Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Axle Is and From Whence He Came

Axle isn't a pit bull. Sure, that's what his breed is (American Pit Bull Terrier), but that's not what he is. Axle isn't even a dog. In fact, we're pretty sure he's an alien.

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Axle was an afterthought, actually. We had discovered our little Otto was deaf and wanted him to have a "hearing ear" dog - a pup close to his age to hear what he couldn't. Axle came from a breeder. Yes, I know how contradictory that sounds.

Growing up, all of my dogs were older "hand-me-downs" - dogs needing new homes from moving families or the shelter. All I wanted was a puppy, someone I could snuggle and train myself. Getting Otto opened my eyes to backyard breeders and puppy mills, and a lot of other realities.

I'm not opposed to breeders. Healthy, quality dogs have to come from somewhere! What I AM opposed to is backyard breeding, puppy mills, and breeding irresponsibly. I could write a whole series on breeders, but this is about Axle.

Axle wasn't my pick. I had picked a red puppy with little white socks. Apparently, that pup was a popular one because the man's girlfriend sold him out from under us. That left us with Axle.

He was cute, but not as cute as my pick, and not nearly as cute as Otto. He slept in the bed with us that first night ...without a single accident, I might add. He and Otto became the best (and worst) of buds. I think we all know that story.

Axle was like a wet spaghetti noodle. Training time was a pain - all he wanted to do was play. I finally got him to learn...or rather perform...sit and no. He learned verbal and hand signs. If there was something he didn't want to do, he'd flop over and become dead weight. (He still does this.)

He had a nasty habit of jumping up and chomping the air like Pac Man while walking next to me. He had to be crated or he would destroy EVERYTHING.  He could open doors, so we had to lock the doors when we let him out. One day, he got so mad that we did this that he climbed the deck, got on the roof, and tried to come down the chimney. There were many days when I hated "that dang dog."

He would insist on getting under the covers, then jetting out when he "let off some steam," leaving us with a nasty smell and no covers.

He was also a pain to house train. Considering how good his first night went, we had high hopes. Instead of waking us up to go out, he would get off the bed, use the hardwood floor, then get back in bed.

He was also a thief. One day, he stole the bag of dog food, finished it off, then sat by the bag like an innocent angel. He'd steal sandwiches, chips, even grapefruit slices.

I kept working with him, regardless of my oft not-so-kind thoughts toward him. He was doing really good except for jumping and a few other minor things, so off to PetSmart we went.

The PetSmart training worked out great. Axle learned not to jump, and to be calm around approaching strangers. Maybe there was light at the end of the tunnel yet.

At some point in our relationship, Axle and I had our "moment," you know, when you look at something or someone and feel all warm and fuzzy. I thought, "Maybe he's not so bad after all."

As Axle got older, things seemed to magically fall into place - going to the door to let me know he needed out, staying calm for greetings, and walking politely on the leash. He would listen when we told him to sleep in his own bed, though he still loves to sneak back in ours around 2 AM. The next thing I knew, Axle was over a year old and had become a beautiful and wonderful pet.

I can honestly say I love that dog. Axle is so loving, even when I didn't like him. He's incredibly loyal and understanding. I wouldn't trade him for anything.

The experiences I've had with Axle have nothing to do with his breed, and everything to do with his individuality. I don't think he's aware that he's even a dog. He rides in the car with his seatbelt on, sits in chairs like a person, and fully expects to be treated like part of the family when we have company.

The things he does sometimes makes me think he's an alien. He often holds his ears like pigtails, so obviously he has an alternative way of hearing. He uses mind control to make people in stores fall in love with him. He plays referee when the kittens play too rough with each other. He climbs into the attic just to see what's up there. He puts his toys back in the basket. He touches his leash with his nose when he wants a walk. Sometimes, he even hovers in mid air for a split second while jumping from couch to floor in pursuit of the ball.

Yes, Axle is probably an alien, but he's my sweet, smart alien. Looking back now, he's always been a good dog, he just needed a little work to become a great dog. (Or alien.)


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