Adopting Monte

I swear we love our dog. But last night was a little rough.

We adopted Monte (“monty”) because we like scruffy terrier-looking mutts, and we thought a one year old dog would be easier to raise than a puppy. He was a good size, seemed relaxed, and got along with our other dog on a walk. Boxes checked, we decided to bring him home. That was four months ago. Since then we’ve discovered a laundry list of issues that make it extremely difficult to imagine leading a normal life again, where our dogs are companions, not full-time projects.

When we brought him home, Monte was about as sympathetic a creature as I’ve ever seen. He was skin and bones, had worms and kennel cough, and the rescue nonprofit where we found him did a C-minus job with his pre-adoption bath, so he looked like a matted, 30-pound rat. That contributed more than a little to our decision to go through with it. 

Since then, however, his coat has taken on some luster, he’ll sit still while we’re watching a movie, and he’s moved from the kitchen to our bedroom at night. He slept in the kitchen before because he chewed plastic, wood, furniture, and everything in between. He pulled 30 feet of coax cable out of the wall. Bringing him into our room with computers, shoes, and a mattress to shred just didn’t seem like good idea.

Despite the incremental progress, it’d be hard for Monte to be more destructive if he tried. We’ve fully “puppy-proofed” the kitchen, removing *everything* from reach and barricading any wood furniture with chairs. We overturn barstools and leave them in front of a baby gate every time we leave the house to make sure he can’t jump over (which he otherwise can) and chew furniture in other rooms (which he otherwise does).  

Compared to a puppy, a dog coming into young adulthood should be less prone to chewing things around the house and in theory can go longer periods alone, which generally fits more readily into a work schedule. We’ll never know what a puppy version of Monte would have been like, but it’s a safe bet that he would have come without whatever doggy PTSD makes Monte go nuts while we’re out.

Last night we overdid it. We went with some friends to dinner at 6 p.m. and then out to a late movie. The movie was Blade Runner 2049, which is three hours long. Walking into the movie I had a nagging doubt that we we’re doing something if not irresponsible, then at least unwise. On the way home, after being out of the house for a total of seven hours, I said, “Whoops. The dogs are going to be pissed.” We had no idea.

Monte answered the door, which is a bad sign since he’s shut in the kitchen behind a gate and overturned bar stools. He had ransacked the couch, still piled with papers and sundries from the work week, leaving shredded paper and random objects--gifts, clothes, work stuff--all around. Venturing into the kitchen we saw that he had pulled apart the pantry and flung cornstarch and flour all over the floor. Then he had chewed through several cans of soda, which sprayed down the flour and starch and turned the whole mess into wheatpaste, like the kind you might use to plaster flyers to a wall.  

Monte apparently suffers from acute separation anxiety vis a vis our first dog, Ponygirl. He hurls himself against the door or gate or anything else standing between him and his sole pack mate. That’s our current theory, at least, so we’re working on a way to keep them together if we ever need to be out that long again. More likely: we’ll end up never leaving the house again until our dog is older and slower.

The flipside of that particular coin is that Monte and Pony are now what animal welfare folks call a “bonded pair,” which in lay terms just means that they love each other. They’re brother and sister, I guess, based on the types of squabbles they get into, which can get pretty savage. Other times they share their bed and chase each other around the yard. Pony won’t tolerate being shut in a room when she knows Monte is somewhere else having fun. For that reason alone I’m glad we found him.