! Too cute!

  4. Oh! That's wonderful that she's settling in so well. Stella took several months to adjust to our house, and she's still scared of people who aren't us. But she tries really really hard.

    I can't imagine how anyone could mistreat a dog. It breaks your heart if you let yourself spend too much time thinking how they developed those quirks.

  5. Well you'll have to tell Montana to do that more often - the LG could've watched that little video all morning. :)

  6. Cutie doggie. I hope I can meet her some day. Some day when I'm not being totally, completely antisocial (sorry).

  7. I can't believe you've had her for 6 weeks already! It seems as though she's quickly understanding that she's now in a loving home with puppy parents that are not going to abandon her or hurt her.

    A lot of dogs have issues with their eating - so it's really not unusual for her to act the way she does when you give her her bfast or supper.

    The rolling on her back is cute now. Just wait until she's laying there and when you walk by she does it almost demanding a belly rub. Oh hell, who am I kidding, that's cute too!

    Our puppies have trouble with fetch too. And they will only do it in the house down a hallway similar to yours. Some dogs are so weird! (in a good way)

    Don't worry excessively about the chocolate thing. The part that is truly dangerous is pure chocolate -like Baker's Chocolate. I mean, I wouldn't go give her a bag of hershey kisses, but if she eats a wrapper or some crumbs or even one or two small pieces of chocolate, she will likely be fine. Especially since she is likely part lab - bc they apparently have stomachs like steel. haha.

    Congratulations!! Dogs really make great companions. I'm glad that you guys could give her a great life.

  8. It's clear from that video that Montana feels like she's home. And clearly you and Torsten have embraced this being into your lives. Lucky for all parties involved, I'd say.

  9. So cute! Obvs, it's a good idea to keep chocolate (along with other human food) away from the reach of dogs, but don't worry too much about her sniffing empty chocolate wrappers - my dog got into a giant Hershey Kiss that I got for Valentine's day one year, and she was totally fine - that was about 10 years ago, and she's still kicking it hard at 18 years of age.

  10. Aw, look how sweet she is!! She was most likely a stray, with the food behaviors you mentioned. Poor girl. Those things will probably lessen over time and as her trust grows even more.
    As for the chocolate, dogs have to eat a pretty large amount for it to be lethal so if she manages to sneak a piece I wouldn't be too worried. Not that I would give it to her, but, you kwim...

  11. Aww, she is such a cute dog! I love it when animals snore - it is the funniest thing.

  12. I adopted Pudge six years ago, and he still has that need to be close to me most of the time. I'm not sure they ever get over that. And, truthfully, I'm not sure I want him to. He's a great snuggler! I also had a rescued dog once who hid her treats for later--but she did eventually get over that.

  13. Awww, she is such a cutie!!! I lurve her.

  14. Those aren't quirks, it's personality! Dogs are so funny. Montana seems like a great fit. Mine is almost 12 and her quirks have stayed since day 1 (read: she is still bratty. Funny, but bratty).

    - Mon

  15. Cute! I think my favorite part was, "If she were a human, her favorite past times would be..." That is hilarious that she can't figure out how to chew large things, though. Hopefully that one is one she'll grow out of?

  16. Random but, I live in Denver now, we should get together sometime! I love blog meetups

  17. She looks like a very happy doggy! All dogs take time to adjust- but as long as they are in a loving place, most of them will do fine!
    As for the chocolate- I'd not worry too much, my family's dog once ate almost a KILO!!! of my dutyfree Cadbury's milk chocolate which I had left on my desk when I was 11 or so. He died over ten years later at the ripe old age of 15 :รพ So not immediately deadly

  18. My favorite:

    "This makes me think that she would be the total bone-burying type. If only she could figure out how to pick up the damn bone with her mouth."

    Hee hee. DOGS!

    I am so glad you guys are a family!