Badger is nearly 10 years old now, and I’ve had him since March, 2001, when I adopted him from the B.A.R.C. animal rescue in Redlands. Badger’s provenance as a rescue dog is really something, since the B.A.R.C. group had rescued him from a shelter in Hemet, CA, within only three days of him being scheduled to be euthanized. They had him for a few months, and he was first adopted to a lady with a small trailer, who kept him for three days before bringing him back, after, according to her, he tore up every cushion and pillow in her trailer. Today, Badger officially has to be the “World’s Best Dog” – at least as far as I’m concerned. No one could ask for a better companion or pet, even if he is occasionally a cowardly and cringing fellow, and quite entitled about his soft “thrones” – as can be seen in this picture from Meredith’s room.
And guess what? Look who’s back, after a year!
Yes, Taz is back with us, and fatter than ever. Taz is the rescue Chihuahua I acquired over two years ago, as a “temporary” home. It was only supposed to be a week or two. It turned into a year.
When we first took Taz home, it became clear pretty soon that the carrying case he came in had been his permanent home for a long time. According to the vet, he’s about the same age as Badger, but there the similarities end. At first, he was terrified of the lawn, and wouldn’t even walk on it. In terms of taking him for a walk, he saw no reason to walk if he didn’t have to, and even as fat as he is, he doesn’t weigh much over 5 pounds, so “walking” Taz amounted to dragging him along by the leash, where, like a toddler, he would fuss until you gave up and picked him up and carried him.
Most of the time, I called (and now again call) him “Fatti.” Fatti Taz could barely walk and breathe when we got him, he was so overweight. He made terrifying wheezing noises. And he had the strangest bark, more like a duck’s hoarse quack, which the vet said was a result of his previous owner trying to debark him. Upon the first time we took him home, we discovered his little black claws had grown so long they’d curled around and some were even growing into his little pads. He had doggy dandruff too, and needed a good teeth cleaning. $1,000 later, with shots, medication and a special diet . . . Taz became a much better-tempered little guy, started to enjoy his walks and even started to run, play and be able to climb up and down from the furniture. His favorite activities were still eating (especially Taco Bell as we found to our horror on a rare fast food evening) and of course – sleeping.
Anyway, we sent a much healthier, happier Taz to live with Marcus’ grandpa eight months ago. Grandpa seemed happy with him, but as of last week, Grandpa moved and could no longer have a pet, so Meredith and Marcus drove up to Lancaster and picked up . . . I’ll call him Mr. Backslider now. Taz came back with a new collar, a case of “Little Caesar” soft food, two giant tubs of doggie treats – and I swear, twice as fat as he was in the first place. He could truly barely walk, and the noises he was making were twice as scary as before. He was such a fatster that before when he was severely overweight, he’d had rolls on the back of his neck that took several months to smooth out as he lost weight eating properly and getting some exercise. Now? He’s so fat that it’s filled out the rolls! Previously chubby Taz looked like a small brown chihuahua pig. Now, he has the same general profile and coloring as a cow. He is so big, his feeble little legs literally bow to each side as the poor little guy tries to stagger around.
Taking the two of them out for a walk is horrific because Badger can’t wait for Taz to hobble along, and Taz has reverted to the “Why should I bother to walk?” behavior. The last time I did it, I just took Taz off the leash and encouraged him to hobble as far as he could. When we went back inside, he finally discovered his motivation and was moving as fast as possible so he could get back upstairs and throw his fat little body into his soft bed. I thought maybe I was going to give the little guy a heart attack, but he was fine, of course.
At times, I grew to detest Taz, because of his dreadful habits or non-habits. However, he was thrilled to see us, and seemed very happy to settle in, and he is trying to exercise. He’s already dropped a few ounces, just by eating normal food rather than Little Caesar followed up by copious treats. One of my students told me about the pumpkin diet for overweight dogs and I may try it. Badger accepted Taz’s return like one might greet an elderly, ill-tempered, wheelchair bound relative.
Which brings us to the World’s Best Dog. Badger sort of scared me last week when he ran out of gas so quickly on our hike. I realized that while he might look great on the outside as always, he might really be getting older and getting tired more quickly. He is sleeping more than he used to, and he has lost maybe a foot of height on his jumping skills. He’s a little less coordinated, too, and I’ve noted for the past few months that he’s sometimes “underfoot” and also gives me flat tires in his desire to rush ahead or rush around when we’re going for a walk.
Badger is truly almost humanly intelligent. He knew he had a good deal the very day we brought him home from the animal rescue. He’s attached himself to me, so he is mama’s dog, even though I originally got him so Meredith could have a pet to care for and learn from. After going through virtually every negative behavior dogs can have, Badger is now a well-behaved, perfectly trained dog. There are so many dogs around Playa that it is a big, obvious difference between him and most of the untrained dogs dragging their owners around on their leashes. He is getting horribly spoiled for attention, as he greets every person around the neighborhood lovingly and gets tons of petting and praise from nearly everyone (it’s funny how one out of every 10 or 20 people is not a dog person and reacts fearfully with him – even though he’s a 20 lb. dog – and what is he going to do to them? He’s clean and not even slightly slobbery).
I’m not entirely sure at what point I morphed from an old school dog owner to a dog advocate. It was a gradual process. For it, I can thank Badger. That precious, special, wonderful dog speaks for all animals, even though he can only “speak” with his eyes. And in the words of Taz, “ack, ack, ack!” Feed me!