With a dog like Luellen, I find myself in situations that include issuing the statements, "Be careful," and "I'm sorry," fairly frequently. Before owning my own dogs, I always swore I would never have a dog that required those kinds of disclaimers and apologies. Although I don't believe Lu could be classified as "aggressive," I would describe her as "volatile" and "anxious," and those two adjectives can be scary in a 50 lb. creature with a mouth full of teeth. But I would also describe my Lulu as "loving" and "well-behaved," and I consider myself lucky every day to have her in my life. The contradictions of owning my dog are what make me want to share her story.
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Lulu's story begins with Hank's story. In August of 2012, after Chris and I had been dating for about five months, Chris decided he wanted a puppy. I, being a hardcore puppy fanatic, was all for that decision. Chris was renting an apartment in Fayetteville, and, even though I technically lived in Raleigh, I was spending a lot of my nights and weekends with him in Fayetteville, and we felt like we were ready for the responsibility. So, Chris did some research on dog breeds. With a one-bedroom apartment as a living space, we needed a pup who was medium in size and who was energetic enough to keep up with us but not so off-the-wall it would lose its mind in the tight living quarters. Chris found some information on GSP's, and we fell in love with the pictures of the floppy-eared, muscular, speckled dogs who showed up in our Google image search for the breed. All the information we found described GSP's as deeply loving, trainable dogs who, although energetic, could be pleased with a long run or walk every day and could be suited for apartment living if they were given this daily exercise. With some help from my now mother-in-law, a very reputable breeder who happened to have a "clearance" puppy remaining from a litter earlier in the summer was located. We promised the puppy and ourselves he would get all the exercise and attention he needed.
From the moment he was ours, we were completely smitten. I honestly did not know it was possible to love a dog like I loved that pup, and anyone who knows me will tell you I have REALLY loved all of my dogs. Something about having a dog that is completely dependent and devoted to you and your significant other fosters a different kind of puppy love than the kind felt for family dogs that you share with your parents and siblings. Not to mention our Hank has some very individual personality quirks that make him even more endearing than the average cutie, but that is a whole different post.
For a long time, apartment living with Hank was fine. Chris created a 20 ft. leash from some rope, and we would go out to the large grassy areas between the apartment buildings for an hour or more each night, letting Hank run until he ran out of slack in one direction, and then immediately take off in the other direction. But, as Hanky grew older and bigger, it became obvious the tight space was getting to be too much for him. He began to develop severe separation anxiety, and even managed to dig a hole through the linoleum floor all the way to the concrete in the bathroom one day while Chris was at work. I would like to say it was our plans for a future together that really inspired Chris and I to begin looking for our first house in January of 2013, but in all honesty it was the need for Hank to have more room and a fenced backyard, so he could be out in the fresh air while we were at work. By March, Chris and I were engaged and had closed on our little house in Sanford. We thought the big backyard with the 6 ft. privacy fence would be Hank's saving grace, but we found out quickly that our puppy problems were not completely solved. You see, Sanford is in the sandhills of NC, and our backyard is made of sand, and Hank Doo thought that sand was hilarious. He dug craters and he found out he could dig out of his yard in no time.
With the backyard not being the fix-all we had hoped, and Hank's destructo-dog tendencies and separation anxiety increasing, we were a little frustrated. We began to brainstorm about ways to make his and our lives less stressful and a little easier. As we compared thoughts, we came up with one crazy idea. Both of us had noticed that Hanky's behavior was far better around my family's lab Matilda and Chris's parents' lab Wrigley. Although he still ran around like a chicken with his head cut off in other dogs' company, Hank had less of a tendency to look for human belongings to destroy, and his separation anxiety and desire to escape from captivity decreased completely when he was with another dog. So although the solution seemed preposterous, it came to us quite easily. Our Hank needed a live-in best friend...
to be continued
*Bridal portrait by Big Star Studios, Mebane, NC