November 2008 through January 2009
When we first moved into our Urban Village apartment, there were only four other units filled. The building had originally been constructed as a condo complex, but the tanking housing market forced the building management to adjust their model from sellable units to rentable apartments. For James, Athena and I, it meant we had a sick place to live with a too-good-to-be-true monthly rental rate (plus parking and pet rent). When it rained outside, we could let Zozo scamper around the halls after a tennis ball without worrying that his bounding would disturb the neighbors, because we didn’t have any. And then we did have neighbors, and they were jerks. When our lease was up for renewal, the rental rate increased by almost $500 per month.
I may have actually asked the rental consultant if she was high, asking for so much more money.
But the building was filling up with people whose attitudes could only be described as “entitled,” so we took our cue. After almost a year in our awesome little place, we were on the hunt for a new home.
We liked the area very much: it’s a big dog community, and there’s a pretty good dog park (except for the sewage stream that runs alongside of it). There are shops and restaurants and a grocery store we could walk to. Coming home from work on Fridays, I’d park my car in the garage and not need to drive again until I left out for work on Monday. Ideally, we’d stay around the same zip code and nestle back in.
We take a look around (through the internets) and realize that for less than we were currently paying for an apartment we could rent a house with a little yard and another bathroom. We find an incredible house 3/4 of a mile away from the apartment that allows pets, and we pack our mountains of books and move.
Man, woman, cat, dog.
Doodle now has a wrap-around yard that is entirely fenced in, in which he can run and chase bumblebees and lose tennis balls. He discovers the glory of landscaping groundcover. He has his own room with a tiled floor, so we are able to introduce “out of crate” time when we’re out of the house. This room also has a huge bay window, which Zo can look out of if he hops onto the couch. He does this with increased frequency once he meets his arch nemesis: the black ninja squirrel. Athena becomes the basement beast, only occasionally coming upstairs for her kibble and a head bonk.
Yes, he pulls up his crate bed and covers himself.
We empty boxes and buy throw rugs and push a lawnmower. We establish new routines now that we have a yard for puppy-exercise. We throw ourselves a housewarming party. Zo begins sleeping on a cot beside my side of the bed. We hunker for the winter.
And one day in late December, Zozo decides he will no longer walk on leash. He starts digging in his haunches when we try to leave the driveway for walks, but we’re able to coax him along with a treat and excited chatter. This lasts about a week. Then we reach a certain driveway, and he’ll refuse to go any further. He tucks his tail between his legs, drops his head and pulls with all of his might. One night, he pulls his head out of his collar and bolts back home, leaving me running after him in tears with a limp leash and collar flapping in the wind. We try to change up our walk path, but the traffic on the new route makes him more nervous. Even in the fenced safety of the yard, outside noises freak him out: car doors slamming, motorcycle motors revving, the mail truck. He makes for the back door and whimpers to be let back inside.
We try to figure out what’s happened, if something we saw or did set him off: some gesture or emotion he picked up from us while we were outside playing or walking. We’re beside ourselves. Our awesome trainer from Petsmart has moved West with her husband, and it doesn’t look like there are classes readily available that meet our needs.
James remembers driving by a dog training place on his way to work, Olde Towne School for Dogs. We sign up for a consultation with a trainer and learn that our issue isn’t unique (apparently, it never is) but Zozo’s sensitivity and anxiety is fairly severe to have arrived so suddenly. The earliest they can take us is February, but they’ll let us know if they have any openings sooner.
We return home with the knowledge that we have three weeks to get through with Zo. If we can keep him calm and alleviate some of his misery during that time… we’ll be alright. Just three weeks.