Monday, January 9, 2012

Adventures in Airedale Parenting

Hairy Fiend, as a baby. He got bigger...about ninety pounds bigger.

Airedale Terriers are a breed unto themselves. Mine are both kind of spoiled, and Hairy, pictured above, has a tendency toward bouts of pancreatitis. Henry I, aka "Big Henry", my first rescue for Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption (ATRA) was from the same breeding and has turned out to be an insulin-dependent diabetic as he's aged, and I'm a little worried that we're headed that direction with momma's baby. After the last round of pancreatitis (shortly after it happened, an acquaintance's Airedale died from a bad pancreatitis attack), I cornered The Boyfriend and declared all people food off-limits. No more scraps, no more bread, no more windfalls while I'm cooking- zip, zilch, nada, ninguno. The Airedales' reaction was understandably cranky. Begging had never yielded much, but this meant it would yield nothing at all in future.

This has led to an incredible amount of stealth on the part of both dogs. They've become unpleasantly aggressive about the remains of certain foods (beef fat, pork bones, etc.) and this culminated in two things over the weekend: I turned my back on a chicken that I'd boiled a few days before that I was preparing to pull the meat from and freeze- I heard *snap* *SNAP* ***slurrrrp*** and turned to find that Hairy had just made off with an entire cooked thigh quarter. Had it been raw, I wouldn't have been quite so worried, since uncooked chicken bones are flexible. Cooked ones, however, are not, so I called the vet about fifteen minutes before their Saturday closing time. There was some danger of the bone splinters puncturing his digestive tract on the way through. One of the common interventions is to feed the dog a few slices of bread to enrobe the fragments before they have a chance to wreak havoc- so Hairy got an unexpected side benefit of several slices of Sunbeam bread. Mother was Not Amused.

The end result was that Hairy was further pissed off by his vet's insistence that he be given six small meals of his regular (expensive Blue Buffalo) food instead of two bigger ones. After the chicken and bread, he was down to a half-cup of dry dog food every three hours. He glowered and skulked and rang the Poochie Bells on the door incessantly to inform of us of his ire. Airedales mutter and mumble under their breath anyway, but it ramped up parallel to his displeasure to the point that I knew he was cursing us under his breath for not giving him what he wanted.

Then came the coup de grace: The Boyfriend ate a leftover pork chop for lunch on Sunday, and as he was throwing away the bones, Hairy deliberately bumped him to jostle the plate. The dog quietly retreated to his crate in a blur of black and tan; about a half-second later, we realized he was eating something. I managed to distract him long enough to see that he'd cadged a thin pork bone on which he was crunching away. Desperate to get it away from him, I grabbed his collar and tried to get him out of the crate...not the brightest idea I've ever had, but one fueled by full-on maternal panic. As I recovered from the bruising Vulcan Death Grip he laid on my wrist, I cooked plain white rice for him and fed him a couple of slices of bread, cursing him under my breath. He's at least had the decency to be ashamed of himself.

If you're thinking it was a coincidence, guess again. One of the things that most Airedale owners really prize about the breed is their ability to process complex ideas. They're a highly cognitive breed. Hairy had been planning this move for quite some time, and unfortunately for him it was the last straw for Mother. All plotting aside, we have a new rule at my house: under no circumstances are Airedales to be out of their crates while humans are consuming food. They aren't getting out until the meal is over. Meanwhile, Hairy seemed a bit constipated this morning and I was worried because the vet had said to be concerned if he wasn't eating and eliminating normally within about three days of the first incident. The Boyfriend called me at work a little while ago to let me know that HF had finally 'produced'. Ah, the joys of parenthood. The highlight of my Monday, the first day of the new semester, is dog poop...there's something sort of Freudian about it. Hmmm.

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