Two years ago this weekend, Mr. Wild Dingo and I drove up to the city to adopt Loki. I still remember the mixed feelings I had when I met him. He was much bigger than I had anticipated and he wasn't even full grown. But his silly personality and his sad beginnings are what sold Mr. Wild Dingo and I on him.
It's been a wild and crazy two years with Loki. While many of our readers think Loki is a well-adjusted, well-behaved, easy-to-train dog, I can honestly admit that it's been a roller coaster ride and I'm still not certain we're dialed in tightly as a team yet. With all the training and work we've done together in the last two years, he's still challenging me and calling me on my inconsistencies as his handler. And "handled" he must be.
Loki is a wonderfully smart, driven and silly dog. He's also easily frustrated which can be good and bad for learning new things. Frustration builds drive and drive builds learning. So while it's pretty easy to teach him new things, on the flip side, his frustration can lead to undesired behaviors. Loki's also anxious and unconfident. He's a not a dog that would fit in with just any family.
Loki's also sensitive to sound. I mean really sensitive. So much so, I can't even use the blinkers in the car with the windows open. I forgot to tell Mr. Wild Dingo this while we were driving with Loki last week. Mr. Wild Dingo put on the blinkers and Loki promptly pulled out ear-splitting yaps, giving Mr. Wild Dingo just the jolt he needed. (Ooopsie.)
He also has the most insane pack drive I've ever seen which has earned him the nickname "Retardo Montelban." His jumping, barking and thrashing about whenever Mr. Wild Dingo and Juno came to class was difficult to ignore by classmates. Heaven forbid I ever hand Loki's leash to another person. Though he's people friendly, he'll raise bloody hell before anyone else but me, Mr. Wild Dingo or a few of the trainers can hold his or even Juno's leash. Yes, you read that right. He won't stand for anyone else handling Juno either.
A few weeks ago, I contacted Loki's foster and asked her to send me digital copies of photos I found in his paperwork. I had begun to wonder a little more about his background and age. These are some of the photos I found in his file that were taken January 2008. His adoption files had these photos from his first foster in Taiwan, and said he was 1.5 years old and 36 lbs. Based on the January 2008 images below, and his adult weight (67 lbs), I seriously doubt he was more than a year old in January 2008.
Even before he was a year old, Loki nailed down his innocent puppy look.
Back then his ears were so big, they couldn't stand up on his small head.
Look at the size of those paws!
Not much of his widow's mark shows in his puppy face, which is all black. But his eyes, tail and ears are so telling. Does anyone want to just salt those ears and munch them up like I want to?
When he came to us end of May 2008, he was 58 lbs, which was about 90% of his adult body weight. According to dog growth charts, that would make him at about a year old when we adopted him. Given all of that, I decided that his anniversary would be the same day as his birthday, which makes him three years old this weekend.
Loki's US foster mom sent me the above photos with the following provoking thoughts that I think can apply to any rescued dog:
"I learned a long time ago that I do not want to know too much about their previous lives. Sometimes history is best left alone and unsaid. There are things you will learn from him over time when he is ready to tell you. If he remembers. Some things are only bad as we perceive them, not how others see them. It really doesn't matter how old he is or what his life was like. What matters is how he/you deal with his life now. Remember, dogs are never victims, they accept life for what or how it is and have the best time they can. Give him kisses for me and remind him that is a long way from where he started and very lucky!"
I think Loki knows he's lucky. But I get the feeling he's always wondering when he will be forced to leave again (never). He had so much change as a young pup that it seems perfectly natural in his learned behavior to fear being separated from his pack.
Regardless of his anxieties, Loki has for the most part, learned to trust me. And obviously, that is where he's gone terribly wrong. Just look at the various ways I torture him.
“Hallo. My name is Inigo Montoyo. You killed my stuffie. Prepare to die.”
"Does this crown make my butt look big?
"Does this boa make my ears look big?"
"Is it ok to steal a cookie if I'm wearing a mask?"
"I can't help how handsome I am. "
Regardless of all the challenges he has and continues to present, Loki can charm the most unsuspecting person with silly behaviors. The range of expression in his face seems infinite. Every time I photograph him, I'm conflicted in my choice of photos to use for this blog because each expression tells a complex story. I love the fact that he has grown to love modeling. I can litterally put any costume on him and he not only endures it but rises to the occasion and pulls out his own "Blue Steel" for the camera.
I'm grateful Loki came into our lives because he's taught me a few things about myself. For one thing, I've learned more in the past 2 years about training dogs than I had ever planned. When I adopted him, I foolishly thought we'd go to one or two obedience classes and be done with it. But his own drive to work and my own need to handle his anxious behavior kept us in school. I've also learned that working with dogs is far more fascinating than I anticipated. It doesn't matter if temperament is born or learned, it's obedience training that builds confidence. And while his temperament may never change, obedience and consistent handling will be his saving grace. I've made my share of mistakes with Loki but luckily for me, he's been forgiving. I'm still learning. Unfortunately for Loki, he's my unwitting experiment. Booowhahahaha!
"Oh crud Big boy. Why do we ALWAYS have to pose for the camera before we eat our pupper-versary cake?"
"Princess, just do what she says. Really."
At home, Loki is the picture of perfect.
The husky in Juno comes out and she jumps the gun before we release her. Loki is the ever attentive soldier and will only eat when told. I told you he has "issues."
"Happy Anniversary Big Boy. I'm glad you're my pack mate."
"Thanks Princess. I'm glad you're my bite-toy, err... my pack mate too."
Happy Anniversary Loki. We love you more than you know.