I can’t remember a time growing up when I didn’t have a dog. My first, a Dalmatian named Lady, was given to me when I was barely four. She didn’t last long, though. When she bit me Dad decided she had to find another home. Next was Skibo, a black Cocker Spaniel. She was our family dog until I was 16. When Skibo (pronounced Skee-bow) was about five we got another dog, a black miniature Poodle (the mid-size, not the tea cup). He was my favorite and lived to be my eldest son’s first dog. When Skibo and Pierre died in their turns, we adopted Shadow, a Cockapoo. She was really my mom’s dog, but she took to me.
When I remarried we got an Irish Setter we named Essau, but when the divorce happened, he went with my ex-husband. I went through a terribly unsettled period then and somewhere in there I acquired an Old English Sheepdog, Sebastian. I had to find him a new home when I moved to England. I went a few years without a dog then, but as soon as I was more settled I got a black Labrador Retriever named Cleo, but we just called her The Lug. Don’t ask… The Lug had a good and happy life and was a great dog and, when she died of cancer in her old age, I got a Yorkshire Terrier named Fritz. He was a rescue dog and I loved him as much as I’d loved Pierre. What a pal! Fritz saw me through a lot of tough times during the year I spent as my dad’s primary caregiver at the end of his life. Many nights I cried, and Fritz was there to comfort me or make me laugh. What a dog!
After Fritz was gone I just couldn’t invest myself in another dog friendship. I moved to Stillwater, where we were adopted by a cat whom we call Lowrider. Eventually I started to miss the companionship of a dog and, being ill and rather housebound, I decided it was time. Enter, Nigel. A Dachsador, Nigel was born to Ville’s Miniature Doxie, Pepper. When Ville rescued her, she had no idea the little dog was preggers, or that the sire was a Labrador.
Did your head just spin? The breeding was a result of neglect on the previous owners’ part. Pepper had five pups, but only two survived, a female (Annie, who lives in Edmond with some friends of ours) and Nigel. Even Nigel barely survived the ordeal (oddly, Pepper made it through just fine). Ville had to give Nigel mouth-to-snout resuscitation to get him to breathe. He won my heart and I brought him home.
I’ve never been a big Dachshund fan, but I figured the Labrador half of him would balance things out a bit. Wrong. Nigel is a Dachshund on crack. Everything is super-sized. His playfulness, his intelligence, his alertness, his vocabulary, his protective instincts, his stubbornness, and his bark. This is not a yapping dog. This is a dog with a deep, Labrador sized, full-chested, high-decibel bark and, because his hearing is so acute, he barks at everything. Every. Thing. Bicyclers, skateboarders, pedestrians, honking horns, an acorn dropping onto the roof, a flea crossing the road…
Nigel is a great dog. If we could master this one issue, he could very well top Pierre—and even Fritz—as the smartest dog I’ve ever known. He’s a happy dog, too. One of this designer breed’s characteristics is their absolute joyfulness, and Nigel has it in spades. He loves babies and children and cats. There’s no one he doesn’t love. Nearly two years ago we adopted a kitten, L’il Mozie, and I swear he and Nigel are brothers. They play and chase and groom, friends to the end.
I love Nigel to bits and pieces, but his barking taints it. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is seriously affected by adrenalin spikes, and excitement of any kind, either good or bad, send me into a full day of fatigue and lethargy. Nigel’s barking is the biggest threat I face each and every day. I’m at my wits’ end. I’ve tried everything from Dog Whisperer training to a collar impregnated with mommy hormones to activate his endorphins and keep him calm, to herbal doggy downers, but it’s no better than it was before. My next recourse is a citronella spray collar. Hey, maybe it’ll come in handy for me as well. Might keep the mosquitoes away this summer.