Carol Reiter: Sick, miserable and dogs run lose

12/20/2008 6:02 AM

12/20/2008 6:06 AM

Another surgery, another infection, and another three weeks of misery.

And if you think I was miserable, you should have seen my dogs.

For the past three weeks, in the cold and fog and miserable weather, my dogs and I went through hell. I got my boogered-up knee fixed, got an infection, and spent hours in bed, in a daze.

Let me make something perfectly clear. I have four dogs, and one of them was perfect during this time. Kate, who is almost 13 years old, was absolutely tickled to death to have me home to snuggle up in bed with. She ate, drank and went potty outside, but otherwise spent her days stretched out next to me in bed, warm and happy.

But that was the only dog who was the least bit happy. Len, Jan and Peg were appalled. I was home, and therefore we should be outside, hassling horses, keeping cats in their place, and patrolling the five acres, making sure it was safe.

So for the first couple of days, the three evil dogs jumped every time I moved. They were positive that I was about to go outside, it was just a matter of time.

But I groaned and moaned and felt sorry for myself, and the dogs slowly settled into a seething rage. I tried putting them outside, but they barked. And barked and barked and barked. I couldn't stand it, so I would let them back in the house. The three would troop into my room, lie down and start waiting again. They were good for about 15 minutes, and then the trouble would start.

This time, Len wasn't the worst. Peg was. She was horrid. I have never lived with a dog who ended up driving me as crazy as that skinny little needle-nosed brat did. She would jump on my bed and stare at me. If I looked at her, she would furrow her black eyes and glare at me. Then she would woof.

I would tell her to shut up, and she would woof back. If I kept talking, she kept woofing. It was almost as bad as the barking.

But if I thought that was bad, I was in for a big surprise. As the days went by, and I didn't feel any better, the dogs got worse. Lenny took to surfing the counters for food, hassling every cat in the house and eating everything that was the least bit edible. And if it ended up not ed ible, no problem, it came back up. He ate a banana, along with the peel, an apple (came back up, guess he didn't like it), almost an entire roasted chicken (stayed down), and about five pounds of cat food. He also munched on nonfood items, like his crate pillow, my slipper socks, and about three rolls of toilet paper (all came back up, in horrible shape).

Jan was the best of the three, but by the third day, she and her daughter were becoming escape artists. If I opened a door, they were gone. Over the fence, down the field and perfectly happy to ignore me. I stood on the back porch, in the cold and fog, sick and shaking with fever, and yelled at them, pleaded with them, and almost cried more than once. But they came back when they darned well pleased, which could be up to an hour. All I saw was little black and white dots at the back of field, and I refused to get off the back porch, which has steep steps I didn't want to fall on my face.

By the end of the first week, I was ready to pile all three dogs in the car and drive them to the animal shelter and drive away and never look back. They had realized that I was pretty well incapacitated, and they did exactly what they wanted. At one point, I kept hearing a strange metallic sound, it went on for about 15 minutes. I finally dragged myself out of bed, and discovered that Lenny had been working at opening the refrigerator. Thank goodness he hadn't done it, but I was dumbfounded. The dogs were out of control.

The kicker was when Peg, who had taken up lying on my bed and staring out the bedroom window, pushed open the window, squeezed through the screen and was gone. Jan had wriggled halfway out, but I screamed and Jan stopped.

It was almost dark, and I couldn't find Peg. She doesn't leave the property, but if I leave her out, she eats cat food, chases cats and hassles the horses. I didn't want her chasing our weanling horses, and cat food does not agree with her digestive system, I didn't want to be getting out of bed every 15 minutes to let her out, giving her another chance to escape.

I called and I yelled and I begged and I talked nice. No dog. I knew she was at the back of the property, being a complete jerk, and had no intention of coming back until she was good and ready.

I finally gave up, went back to bed, and about three minutes later I heard Peg's sharp little annoying bark at the back door. She wanted in, poor baby. I had left her out in the cold and she couldn't believe it. As long as I was outside, it was a game. When I went back and ignored her, she was furious.

So Peg was back inside, panting and happy and wet and muddy. She went to her crate, laid down and was good for about 15 minutes, until she caught her breath and dried off. Then she started for the window again. But I had locked it, and she couldn't believe it. She pushed and snuffled at the window, and glared at me. I ignored her, so she did that annoying bark again, and I covered my head with my pillow and tried to zone her out.

This went on for three long, horrible weeks. The dogs went from their kennels to the house to escaping and wreaking havoc outside. I hobbled from my bed to the back porch and got a sore throat from yelling. Len gained about five pounds, Peg and Jan were border collie hoodlums, and I was fed up.

Then, last weekend, on Saturday morning, I woke up and felt great. When I sat up in bed, the dogs jumped up, ready to go out and defy me again. But I had my meanness back, and when we went outside, I grabbed Peg's collar and told her to MIND ME. As Jan tried to sail over the fence, I managed to get a good hold on her tail and pulled her back into the yard. She thumped hard on the ground, and I smiled at her. "I'm back," I said. She stared at me, and then obediently headed for her kennel.

Peg was already in the kennel, nursing a grudge and a sore neck. Len was trying to push through the fence to get to the cat food, and I yelled at him. He jumped, slammed into his kennel and glared at me. Only Kate was normal, following me around and wagging her tail.

That was the end of the bad dogs. Well, at least they were back to their normal bad selves, which I can live with.

I finally feel better, the dogs are behaving fairly well, and back to getting their exercise. And best of all, Lenny never did figure out the refrigerator, at least not yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or

creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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