Today, I looked over to the bed and you had fallen asleep before me. I again felt like my heart would break from how damn much I love you. Before you, the only other who could inspire that in me was (still is) Stitch. It’s pride, adoration and respect combined with aching anxiety over your well being to which I cannot *always* be present to protect. It’s a repressed scream because I don’t have all the myriad words to explain the heavy pressure. The closest means is an analogy.
I trained Stitch early on in his life to prepare for the AKC Best-In-Show and work trials. It was a way to build a strong bond, to instill confidence by teaching him the tools he would need to communicate with his human and in return, understand what his human(s) asked of him and to keep him stimulated but calm. He took very well to his training without coercion or bribery with treats, so I continued to use positive reinforcement with commands to which he knew there was no option of disobeying (such as stopping a dash into the street if his leash ever broke or *not* happily and willingly getting into every car that had an open driver side door). One of my most cherished memories centers on the synchronicity Stitch naturally picked up: without verbal commands, he would run alongside me, keeping pace [unleashed sometimes] and mimic my movements without falter. For a Maltese, he could clear a body of water (up to 20″ wide) without disturbing the surface of it. His intelligence was daunting because he could follow and understand a conversation in Cantonese, of which he was not taught: all my training commands were in English. When he started to disdain getting wet, either rain or bath, he was very aware if I tried to “psych” him out by getting someone else to put him in the bathtub. We began resorting to saying, “Bath time, grooming, medicine, departure, etc” in Chinese but he still knew, to wit we began spelling the words out. I know he’s one of a kind and I know every parent or pet owner thinks that of their own. What they probably don’t say is, “He’s too smart for his own good,” because it can be extremely frustrating and distressing to have a permanent three year old thwarting the best of intentions. Stitch has his own ideas, determination and runs on his schedule: trying to force him leads to vindictive behavior on his part, such as pooping in your shoe, peeing on your belongings even if one is gift wrapped and generally being destructive towards the one who denied him. He has no qualms about biting and charging bigger dogs, unfamiliar humans and as a signal of distress. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a crate (a.k.a kennel or cage): a dog, like his wolf ancestors, needs a private space where s/he can retreat and feel secure. At first, Stitch was only in the crate when I had to leave for class or work and immediately released upon my return or other family members. Eventually, when he was potty trained, we put baby gates around the kitchen (where his crate was) so that he could have the option of leaving his crate to stretch, play, etc. Funnily enough, Stitch rarely left it while we were gone and as he grew older, he would enter the crate upon his prerogative, then use his paw to close the door behind him. I found it at once endearing and heartbreaking: he was showing us what he wanted, not the other way around. He has so much personality that others remark he could be a human masquerading as a dog: who wouldn’t want a life of warm shelter, great food, no bills and no job.