wily Charlotte from Amherst, Virginia
Thursday, October 19 2023
There was a dog available for adoption in the closest part of New Jersey and Gretchen had passed all the vetting, so today we drove down there to see if we wanted this dog as a Ramona replacement. Her name was Daisy, she came from a shelter in Amherst, Virginia, and she was described as a bit insecure and physically small, weighing only a little over 40 pounds (the term used, since she looks like black pit mix, is "pocket pitty").
On the way down, we stopped for an early lunch at Simply Green, a vegan café in Ramsey, NJ. The woman who was ordering just before us claimed to be vegetarian but was mystified by the vegan thing. When told that the omelette was made with Just Egg and that that probably was mostly chickpea meal, she said she was going to pass and then left the restaurant. By contrast, we were excited for some vegan food, though what we wanted were sandwiches. I ordered a traditional Greek gyro that had been completely veganized, and I had it come with waffle fries. It was amazing, though the coffee I'd ordered was pretty standard (that is, not great) diner coffee. Our food was so good that we ordered a whole separate meal to go.
Daisy was at a fostering situation over beyond Pompton Lakes. The immediate neighborhood featured still-flying flags advocating Donald Trump for the 2020 election, something we're more used to seeing in more desperately rural areas. Another neighbor had a sign saying "Seen Enough? Vote Republican!" (The irony being that Republicans have been providing a stunning example of their deep dysfunction in the one thing part of the Federal government they control. Two if you count the Supreme Court.)
The woman doing the fostering came out with Daisy on a leash. She was nervous but curious. When we got Neville out, the two dogs didn't pay that much attention to each other, which everyone seemed to think was best. Daisy was taller than Neville but much more slender and graceful.
We (which now included Daisy's foster mother's fiancé, a somewhat squirrely gentleman) took a walk through the neighborhood and back. Perhaps because of Daisy's good example, Neville was actually being fairly coopertative on the leash, at least until we started heading back. Then he wanted to take a detour through a small patch of woods so he could poop without doing it in front of his new friend.
Gretchen took me aside and asked if I wanted this dog, and I said sure, she seemed like a good dog for us. So she signed the paperwork and paid the $400 adoption fee while the dozen or so other dogs in the house barked at us through a partially-mangled set of venetian blinds. Gretchen went in the house briefly to use the bathroom, and that required considerable logistics to get all the dogs out of the way. By this point Daisy's foster mother's father was there, and he wanted to say goodbye to Daisy too. By the time Daisy was loaded into our car, Daisy's foster mother had tears in her eyes. She'd had Daisy for seven months and apparently nobody had wanted her. She said usually her foster dogs get homes much more quickly.
The drive home went well. While Gretchen drove and Neville rode shotgun, I sat in the back with Daisy, stroking her on the head and getting her used to me. She seemed to have doubts about me, but it wasn't like she could get away.
The wind roads after we left US 209 were a little too much for Daisy, and she threw up only a couple miles from her new home. I was cleaning this up back at the house when Gretchen realized that the now-offleash Daisy wouldn't let her approach. Oh shit, we've never had dogs who wouldn't just let people walk up to them, and we didn't know what to do. We tried convincing her to go into the house, but she kept having her doubts and wouldn't do it if there was a chance of anyone coming up behind her to block her escape. I managed to lure her into the house nearly as far as the dinner table using treats, but them when Gretchen tried to go to shut the door, she quickly ran outside. Out there, I could get her to take treats from my hand, but she wouldn't let my hands get anywhere near the metal loop on the Jets-branded chest harness she was wearing.
We tried getting her and Neville to go for a walk up the Farm Road a ways, and she came with us, but the one time Gretchen grabbed her by the harness, she quicked bucked herself free and then immediately regarded us with a whole new layer of suspicion.
She rarely wandered far from us, though at one point she quickly made it out to the road, where she was standing like an idiot while a couple cars had to slow down and swerve around her.
During another effort to lure Daisy into the house, Gretchen almost caught her in the doorway, but again she wriggled free. After that, there was no going into the house, at least not with simple treats. From then on, we used cat wet food as the lure. And I tied a rope to the door handle so Gretchen could pull the door shut from the outside semi-remotely if she should get far enough into the house. But she wasn't doing that any more.
Running out of ideas, I put a 50 mg dose of diphenhydramine (aka "Benadryl") in a lump of wet food and got her to eat that. I then put a dog bed in the yard. She lay down on it for awhile and I hoped she was getting sleepy. But soon enough she was back to prancing around the yard and not letting any of us get too close. We'd been doing this for an hour and a half and the erstwhile foster mother had begun texting to ask how things were going. What were we going to say? I wondered if we were going to have to have her drive up her to catch the damn dog.
It was too cold to be spending this much time outdoors, and yet we were also being attacked by mosquitoes. What were we going to do after dark? By this point, Gretchen was saying things like "I hate this dog" and "she's not even cute."
Eventually Gretchen made up a lie about how we'd failed to latch the dog door and that was how Daisy had escaped into the yard. She then called the foster mother to ask for her advice on how best to catch Daisy. She suggested getting Neville (who was now sleeping on the couch) and using him as the lure. So I carried Neville out into the yard. Daisy came bounding over, and in an instant of her inattention (perhaps made worse by the diphenhydramine) I grabbed her by the harness. She tried to break free, but I held fast and attached a leash. Then she tried bouncing off the end of the leash probing for weakness. She even bit my left hand (I think, though it didn't break skin), but nothing worked. I dragged her into the house, let her do some offleash exploring, and then set her free. At that point learned helplessness (or something like it) kicked in, and she seemed content to be on the couch with Neville and had no problem letting us touch her all over.
Gretchen was still dubious if this dog was the right one for us. There was something lacking in Daisy that she didn't like. She liked Sally and Ramona's sassiness, which Daisy seemed to lack. But perhaps the problem was deeper. Maybe Daisy lacked "joy." In any case, by this point we'd decided that Daisy's name would be Charlotte.
On the plus side, the cats didn't seem much bothered by the new dog. Oscar hardly seemed to notice her and kept doing what he always does (which is trying to get people to give him wet food). The other cats were a little more nervous initially but soon had Charlotte figured out as a complete wuss. As for Charlotte's opinion of the cats, she seemed frightened by them and would growl whenever they came near, something they would do once they'd figured her out.
Charlotte this evening in the teevee room.
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