01 September 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 5 of 9

Oh, she was cute. So unbelievably cute. In the interest of bringing out her inner sorority girl, I took her everywhere, and she loved everybody and they loved her. Kids, cops, mountain bikers, meth addicts on the corner, nobody was safe from, "My puppy hasn't met anyone in a rainbow poncho carrying a bag of aluminum cans yet today, can she say Hi?" She was a little quirky, but show her a kid, and give that kid a ball, and it was true love, every single time. Banksy thought her name was Ohmygodwhatacutepuppy. Maybe this is the saving grace of all puppies, the soft and squishy little faces and funny little legs.

After a little ice breaking warmup period, known as the Otterpop Be Nice Weeks, the other dogs stopped plotting her return to whence she came. Ruby loves everybody, so that wasn't a big deal as long we we kept Ruby from getting toppled over by manic acrobatics of love. Otterpop warmed up next, border collies are about the only dog on the official list of dogs Otterpop doesn't hate, mostly because most border collies don't care about Otterpop. There's an unspoken mutual work ethic involving tennis balls that allows Otterpop some peace and love in her life. Right away, Otterpop and Banksy formed an alliance regarding the equity of things that roll or fly. Gustavo came around eventually, because it turned out they were both teenage love vampires, falling deep in dog love by biting each other's necks for hours at a time. Apparently this is what true soulmates do, who both have tiny little fangs.

Banksy could learn things, all the time. Good or bad. Banksy's brain was like a fancy handheld device engineered in Cupertino and built in China. They totally had to have based iPhones on border collies. She could do a million things way faster than I could click any button and could do things I didn't even know I had the app for. Sit, lie down, potty training, adorable little tricks, all learned in an instant. My other dogs enjoyed being awarded a scrap of cheese, a little cookie, or a piece of lint for a job well done. Banksy just wanted that ball. Cookies were things to spit out while scanning for the toy with laser beam eyes. There was no teaching her to tug, this was pre-programmed into her operating system. No download necessary.

Any sparkly, fuzzy edged visions I had of my idyllic life with my perfect puppy flew out the door pretty quick. Here was my karmic payback for all the years of teenage rebellion that gave my mom and dad most of their gray hairs. There was no little puppy trailing behind me at work, following me around the pasture or trotting after me in the arena. No cute riding in the shopping cart at Home Depot, chewing a little bone. Happily snoozing in a crate after playing, jumping up on the couch with me and snuggling in my lap? As if. Even though she loved to play, I had this weird feeling she didn't really like me.

My puppy just wanted ACTION. She was ACTION. All ACTION, all the time. She wanted the TOY and she wanted it NOW. Her other hobby besides toys was staring at microscopic things that might move on smooth surfaces. All smooth surfaces, including every single floor in my house. Once she was near smoothness, she'd flop into a down and stare at the first teensy speck of dust she could find, watching it intently in case it might move. It could be a speck of light, a shred of shadow, a granule of sand, or a single hair. She wasn't picky as long as it was teensy. If it did move, tremendous joy of speck attacking! Many people saw cuteness here, great focus, strong herding eye, amazing puppy trick. Maybe this was how one learned Amazing Kreskin super powers. Whatever it was, it was totally creepy seeing her leaving our planet to go into a hypnotic state and definitely not something from my So You're Getting a Puppy itinerary.

The only way to unstare her at first was literally dragging her away to somewhere less smooth. Even a very best toy wouldn't always work to distract her. It looked like an entire Costco aisle threw up all over my house in my efforts to unsmooth our floors with bohemian patchwork chic via chintzy throw rugs. I figured out where the best bumpy, dirty, grassy places were, because that's where we spent most of our time. Thank god our walking forest was blissfully staring free. A very large amount of puppy training time became devoted to figuring out how to convince her staring wasn't as much fun as she thought it was. Taking a walk down our block in the sunshine, where shadows would flicker and actual tiny things were blowing around the street? Hysterical entertainment for anyone walking by and seeing the show. But not for me.

My puppy also thought that being touched and held was a huge waste of time at best, and panic attack inducing at worst. The friendly veterinarian's office, all those nice, dog loving ladies in paw print scrubs with cookies for her? Satan's torture hellpit. Me, her person, would like to pet her, or maybe brush her soft fur? Everybody was going to horribly die at the hand of the evil witch. Perhaps touching her toenails? Perhaps bite the evil witch. Also, she thought the sound of other dogs barking put evil spirits into otherwise banal objects around the house, Otterpop barks, must kill the vase on the table. Fear period? Ghostbuster? Genetic hatred of candlesticks?

Or just being a border collie? Clearly I hadn't gotten the beginner's model puppy. Obsessive Googling on "puppy staring" informed me these were signs of stress or not enough exercise. I was pretty sure I'd completely broken my puppy already, but how? Long forest and beach runs are my middle name. I abide Dude-like in a hippie slacker surf town. Aloha, Mr. Hand. How could it be that my puppy was super stressed out all the time? I got on the internet and watched my dog training hero videos. Their high drive puppies looked less feral. Somewhat organized. Enjoyed petting. Damn them. Whether this was selective video editing or dog training genius, I'll never know. But I never saw them dragging their puppies out of weird staring dazes or freakout panic attacks because of reaching down to give their puppy a little pat.

I'd run some of my questions by experienced border collie owners. When you're new to border collies, you don't have the secret handshake yet. There's an initiation period. A common reaction when other border collie owners saw me with my new puppy was a raised eyebrow, followed by, "Wow…YOU got a border collie?" in a tone that was confidence slamming all the way down to the sub level.

Was it all over my face? Can't train a puppy? Being generally gloriously happy about my new puppy, I would wag and nod and flap around and start yapping about the awesomeness of my puppy. She can do the Spiderman trick! Best hiking pal of the universe! But then I might bring it around to some of the quirkier aspects of her personality, maybe in hopes of getting a few tips.

Most other border collie people are more than happy to hand out all kinds of advice about border collies. But when I'd ask about the staring or the bizarre attacking of decorative household accessories, or the panic attacks about being touched, some of the time the eyebrow would come back up, the advice would stop and they'd say something like, "Oh. MY border collie never did that," and start backing away.

So, not that helpful.

Then there were the people without border collies. They'd see me with my puppy at an agility trial, and the resounding chorus, warbled over and over, was "Oh, you've gone to the dark side."

I always picture Elvira, Mistress of the Dark when I hear that. So much more cleavage than I and a vampire mullet shag. The towering goth gowned patron saint of all of us non-border collied agility people who step out into some dark and spooky night and get themselves one. I'd crossed over from running cute little rescue dogs at 12", and sold out to the glamor of the 22" division.

"No way! Team Small Dog only has little black dogs! Team Small Dog can't have a big dog! "

"Um, she's actually pretty small…."

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, usually at this point would start dragging away her large, fluffy, tannish and white puppy who was locking her eyeballs in on that little piece of dirt. Or that running dog way over there. I wouldn't bother to ask them if their puppies had ever tried to spend 3 hours staring at a piece of lint on their floor. Because, probably not.

to be continued...

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