Yes, not content with the couple of dozen koi, two ponds, three aquaria, two cats, and two kids, we have now added a dog to the mix! Say hi to Sausage.
Sausage is a miniature bull terrier. The bull terrier, in a true case of a country victimising the animal, has been criminalised in Malaysia so, if I wanted a bully, I had to go for a miniature. And I did so want a bully.
They are great dogs, undeserving of the terrible reputation they have. They are intensely affectionate, loyal, protective and a load of fun. The full-sized dog weighs in at 20-36 kg and tops out at about 60cm in height. The miniature is less than half that (usually up to 15kg and about 30cm in height). Other than that, the personalities are identical, along with that cute-ugly mug, broad chest and angled eyes.
That’s not to say they are an easy dog to own, just because you can pop one under your arm and go hiking with it. Unless you’re unrelentingly firm, a bully can easily dominate a meeker family. And you have to be careful of them using charm to get their own way. It’s adorable when they’re puppies, but you don’t want to create a rod for your own back. As I’m writing this, Sausage is lying on a mat at my feet, which appears to be her favourite position during the day.
We got Sausage for a number of reasons. For one, J comes from a more dog-oriented family and his mum has always regarded a dog as an integral part of the household, especially if that house has a decent yard, as ours does. Another reason is that J got sick of me sitting in front of a computer screen 12+ hours a day. Sausage is his sneaky way of getting me to exercise more. (The cats, it seemed, just weren’t up to the task.) So far, it’s worked. I think I’ve seen more of the outside in one week than in all the previous year combined.
Sausage’s diet is BARF, as is the cats. It’s more expensive, but there’s no substitute. The cats have thrived on a raw food diet (Fluff for 6 years and Squeak for 4), with only a bit of tartar to show for it. Fluff is ultimately lazy and hates eating anything that resembles work, so it’s off the vet he goes in the next month for some descaling and we’ll see how he feels about that, the lazy sod. Squeak, on the other hand, loves bones and doesn’t have any health problems whatsoever.
Sausage has her own diet that differs from the carnivore cats’. More vegetables, whole eggs ground up. She loves prawn heads, which the cats really couldn’t get into, no matter how many times I tried to entice them with it. Chicken carcasses, chopped up. Raw beef and mutton scraps. I’ll be trying her on fish soon. I don’t tell the vet. Vets are still pretty anti-BARF, and I don’t want to court trouble. Of course, all the animals are up-to-date on their various vaccinations and medications (and the cats are completely indoor animals), so I don’t feel I’m being stupid about this but if I watch what food goes into our stomachs, I think I would be less than responsible if I didn’t do the same for our animals.
The other thing I can also recommend thoroughly is clicker training. It’s a great way to very quickly shape behaviour. I believe we (the kids and I) taught Sausage the command to ‘Sit’ in about 5 minutes, tops. I wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t done it ourselves. Of course, she doesn’t always do it. She’s already figured out, for example, that I’ll tell her to sit when I want to enter a room where she’s not usually allowed. In such cases, she’ll stare at me blankly then, when I open the door, step inside THEN sit.
I did ‘Stay’ at mealtimes and that one has taken as well, although I now have to vary the situations I use it in. Bullies are clever enough to quickly know what it is you want them to do…they’re just not sure that you absolutely mean it 100% of the time. The result is that they interpret commands according to their own reading of the situation which, about half the time, is not your reading of the situation. Just mentioning it.
And don’t forget the bully runs. This is the bull terrier equivalent of a cat’s manic half-hour, and they will rush everywhere at speed, bumping their heads against a host of hard surfaces, but with surprisingly little (if any) damage to furnishings to show at the end of it. You’ll look around, everything will still be in place, and you’ll say, “What just happened?”. Best just to stay in one spot and relax until it’s all over. Having cats has been good practice for this particular behaviour.
Having a dog is not easy. They’re not self-cleaning the way cats are. They will also eat anything and everything, so they’re stupid that way too, compared to their feline counterparts. However, I have to say that, in the area of problem-solving, Sausage is proving to have it all over the two cats. So it’s obviously a different type of intelligence. For the moment, I’m looking forward to the end of toilet-training (Sausage turned 3 months old this week), but then Maria tells me I have to watch out for the teenage period. I’m already groaning.
POSTSCRIPT: Of course, being Malaysia, just because an animal is illegal to own, doesn’t mean you can’t buy one, but what’s the use of breaking the law in that case? Only the animal suffers in the end.