Monday, January 24, 2011

Rachel Spiker & Winston

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me in the glasses with the crazy hair. I'm Rachel. In real life, I'm a lawyer, but I also have a little blog called The Rachel Chronicles: The True & (Un)Amazing Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog, where I write about whatever strikes my fancy. I'm also a dog-mom. That handsome guy with me is The Winston. He's an American Bulldog, and he'll be celebrating his 5th birthday next month. He's all puppy though ... a 98 lb. puppy, that is.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

They're calling for a big snow here in the next couple of days, so I thought Winston would enjoy a playdate with his besties. We headed over to my neighbor's (Becky) for some quality dog time in her huge backyard. Winston galloped through the yard like Secretariat in the last lap of the Kentucky Derby with his friend Dimitri trying to keep up (not so easy for a little teacup Yorkie!), while Becky & I froze our butts off. Now we're snuggled up on the couch, Winston pouting because he had to come home, me trying to regain some feeling in my fingers.

What's brewing?

We're not coffee people here, so I'm warming up with a cup of Peach Cran Tango black tea from Teavana. With the just the perfect amount of Splenda for sweetness.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Sadly, no. I toyed with the idea of making cookies, but it's pretty close to dinner time here, so I'm trying to be good ... chocolate chip cookies sound pretty good though ...

Any treat for Winston on this occasion?

As soon as I get back feeling in my fingers, I'm going to get his dinner ready. Not that he lacks for treats. He had a Busy Bone not long before we headed over to Becky's.

How were you and your dog united?

When I bought my house in the summer of 2006, I knew I wanted a dog. While the house was being built, I started my search on Initially, I was looking for a Boston Terrier. I applied and applied and applied some more, but it never worked out for some reason or another. Someone else had already applied and been approved, the dog would be better with someone who worked from home, etc, etc. So then I decided to expand my search. My boyfriend at the time had a Boxer, and he was just the best dog, so I started looking for Boxers. I found a listing for a Boxer/American Bulldog mix, and I loved him as soon as I saw his picture. I applied, was approved, passed the home visit, made arrangements to pick him up a week late, and waited for my dog ... and waited. I don't know what happened. The rescue just never returned my calls. I was worried that something happened, so I waited for a while, but then finally concluded that I was never going to hear from them and started my search again. By then, I had done lots of research on American Bulldogs, and I liked everything I had learned, so I searched for American Bulldogs on Petfinder. And I found a listing for Winston and his brother. I filled out the 19 page application, the woman who ran the rescue called me immediately to set up a time to meet the dogs. She was meeting with another couple the same day, and as they had applied first, the would have the first pick of the puppies. Well, everyone fell in love with Winston's brother. He was the most playful of the two, whereas Winston was more reserved. But they were both great puppies, and I told myself I'd be happy with either. I rushed home to make sure everything was golden for the home visit. The owner of the rescue showed up shortly thereafter with Winston, and left shortly thereafter without him. He was home. And now I know that it was divine intervention that made the other couple choose the dog I thought I wanted. Because Winston and I were destined for each other.

How did Winston get his name? Any aliases?

At the rescue Winston's name was Monster (which I didn't understand until much later because he seemed like such a sweet puppy). I wasn't supposed to give him a new name until after the 2 week trial period, but his name so obviously didn't fit him that I just couldn't help myself. I tried out several different names, checking with Winston after each one to gauge his reaction. Nothing seemed to fit this serious little puppy. And then I just said Winston, and that was it. He looked at me like that was his name, and he'd just been waiting for me to say it. He is, of course, named for Winston Churchill. He has acquired several nicknames over the years: The Winston, The Super Duper, FrankenWinston, BabyDog, and The Million Dollar Dog (that one came from the vet).

Cat, squirrel, postman...?

Winston loves everyone and everything. He also loves a good game of chase, so during our walks, I always have to keep on the lookout for bunnies and squirrels, so he doesn't take me along for the ride. He'd never hurt them though. When he was a puppy, he was playing in the yard with a grasshopper. Even as a puppy, he had paws the size of dinner plates. Well, when the grasshopper jumped up, Winston whacked it with his paw. Then he lifted his paw up reaaallllly slowly, so excited for the grasshopper to jump again. I'll never forget the look on his face when he realized he'd smashed his new friend. Ever since then, he's always been very careful with creatures who are smaller than he is. His orthopedic vet calls him the Gentle Giant.

Tennis ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Balls. Any kind of balls. He loves them. And he will fetch and return as many times as you'll throw it. Our backyard is filled with tennis balls, soccer balls, teaser balls.... He'll fetch other things like frisbees, but he prefers a good ball. Squeaky toys last a total of 20.3 seconds in our house. That's about how long it takes him to disable a squeaker. After he kills the squeaker, he's done.

Where is Winston's favorite place for an outing?

He loves going to Grammy and Poppy's because Grammy keeps treats in her pantry, and she's very liberal with them. And Poppy gives him table food even though he knows he's not supposed to. He also likes going to the C&O Canal to walk the towpath. There are always new friends to make there.

Who are your dog's best pet-pals?

Winston's besties are Bella and Dimitri. They live down the street. Bella is a mini-dachsund, and Dimitri is a teacup Yorkie. Dimitri loves to run along behind Winston and pretend he's a big dog. Bella doesn't actually like Winston too much, but that doesn't mean he'll stop trying. He's determined to win her over. As far as Winston is concerned, everyone he meets is a new friend in the making.

If Winston could change one thing about you, what would it be?

He would be really happy if I was a stay at home dog mom, but I've explained to him that someone has to buy the kibble. Oh, and he'd be really happy if I'd get over this whole cleanliness thing. I gave him a bath Saturday morning, and he decided mid-rinse that he wasn't really down with it and jumped ship. Needless to say, that was a disaster. The bathroom looked like a tsunami hit it.

What is Winston's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

At the end of my grandmother's life, she was at home under hospice care. One day when we came over, she was at the dining room table. An already tiny woman, made even smaller by sickness. My mom was trying to get her to eat something, but she was really just playing with her food. By that point, it was a struggle for her just to eat. I explained to Winston before we went in that Grandma was very sick, and he needed to be very gentle with her (he's incredibly loving, but also clumsy in his size). When we went in, he trotted over to the table and sat on the floor next to Grandma's chair. When he sat down, she reached over and settled her hand on his head. He just sat there while she slowly stroked his head, feeding him little bits of sandwich. It was ... peaceful. Calming. The same thing happened when my grandfather died. Grandpap loved dogs, but never had one. At the end, he was in a hospital bed, barely conscious. Again I explained to Winston that Grandpap was very sick, and he needed to be very careful. Winston sat by his bed and rested his chin on the bed in between the bed rails. I took Grandpap's hand and put it on Winston's nose, and you could feel the quiet sense of peace that settled over him, almost like a sigh. It seems odd that I would count these as Winston's proudest moments, but Winston has an amazingly beautiful spirit, and I'm glad that he could bring comfort to my grandparents in the end.

And now his most embarrassing moment. Eeek. For some reason, Winston has developed an extreme dislike of pet stores like PetSmart and PetCo. I think he associates them with the vet's office because of the smells?? Anyway, one day, I took him to PetSmart convinced that when he saw the other dogs, he'd get over this irrational dislike. Plus, new toys! Every dog's dream right? Wrong. As soon as I turned my back, he lifted his leg and peed on a display of Christmas toys. In front of a sales person. And another customer. I was completely and totally appalled at my normally well behaved dog. It's not even like he had to go. He peed before we went in. He was just trying to make a point. Yeah, well point taken.

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--Marshal Zeringue