Before Silas

In the spirit of throwback Thursday, I’ve been thinking about Anna The Fox Terrier.

Anna was not my dog. She belonged to a graduate school professor of mine. Every year, he picked whichever of his teaching assistants seemed the most responsible, and paid him or her a generous stipend to watch Anna while the family went on vacation. Now that I have a dog, I’m boggled that he didn’t care if we had dog experience or not, although Anna was not high maintenance. I honestly think he saw this as a charitable project, since our stipends didn’t pay out during the summer.

And, let’s be clear, dog experience I did not have. I grew up in the country, so there were dogs around, but I’d never even seen a dog who lived indoors. I’d never taken a dog for a walk. I’d never even fed one.

Anna had a sassy little personality, and she knew who was boss. Two weeks in to my month-long stay, I mentioned to the family that she woke me up at 5:30 every morning. They’d never heard of such craziness. So, the next day, I tried to ignore her. It didn’t work. When she wanted a walk, she would nose her leash, where it hung next to the door, until it jangled in a particular way that you could hear through the whole house. This happened twice a day, morning and evening, and I obliged. She also never asked her family for that, come to find out. I was an ambitious young thing, so I would sometimes get up and go for a run, then come back and pick her up for her walk. She disapproved.

Maybe because I was giving her easily double the exercise she usually got, I have no memories of interacting with her during the daytime. I don’t remember snuggles, or even pets. One night it stormed and she got in the bed with me, but that’s it. I’m not sure if she never really liked me, or if she just wasn’t that kind of dog. Or maybe I’ve just forgotten. I do remember that Anna, who was a “senior dog” and weighed less than 20 pounds, still had a vertical leap as high as my shoulder.

She loved the vet, where I had to take her for a bath. She waited at corners on walks until I said it was okay to cross the street, an arrangement we instinctively arrived at. One day, her collar fell off on a walk, and she just stood there for me to put it back on, while internally I panicked.

It hit me one day recently that Anna, the dog who taught me that I could have a dog, is probably not alive anymore. This dog-sitting job was seven or eight years ago, and she was already in her teens.

The world lost a great dog when it lost Anna.

7 thoughts on “Before Silas

  1. Getting a clearer picture of your experience (or lack thereof) before Silas, I’m even more impressed by your dedication to him. Even having spent a lifetime with at least one dog around, Ruby taught me exactly how little I really knew. Anna sounded like she was a very pragmatic, sensible sort of dog.


    1. I think that’s a good description of her.

      I was *very* lucky with Silas that even pre-blog I had some online friends who are pretty serious dog people. They sent me to Ian Dunbar and Pat Miller as soon as they heard I had rescued him, otherwise who knows what would have happened.

      My inexperience was both a pro and a con–I just silently accepted a lot of his issues, because I had no idea that other dogs were “better.” Until I took him to the behaviorist, for example, I had no idea that other dogs were capable of being both still and awake at the same time.

      I do think that a savvy dog person would have recognized his fear issues when there was still time to do more, and more careful, socialization. In hindsight, every problem that we have now was totally obvious even when he was a puppy. I wish someone had pointed it out to us.


      1. Ah…still and awake…these are mutually exclusive also for dogtwin. It’s been so interesting having a “normal” dog again – funny how quickly we adapt. For instance, I have to remind myself when I have only Boca in the car, that I don’t need to prepare myself for a rash of high-pitched barking when we pass a bicyclist.

        You did so much good for Silas – it’s hard to say what could have been altered even with more intervention.


  2. I’m with Lara Elizabeth – impressive that you’ve kept with Silas all this time despite his high-maintenance! The first dog I had on my own was high maintenance too, come to think of it…

    That’s a wonderful memory of Anna. I like how she trained you. Hehehehe. I think some dogs are like horses – they sense inexperience and will take full advantage of it if they can. 🙂


    1. Definitely. Fresh meat!

      Nothing like being tossed into the deep end of the pool, huh? Although, some days I’m still not sure I’m really swimming.


  3. Dogs sense immediately who will be the pack leader and who can be bossed around. Our Misty, like Anna, is in full charge when we leave her with a house sitter.


  4. I often try to remember that we get the dog we need, not the dog we want. Imagine Silas as the perfect dog who never had any issues. Now imagine that feeling you have when he does something successfully that he couldn’t have done a year ago. I think difficult dogs force us to be better people.

    For instance, if I get angry, Daisy panics. She starts jumping at me and pawing, trying to keep me in one spot, safe from whatever is hurting me. I’ve learned to control my temper, a struggle that I’ve had for years. How much patience and creativity has Silas taught you?

    Liked by 1 person

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