A word of warning: this is not meant as a “Dummy’s Guide To Owning A Dog” – infact I would go so far as to say it is more like “Dummy Buys A Dog” – but a simple blog of our family’s adventures as we bought our first family dog, Slack.
Second minor point: since getting Slack I have had no time. Infact before I had Slack I thought I had no time. Now, I seem to have negative time. Which is the excuse I am giving for typos in the text! 😉 …
Totally unprepared, irresponsibly and probably against all RSPCA recommendations we set out to visit a bunch of labrador retriever puppies – one of which supposedly fit our simple requirements: black and male and RELAXED. We had nothing at home for a dog. Had read no books. Although both Gabi and I had had dogs as kids we had also both been children which hadn’t really helped much in being parents. About an hours drive away and we met the cutest bundle of fur on legs I have seen in a long time: 5 puppies ranging from almost white through beige to black. And there was Slack: with what looked like a dripped vanila ice cream down his front. The only shock was when we met Slack’s dad who was this huge bear of a dog with a kneck and head resembling Mike Tyson’s. But as harmless as a sleeping Mike Tyson.
Well, I think we were all immediately in love with this little dog: he was not the cheeky one in the pack and while being friendly was not overly fussed with us being there. And so already living up to his name Slack. Within an hour we had unpacked the money and just as we were about to hand it over shit struck. Literally. Slack got the runs. The breeder immediately said he would have to stay there for the night or until it cleared up – a relief for me as I was already imagining washing runny shit out from between the planks of our lovely wooden floors at home. We planned with the breeder he would call us once things were fine again and we bundled dogless back into the car and drove home.
THEN it was a frantic 24 hours of reading as much as we all could pack in and talking to/facebooking with as many people as possible about any tips they might have.
The next day we heard nothing, except from Luna who would ask at regular intervals (about 15minute intervals) whether the breeder had called and, after we had said “no”, she asked “when do you think he will call?”. Similar kind of fun to the “are we there yet?” questioning from Tierra during a car drive.
Finally, Luna picked up the nerve to call the breeder and the we found out that after he’d been to the vets the runs had come from the worming tablets he had taken on Friday. So Slack was ok and we could pick him up on Monday evening. Spent the day then, similarly to the night before picking up Luna from the hospital after her birth, trying to make our house “dog safe”.
It was then that Gabi got her first reservations as she eyed our 60s vintage leather sofa having also just read that “dogs tend to chew on wood, rope and … leather”.
Slack, born 5th June 2010 officially became a member of the Rigby family – and also officially got his name Slack. We had spent months thinking of a name with the almost final one being George which the kids and I thought was great as our neighbours dog was called Clooney. Luckily Gabi talked some sense into us as the novelty of walking the dog with the neighbour and us calling George followed by them calling Clooney would wear thin. We also decided against calling him Brezinger, the name of our only horrible neighbour which I initially thought would be great if just to annoy him: I imagined the fun of him walking past, me shouting “Brezinger sit!” and him seeing a dog reacting. The problem was, we dislike this neighbour so much it would mean that the name was already loaded with negative energy. Not a great start for the newest Rigby. The name “Slack” came from me, as we thought what would we like the dog to be like and the main thing was “chilled not hectic”, so kind of like a hippy. Well, as a good mate’s DJ name is “Slack Hippy” it was the obvious choice. And, surprisingly, we all liked it. So it stuck and we just have to hope Slack likes it.
The handover process was really simple: drove there, had a few words with the breeder, he told us how often to feed him, showed us how to hold Slack properly, we handed over the cash and he all of the paperwork. And then we put Slack into our car and drove off. Easier than childbirth. The drive home was a bit of a nightmare for Gabi who had Slack at her feet: not only being taken away from home with almost complete strangers, he was now experiencing his first car drive. So he cried literally half the way home. Eventually settling down to doze.
Then taking him into the house was similar to bringing Luna home – at least at first as with Luna we put her down on our futon and thought “what now?”. With Slack the “what now?” lasted a couple of seconds as our inquisitive dog immediately started to slowly explore his new home. His exploration was though for me a lot slower than I had imagined it was going to be. Similar to I guess how the British army conquered parts of Iraq: slowly checking something out, guaranteeing it was safe and no enemies there before setting out for the next room / area of garden.
He had his first meal (the breeder had given us enough for the first couple of days) which vanished in seconds. And then finally fell asleep SOOOOOO cutely with the kids on the futon – at this point we had decided that he was allowed on this but on no other furniture. Unfortunately we changed our mind on this decision the next day – more about this later.
The day started early for Luna and Gabi with Slack getting up at 5:30. By 6ish Gabi had already been on Slack’s first official dog walk – he is currently allowed 16mins for his long walk. After the walk and remembering that there was an expensive Tempura mattress on the futon and being worried Slacker would wee on it in the night Gabi decided to banished Slack from the futon. Well, we decided this. He had since claimed this as His Place ignoring so far the towel that now smelt of him which the breeder had said would be sufficient after Slack’s father had repeatedly trashed any attempts at baskets he had ever been given. He was willing to share with others but giving it up looked to be out of the question. At least for now. But we persevered and Slack ignored each of our attempts as little more than a game. Like giving a kid their first chocolate after so far only having tasted carob and then offering them a carob bar again. So trying to get Slack to give up the futon is about as easy as convincing a child of the health & dental benefits of carob v. chocolate.
And another brand new experience: we visited three of the huge mega pet stores that I don’t remember existing as a kid, full of other stuff I don’t remember as a kid. We almost spent €70 on a swimming pool for dogs until some form of sanity entered my head. But we did come away with the biggest pack of dog food (“Royal Canine for Labradors”) I had ever seen. I guess these kinds of thing are normal nowadays but the only thing I had seen this big was the special organic soil I occasionally buy to help out my tomatoes. I assume now sack of food will probably last until he dies and I suspect their may even be a couple of meals for his grandchildren.
So since moving to Leopoldsdorf DIY centres, car accessory shops and now pet megastores have replaced record shops, clothes boutiques and book stores. How life changes.
Luna also registered a major milestone in managing to get some rubbish out of Slack’s mouth. He seems to be very much like a baby in this respect: “hmm, will that fit in my mouth? Yup. Must be food then. Let’s see if I can swallow it before anybody sees.” We stopped most attempts but he has taken a fancy to my raspberries and we missed a few there. At the end of the shopping trip he was sick and bits of raspberries could be seen; not sure if this was then travel sickness or raspberry sickness.
At the end of the day Luna & I took Slack for our first walk. It was a bit difficult to get him out of our street but as soon as we hit the wooded area near our house he was in his element – still kept on the lead and as soon as he met a fully grown dog coming in the other direction he had to be carried past him but otherwise great and we didn’t have to carry him home so actually better than I expected. Except it didn’t tire him out and he didn’t do the only two things he was really supposed to do: shit and piss.
Disaster struck in the evening as Tierra decided to cuddle Slack after he had settled down to sleep for the night. This meant he woke up thinking “Ah, tomorrow already. Yahoo!!!! Time to play!!! So what can I chew in the lounge?” So after staying up until 2am with him, we have a new rule in the house…
My first day in the office since getting Slack and for me the beginning went quite smoothly: only major difference was that I spent my coffee drinking moment outside with him and threw a stick not really expecting any reaction but I almost dropped my coffee as Slack ran joyfully after it and BROUGHT IT BACK TO ME! Certainly beats updating facebook. At this point in time Gabi had already been with him on his 5:30 walk and was collapsed on the sofa enjoying one of her Gabi Moments: a blissful form of slumbering, usually on the sofa at which she is pretty much the expert – well she got enough practise juggling Luna+Tierra-as-babies and their haphazard sleeping patterns.
The day seemed to pass uneventfully but the evening was a new disaster: Slack decided to be sick a lot. Couldn’t keep down any food for longer than 30mins and then ate up his sick with lightning speed. The distressing thing was how he acted before being sick: running around like a bit of a madman, biting and generally not nice before hiding in a corner. Not at all like the Slack we have already come to know and love. I eventually phoned the breeder and explained it to him. And then eventually he phoned me back and told us that he had given us the wrong info: feed Slack three times a day not twice a day. Obviously twice was not enough which meant he had supplemented it with anything he found in the garden which meant grass. Which made him sick. So the final cure was to catch him being sick, stop him eating the sick and immediately feed him new sick-free-food. It seems to have worked – now he is asleep and we can start to relax.
Not sure which was worse: Slack being sick or Luna crying cos she thought he was gonna die. Even before getting sick it it was my turn to spend the night with Slack sleeping in the lounge: we’d decided that we should all try and do it – excluding Tierra who is still a bit overwhelmed with Slack due to size and strength. Infact this will get worse for the next few years as Slack will grow I guess faster than she will. It was a bit hard to get to sleep as to begin with there was a bit of a fight to keep Slack off the futon I was on. But I won with gentle perseverance and he fell asleep on the floor next to the futon, ignoring his own comfy mattress 2 metres away for the proximity of me. Then I listened a while to the noises he made in his dreams (I assume from the noises and movements he made he dreams of simple things like running after sticks, eating and his dog family and not being the hero in an action movie) before falling asleep myself.
So woke up to a dog tongue licking my face. Normally something horrible but today just pleased that Slack was healthy enough to do this. And because of the strange night he let me sleep till 7:30 but because of the strange night this was still too early for me. He was a completely changed dog – no signs of last night except what looked like more love for me. And we started on a new regime of 3 larger meals (still tiny) and 2 snacks in between to see what effect this would have on him. It seemed to balance him much more and his eating of everything in sight was different in nature: he would relent that in his mouth much easier as now this was not driven by hunger but by inquisitiveness. He wasn’t sick all day and his nose was cool and wet. In the morning I took him on a short walk and he seems to totally have lost his fear of cars and now his major fear seems to be bigger dogs (that aren’t labradors). He met a dalmation and this was the first time where he showed his usual fear but did allow a bit of closer inspection and didn’t snap at the other dog. Looking forward to starting puppy school with him – which we have now decided to do for some of the similar benefits we knew from kindergarten: i.e. the dog-social aspects. i.e. not for the learning of sit, stay, walk close to me on the lead eying me like some kind of superhero… Although I guess the last of these aspects may be a good thing for Tierra and Luna as Slack grows into a bear.
Today was not massively different to previous days except Slack experienced what seems to have been his first wind – at least based on how excited he got when he saw trees blowing – especially the leaves. Infact I think he thought they were playing with him. So cute to watch as his pounced towards them with a little bark.
The other thing that we tried on his evening walk was letting him off the lead. Well, he ventured at the most 3m away from our feet but loved it. Tierra also started to trust Slack enough to play with him – and slowly understood not to move too quickly when playing with him. The challenge we started today was also trying to make him sit while we served him his dinner. If we don’t get this to work then when Slack is bigger only Gabi and I will be able to feed him cos he will simply knock the kids over. But it is a hard challenge to make as I love the way he jumps around excitedly while he waits, usually bumping into tables, chairs and anything else in the kitchen/dining room.
I made my second trip to Zoo&Co, pet megastore to buy a different dog food – this time one perfectly for his age group and then we also read the instructions and saw that even with the five meals we had been giving him he actually needed 240g which was a bit more than this.
I had the early morning shift and slack duly woke me at 5:25. I got off the sofa and went to greet him and promptly trod in a puddle of wee. Great start to the day. Love socks wet with dog wee. I gave him a tiny bit of food just so that I could maybe have a brief time to wake up. 30seconds later and he was finished. So not much more sleep -infact I hadn’t even made it back to the futon before he came bounding in wanting to play. So, I got up, let him out for a poo and made myself some quick breakfast. At 6am we left the house for his first and biggest walk of the day. This time I took it a stage further and let him off the lead as soon as we entered the woods. He was as good as the evening before and enjoyed it so much. What I forgot to mention was it was raining. Infact every time I went out with Slack today it rained – I can’t remember being out so much in the rain since I played football in England as a kid.
Tierra took a big step forward and started to learn not to move her hand too quickly when playing with Slack which means he doesn’t always try to bite her.
As the evening came I thought how hard to believe that it is only a week since we met Slack for the first time. And so I thought I would write down some of my favourite things about Slack so far:
- the welcome I get – although I still prefer the welcome from the kids; although from the kids I get it once a day and from Slack it seems every time I am out of his sight for more than 10minutes
- the way he tries to run alongside us whilst taking his walk
- the sudden enthusiasm he gets for playing with a football or stick
- also the playful way he jumps – actually looks like somebody just released a spring in each of his legs
- the way he ignores us when we say “no” and he has his back to us; he obeys just pretends he didn’t want to actually jump on the sofa / bite something he shouldn’t / …
- the shadow – i.e. he will sometimes follow me around although he tends to bore of this quite quickly
And so the first week of knowing Slack came to an end.