A dog’s retirement home

Almost a year ago, we decided to get another dog. Not in the traditional sense either. Only nine months after we had adopted Noodle, our schnoodle puppy that some of you may have read about in previous columns, we “adopted” Donovan, my sister-in-law’s 13-year-old chiweenie. Sarah likes to call our home his retirement home.

Don is a military dog. Sarah’s sister was reassigned to Washington, D.C., for training, and the place where she and her daughter would be living wasn’t set up for pets.

On top of that, she is scheduled to be transferred overseas this year, which made it nearly impossible for her to keep Don without jumping through some huge hoops. So she turned to us, knowing all the moving combined with Don’s age wouldn’t work for him.

Sarah had lived with her sister for more than a year before we got together, so she knew Don, all of his tendencies and that he could be a playful yet curmudgeonly old dog.

A cross between a chihuahua and the dachshund, there are moments where Don exhibits traits of both breeds. The happy little dachshund in him will jump on your lap and try to lick your face, only to have the chihuahua half get a little too feisty and try to take a bite out of your finger if he’s not pleased with the way you’re petting him.

After a year, I’ve grown used to it. As has Noodle, who has learned a lesson in boundaries and that older dogs just don’t play like puppies.

We’d only had Noodle for nine months when Don came into our home. In almost every sense, he was still a puppy and had us almost entirely to himself. He had been with us longer than his previous owners and likely didn’t remember what it was like to be with other dogs.

Watching the coexistence between Noodle and Don, who couldn’t be more different, has been like a psychological study.

Like an older child wary and confused about a new sibling in the home, Noodle kept us extremely close and tried to impress us at every turn in the first few weeks Don came into our home, as if he thought we were replacing him. Soon though, he realized this other dog and him were both here to stay.

Noodle eventually calmed down, and in a few months, he and Don became buddies. They share a space in our home, look for each other when they’re not around and, like brothers would, steal each others toys and then come whining to us about it after the fact.

Don, despite having some health issues, perks up when you toss him a tennis ball. Most of those balls were Noodle’s at one point, and if Don is playing with one, you could bet the house that Noodle is going to find Sarah or I and try to make us feel bad for him about the situation.

That said, when Don was having some health issues this past winter, Noodle sensed it and kept him close. It was the first time we really noticed them sit together or sleep in the same area. Now, they do it all the time.

There have been some drawbacks, though. Noodle is an energetic dog. He loves walking, running and playing outside. Don would rather hang out in his kennel. Sarah has a hard time taking Noodle outdoors to play and leaving Don inside, especially in the summer, but I assure her that the old man is just fine.

Even though they’re both lap dogs, Noodle is non-shedding, where Don is exactly the opposite. His hair is everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Somewhere in St. Paul, Minn., the 3M corporation’s sticky lint roller department probably has a little gold star on our house.

The best part about having Don in our lives is that he seems invigorated here. He enjoyed his first trip to the farm last summer as he snooped around and pestered cats. There were even times he didn’t want to come into my parent’s house, and Don always wants to be in the house. Don is living proof that even if you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, that old dog still may have a little life left in him.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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