Readers, don’t shame me but, it was Loki’s anniversary at the end of May and I plum forgot to post about it. But I have a note from my doctor and it excuses me from being temporarily insane. But that’s another story. This story is about Loki’s fifth year with us, so I thought I’d highlight a few of his best moments from the last year.
I remember the first time I saw him. His name was Billie and I remember thinking he wasn’t very cute because he had a small body and such a huge head. Not to mention those ears which I would come to love. He was at that awkward stage between cute puppy and adult dog. I look at him today and I’m reminded how many beautiful models go through that awkward stage and emerge swans. Maybe I’m biased but I see nothing but beauty when I look at him.
Looks aside, Loki’s friendship and loyalty know no bounds. Despite his seemingly annoying antics, he shows me time and time again just how devoted he is to everyone in our family.
His willingness to please me also has no limits. When I adopted Loki, I was hoping he’d be a lot like the dingo, Maggie, who always allowed–and even enjoyed–us dressing her up. But Loki had none of that early on. He would run from fancy collars, harnesses, costumes or anything that would touch his body in a strange way. So I gave up on it, resigning myself to “he’s just not going to be a dog who plays dress up.” Over time I earned his trust and to my surprise he now not only allows me to dress him up for giggles, but really works it for me. For a dog who wouldn’t allow me to touch his feet, he now willingly comes to me for problems he knows I can fix, like thorns in his paw. Though he still copes by hiding his head between my knees—“I’m not looking”—while I examine his feet, he’s come a long way when it comes to touching him.
Before I adopted him, the rescue group had warned me that he was possibly un-adoptable due to behavior issues. But his foster said one thing that stood out to me. “He tries so hard to do the right thing.” That was his selling point and how right she was about him. At school, people often admired his drive and attention to me, commenting that he never takes his eyes off me. I never noticed it much but looking through photos or videos taken of us together, it’s pretty obvious. Loki had a lot other “issues” to overcome, but one thing was always certain: he really wanted to do the right thing and always looked to me for direction and still does.
I never dreamed I could take a dog with his amount of anxiety issues to another country, let alone go on exotic vacations with him. But because I did, he had to look to me again for confidence. I pushed his boundaries and still do. And each time, it just brings us closer and makes him much more comfortable in his own skin (and ears for that matter). For a dog who’s content to stay at home for life, he puts up with a lot with two girls who love adventure. He’s braved plane rides, driving in the Swiss Alps numerous times (and you all know how much he agonizes in the car) and even a few gondola rides. I have to hand it to him. For his amount of anxieties, he’s doing pretty well, though he may have a few more gray hairs in his muzzle for it all.
Just like the dingo had done in her time, Loki draws the attention of quiet children. Opposites attract. While living in Switzerland, he formed a special friendship with his pal Ludwig. That taught me one of my biggest lessons in dog handling. It’s not what you say, or how loud you say it. It’s how you behave around the dog that brings about a trusting reliable bond.
I don’t know what it is, but small dogs are also magnetically attracted to Loki. I’m lucky because small dogs were the majority of Bernard’s customers at the cage-less farm he stayed at when we vacationed. But no small dog loved him like Mona, the beagle pictured here. She didn’t enjoy any dogs, but she decided Loki was her soul mate and he was happy to take her under his wing (O.K., ears) and protect her on all our adventures. We lost Mona a few months ago but she’ll always have a place in Loki’s and all our hearts.
I’m so sensitive to how Loki is perceived. Between his intense looks and his reactions when under unresolved anxiety, he can appear to be a challenging dog at best. Even though we had gone through two years of intense training and he had passed his Iron Dog certification, he still had so much more to teach me, such as how Classical Conditioning was so much more effective tool than crank and yank “do it because I’m commanding you.” Because of that, he earned so much off-leash freedom around farm animals. I’ll never forget the first day he saw a herd of cows and a pasture of horses. I was 4 blocks away and he was in hysterics. Little-by-little, treat-by-treat, he learned to feel good and calm in his body when he was around those animals to the point that he didn’t even need to be in “heel” position, but free to move about and ignore the herd. He taught me how important it is to feel good in your skin first, before you can ever learn any particular skill.
Loki garnered a lot of attention in Europe, even some celebrities stopped to inquire about his unique appearance. Nobody ever gets enough of his ears. They are his mojo. The Italians especially dug him. I’ll never forget how one Italian women grabbed his checks exclaiming, “Ciao! Bambino!” I almost had a heart attack at the sudden and unexpected gesture and expected my dog to flip out. Loki just sucked up all the attention.
Mr. Wild Dingo was looking closely at Loki the other night. “He’s changing,” he said.
“There’s more gray in his muzzle,” I replied.
“No, it’s not that. He’s more independent,” said Mr. Wild Dingo.
I’m not sure “independent” is the word I’d use, but I understood what he meant. Though he’s always a cracker in my eyes, he’s calmer, more confident in his body, more trusting. His foster parent also had said something that still resonates true today: “He needs his own person. It doesn’t matter if he has another dog or not. He specifically needs one person.” Over the years, I think he’s always struggled with whether his person would bail, which was the root of most of his reactive behaviors. Something switched recently. It’s almost as if the weight of the world has lifted and you can see his personality and true motivations shine through. I don’t know if it was moving around or all the strange places we went. No matter where we are at the time, he knows his is person is his home.
Neither Loki nor I are perfect. But we’re perfect for each other.
Happy Fifth Anniversary to Loki, one of my greatest teachers. Thank you for your patience with me. I know you didn’t pick me but I’m honored to be your person.