SCOTT RALL COLUMN: I thought you were never coming home
WORTHINGTON -- There isn't a dog owner on Earth who hasn't bragged about the performance of his or her hunting dog at one time or another. Hunting dogs can do some amazing things. Some dog owners can't stop talking about it.
It's, "my dog did this" and "my dog did that." I love a good dog story as much as the next guy, but how often do you hear about the bad things a dog has done?
Many owners will never tell a story like that. It is kind of like a financial gamble. Everyone will tell you about their big winners, but when you ask them, they never seem to have had any losers.
One of the best dog bragging compliments I have ever heard was from a good friend of mine, Don Dinger. When his dog does something really spectacular, he hollers really loud for the benefit of the hunting group, "That's why I feed you all year long." We all know what he really means. It means great job, Duce!
If you own a dog, there will be a few stories you would just wish no one had ever heard. I have had more than a few of those kinds of episodes and, when they happen, you wonder what you did to deserve it. After a few years, the memory of these unfortunate events just becomes one in a long line of dog memories that add to the overall experience of dog ownership.
My friend, Thad Lambert, a professional trainer, always reminds new dog owners that dogs are not machines or electronic appliances. They cannot be turned on and off with the push of a button or the turn of a switch. They are flesh-and-blood and will act differently than you expect when you least expect it.
I have one of those stories to share with you now.
It was a few years back when my 4-year-old lab, Ace, died suddenly of pancreatic cancer. He is still the dog I miss the most of all the dogs I have ever owned. At that time, I had the opportunity to purchase a 7-year-old black lab named Rip. He had been an outside dog for his entire life and the current owner had gotten very busy with a new job challenge and had little time to hunt or work with the dog.
For the past several years, Rip had spent most of his time by himself in an outdoor kennel. I took him home on a two-week trial and, after a few weeks, I made out the check and Rip was mine. He was not house-trained and that was a job I needed to address right away. My dogs are free in the house while I am home, but are kenneled up when we leave. Some men have man caves and I have a dog room.
It was soon after I got Rip that I put all of my dogs away in their respective kennels and headed for the Eagle's Club to help Kathy Krogman celebrate her 50th birthday. What I did not realize when I left was that Rip's cage was not latched securely. He had, for all practical purposes, never been in a house before and after getting free from the kennel, he now had four hours all to himself -- and boy, what a time he had.
When I got home, he was there to meet me at the door. He was all excited to see me and all he wanted was lots and lots of love. It did not take me very long to see what had happened. At that moment, the only thing that was not already on the floor went right to the floor -- and that was my jaw. If I could have had a camera to cover the action of the last four hours, I am sure I could have sent it to America's Funniest Home Videos and I would be famous today.
The list of items destroyed can not be completely recreated. I would start the partial list with 10 pairs of shoes that were turned into construction debris. The worst part was that two of them were high quality hunting boots that were pretty new. The other eight pairs were my wife's, and I am quite sure that from the number of shoes she has, she didn't even miss them. Every garbage can in the house had been emptied and every item of its contents was now in one inch pieces covering every square foot of the house. The dryer lint bucket from the laundry room was now a thin layer of dust very similar to volcanic ash.
Rip chewed and ate the rolls of toilet paper right off the holders and chewed the toilet plunger into the remnants of a good, high-performance car tire burn out. The beds were stripped and the sheets would have made good material for the tail of a kite. There was not a pillow in the place left intact. The most interesting thing he decided to investigate was a wicker basket located on the edge of the bathtub that was full of perfume, lotion and other bath products. He consumed the entire contents of this basket, plastic bottles, lotion, shampoo and all.
He even ate the bottles and their contents -- several medications that were on the bathroom sink. There were several food containers on the kitchen counter waiting their turn in the dish washer and they too were shredded and then spread around like a tsunami had gone through the place.
It took Rip four hours to convert my home in this way and another four hours for me to be able to see the floor again. My wife was in New Ulm at the time of the dog vandalization, and when I called to tell her about it, all she could do was add insult to injury by breaking out into a very big laugh. At the time I saw no humor in it.
Two things came to my mind at the end of this story. The first is that many dog owners would have blamed the dog and severely overhauled the dog out of sheer frustration. The fact of the matter is, to effectively train a dog you need to make the bad behavior correction at the moment of the bad behavior infraction. Doing so four hours later would have been of absolutely no benefit. The second thing is operator error.
The operator error was my lack of attention to making sure the cage was properly latched. I double-check it each and every time now. It was my fault and not the fault of the dog. Rip has now turned into a perfectly behaved house dog. He still wants a lot of love and I try to make sure he gets enough.
I also came to the very clear conclusion why he has the name Rip.
You just have to love those four leggers, don't you?
Scott Rall is The Daily Globe's outdoor columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com