I’ll never forget it… I was sleeping soundly one night, oblivious to the world around me, dreaming about whatever I was dreaming of that night, when suddenly I was snapped back into consciousness. It was an odd feeling, it wasn’t like I was jolted awake, where you jump up in your bed, or your eyes snap open to see what’s going on. One second I was deep asleep, my subconscious filling my head with various images and sounds as my brain processed the day, and then suddenly I was pulled into reality, but not in the typical panic-y way that happens when you’re rudely awakened.
It wasn’t a sound or motion which woke me, those usually prompt an “OMGWHATISTHAT” type of waking up. It was a smell. A really foul smell to be precise. I immediately knew where it came from, considering the source had been peeling paint for almost his entire life, so I laid with my eyes closed waiting for the smell to dissipate. What felt like minutes passed, but the smell hadn’t faded. My thoughts shifted from waiting for a smell to pass, to worrying about having to clean up a mess, so I slowly opened my eyes. I first noticed a strange black shape in front of my face, but it was hard to make out precisely what it was. I squinted, waiting for my eyes to clarify the world around me… and when they eventually did, the horrifying truth became evident.
An inch or so in front of me was a stubby black tail. So my initial hunch was correct, what I was smelling was a fart. What I didn’t expect was the fact the fart’s source was about 3 inches from my nose.
Milo, my lovable little jerk of a Boston Terrier, had literally farted in my face.
What’s in a breed?
I’ve always been a dog guy. I’ve had one cat in my lifespan, and the only thing I really remember about it was it was a female. The only reason I knew it was a female was because I opened the front door one day and was greeted by about 35 cats. Apparently our cat had gone into heat, so every cat in the neighborhood showed up to our house hoping to get lucky. So… my mother and I pulled up some chairs, and just watched the cats hanging out. My favorite one had to be the one that resembled a grey Garfield, a very large cat that hung out to the very end… poor guy. It says something that the most memorable thing about that cat was the hopeful entorauge that showed up at our door, and not a single thing about the cat itself. In contrast, I had a number of dogs growing up, at least four, and of those four I have at least one fond memory of each. It was obvious that as I grew older, a dog was going to be a necessity.
When it came time for me to get my own dog, I had a difficult decision to make: what type of breed? I had a couple of requirements: the breed had to be intelligent, dumb dopey dogs drive me nuts… dumb dopey anything drives me nuts, actually. It had to be energetic enough to enjoy running around and playing, but also be willing to hang out while I lay on the couch and watch TV. It needed to be big enough to be a dog, so I could roughhouse with it from time to time, yet small enough to be manageable and able to slide in under size requirements at various apartments. It needed to have a good temperament, even keel and friendly, yet be willing to guard the house while I slept or was away. Finally, it had to be cute… because seriously, who doesn’t want a cute dog?
I spent a long time looking into different breeds, staring at pictures, reading about congenital issues, lifespans, behavioral characteristics, ease of “maintenance”, etc, etc. I had a few breeds I “settled” on, only to have my opinion swayed by another random picture, or TV dog or something. Until one day I saw a commercial… I couldn’t tell you the company the commercial was for, what they were selling, or anything, but the breed stuck out. I started scouring pictures of the various breeds until I found it, the “American Gentleman”, a Boston Terrier.
I knew very little about them at the time, but it was a damn cute dog, so I needed to learn more. So, like I do, I started doing my homework: Smart? Check, and clever too. Energetic? Check, known for high energy, but not as high energy as other true terriers. Size? Check, topping out at 25lbs, they are big and robust enough to tussle with, but under the magic weight restriction number. Temperament? Check, friendly, fun loving, and adequate as a guard dog. I was also a fan of the naturally short tails and upright, expressive ears. Long tails knock stuff over, and I’m not a fan of the docking practice personally. I was sold… I knew what breed to get, so now I needed to find one.
A yard, A game, A gutter
Milo got loose in the front yard one day. He was just a little puppy, so he wasn’t yet familiar with his surroundings, and the front yard wasn’t fenced in to protect him from cars. The road I lived on wasn’t heavily travelled, but I didn’t want to risk him running out into the street and getting hit by an oncoming car or truck, so I had to get him to the back yard. He didn’t yet know his name, and he was still learning commands like “come”, so I had to be creative.
Milo, like many dogs, was a fan of the chase game. Many people know this game, and many people think their dogs are annoying idiots when they end up getting trapped into a round of “Chase” by their dog… the irony being that if the owner bothered to train the dog properly, it wouldn’t be an issue. Anyway, the game is pretty straight forward, you get close to the dog, it runs away. You run away from the dog, it chases. I had to initiate this game, but I couldn’t risk him starting to run around the yard. I had to be cautious, but I had to get him into play mode.
Instead of just running after him, or running away, I took a quick jab step in his direction, making it as obvious as I could that it was game on. It worked. He went from docile puppy mode to crazy play time mode in an instant, so I turned and took off for the side of the house, and he took off after me. Once I rounded the corner I slowed down to make sure he was following, and after a few seconds he came rocketing around the corner. I continued toward the back yard, hurdling the gutter that jutted out from the side of the house, before stopping to make sure he followed.
He was full throttle behind me… only he didn’t hurdle the gutter. All I could see was a little black blur in a dead sprint along the side of the house, followed by a loud “thunk!” I had neglected to account for the length of the grass, and poor Milo didn’t see the gutter until it was too late. I couldn’t help it, I immediately started laughing as I jogged over to make sure he was ok.
Thankfully he was fine, but he was also done playing. So I picked him up and carried him inside, consoling him, and laughing, the whole way.
“Black Male Y”
My wants were pretty specific, a male Boston Terrier puppy. I didn’t want a grown dog because I wanted the challenges of having to train it myself, and I didn’t want to deal with potential bad habits that could come from adopting. I wanted a male because… well, I don’t actually remember why. But whatever, with my wants established, I needed to find a reputable breeder in the area. I was careful to make sure to avoid puppy mills, or shady establishments where the puppies and their parents were treated like crap. I eventually tracked down someone who fit the bill and reached out.
My timing was terrible, yet my timing was absolutely perfect.
All of the dogs she had visible on her site were accounted for, all except for one. He was the runt of the litter, he was an outcast amongst his brothers and sisters, and his markings weren’t “perfect” so no one wanted him. He was dubbed “black male Y”, black because it was his dominant color, male because duh, Y because she used letters to help identify them without giving them names. Along with her response, she sent me a picture:
I was smitten. He had just had a bath and some puppy meds, so he was a sloppy mess, but something about the way he looked tugged at all the heart strings. He was the one, I knew it. I shot a response back telling her I wanted him, I put down the deposit, and set up a date to pick him up once he was old enough to leave his mother.
A few weeks later I was driving home with a cute little puppy, who would grow into a cute little terror.
The invisible fence
At my old home, I had a pretty large yard, 2 acres to be precise, so it was a regular occurrence for me to have people over to hang out in the back yard, burn stuff, and have a few drinks. One night, while having friends over to do the aforementioned burning of things and drinking of beverages, I was carrying a few folding lawn chairs out back with Milo half following me, half finding a place he somehow hadn’t marked yet. I frequently let Milo hang out with us, he wasn’t one to wander off, he preferred to hang out and play with the people, so I wasn’t concerned about losing him. Still, it was hard to see, so as I was walking out back I was making a point of looking back to keep him in sight and make sure he was still behind me. When he would drift back, the easiest way to get him to catch up was to just call his name and then jog forward a few steps. He’d give me the crazy face, and then take off like a shot after me… never failed. When he drifted a bit further back than I liked, I called his name, took a few steps, and sure enough: crazy face, off like a rocket.
Only, Milo hadn’t been out back past his usual stomping grounds in a while. He wasn’t aware of the garden that basically split the back yard in half. He also wasn’t aware of the chicken wire fence that was protecting it.
I tried to lead him around the chicken wire, making sure I was well off to the side of it before I called him and jogged forward. I looked back, saw the crazy face, and then he was off in a dead sprint… and then I saw the fence around the garden buckle, and Milo’s legs go flying through the air.
I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. I dropped the chairs, and fell to the ground laughing uncontrollably… obviously I’m a terrible dog owner because I couldn’t even walk over to make sure he was ok. He got up under his own power, and trotted over to me, visibly a bit thrown off by the fact he was just tossed a few feet backwards by some invisible force. I consoled him as best I could, in between laughing and gasping for breath.
He never forgot where the fence was.
“You mean… the cat?”
I was never good at coming up with names. In the bands I’ve been in, I never wanted to be the one stuck with figuring out the name… I always enjoyed joining bands that already had established names. When I was a DJ, I struggled coming up with a name, juggling through a number of terrible names before settling on one that I just kinda “fell” into. So when it came to naming a dog, I was at a loss.
I tried all kinds of names, names of musicians I liked, plays on words, names influenced by people in my life. But I kept striking out. The time for me to go and pick him up was getting closer by the minute, and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what I would call him. It was far more stressful than it really should’ve been.
But then it hit me… a movie I had seen when I was younger. The movie “starred” a dog and a cat, and the dog shared a few of traits with Boston Terriers… namely the stubby nose, and smallish overall size. The name of the movie: “Milo and Otis.” In an amusing bit of irony, I was more fond of the name Milo over the name Otis… and of course Milo was the name of the cat.
The name fit him perfectly, so it was settled, my new puppy’s name was gleaned from the feline lead of a movie with a questionable production history: Milo.
After one particularly late night of hanging out in the back yard, we were wrapping up, sending people home, and getting things cleaned up when something caught my eye. Milo, as usual, was out back hanging out with us, and I noticed as he walked around he was leaving red footprints.
Any amount of intoxication I may have had was instantly gone. I immediately picked him up, put him in the sink, and began investigating. He had sliced open a toe pad on one of his rear paws, I couldn’t tell how bad it was, so I rinsed it under clean water and applied pressure with a clean towel to stop the bleeding. A few moments later, the bleeding seemed to stop, so I started to rinse it and clean it some more so I could get a better idea of the damage… it was bad: he had basically sliced his toe in half, it had started bleeding again… and the bleeding wasn’t stopping.
It was about 2:30 in the morning, there was no chance the vet was open, so panic was starting to set in. I frantically checked the phonebook and asked the remaining friends for ideas, and thankfully I was told there was an emergency vet not far from my house. My girlfriend at the time manned the wheel while I kept pressure on Milo’s foot, and we high tailed it to the vet. Milo, this whole time, seemed not too concerned with all the panic that seemed to be surrounding him, but I could tell he was a bit more lethargic than he should be. I was worried.
We got to the vet at around 3:00am, and they immediately took him to the back. A few minutes later they filled us in: the cut was deep, would require stitches. They’d need to sedate him to stitch him up, but he’d be fine. We could head home to rest, they’d call so we could pick him up. Relieved, we headed back home for some much needed sleep.
Later in the day we got the call. Milo was awake, he was stoned off his ass, and we could come pick him up. When we arrived they handed us a few bottles of pain pills, instructed us to change the bandage on his foot regularly, and gave us some pointers for upkeep and infection prevention (when he goes out, put a plastic bag over his foot, for example). We plunked down a significant chunk of change to cover the emergency care, carried him to the car, and went back home.
Saying Milo was stoned is a bit of an understatement. He was hiiiiiiiiigh, Cheech and Chong high, “I’d eat an entire bag of Doritos, but I’m stuck on the couch and can’t reach for the bag sitting next to me” high. When I got him home, the first course of action was to take him out back for a pee break. It had been a considerable amount of time since he last went, so I knew he had to go. I carried him to the back yard, and set him on the ground so he could do what he needed to do.
He stood there for a second, obviously a bit confused, not sure where he was or how he got there. Then he lifted his leg and started to pee. As he peed, he slowly began to tip away from the direction he was peeing… until eventually he just collapsed on his side… peeing. When he was done, he decided it was the perfect time and place for a nap.
I laughed so hard I cried.
Owner induced bad habits
Many owners unwittingly teach, or enforce, a few bad habits with their dogs. Typically they’re things we, as owners, don’t notice… begging, jumping on the couch, sitting/laying on our laps, sleeping under the covers (which, btw, Milo is fond of), etc. Usually these are things that don’t particularly bother us, but every once in a while there’s an odd habit we may introduce. Like how bottles and balloons bring out the extreme crazy in Milo.
Like many of these stories, this one begins with a fire, a yard, and alcohol. As I was sitting in my chair, indulging in a fine beverage, I found myself with an empty bottle of soda, and a bored looking dog laying next to me. So… I bopped him on the head. He sat up, so I bopped him again. He made his little “you want a piece” half bark, half snort… so I bopped him again… and it was on. Me, armed with an empty bottle, Milo, armed with crazy, paws, and jaws. I’d pop him on the nose, he’d attempt to wrap his jaws around the bottle, and his inability to do so would make him even crazier. Rinse, repeat. I was laughing like a kid, Milo was in full destructo rage mode, it was good fun. Eventually he was able to pin the bottle down, so I gave in and let him chew on it. The crunching of the plastic seemed cathartic to him, he was suddenly calm and lost in the sensations that came with chewing on this new toy.
This all seemed perfectly harmless, until one day a friend noticed her 2 liter of sprite had gone missing. After a few minutes of looking in the obvious places and asking if anyone was using it, I could hear the tell tale crackle and crunch of the bottle in a dog’s jaws. A few seconds later, we were chasing a dog holding a pressurized, and now leaking, bottle of Sprite in his jaws, gleefully running from us while spraying Sprite on anyone foolish enough to come close. I was able to finally catch him and wrestle the bottle from his teeth, but it was too late, the damage was done… our guest had to switch drinks.
This new found love of plastic bottles meant that not only were large 2ltr soda bottles to be kept out of his reach, but smaller soda and water bottles also risked spontaneous Milo destruction. More than a few times I’d hear crunching, only to see Milo destroying a water bottle I wasn’t quite done with. To this day he gets the crazy face when he sees me pull a plastic bottle out of a bag. I have to make it perfectly clear that it’s mine, and not a toy, which usually results in him sulking out of the room or giving me the sad puppy dog face.
Aside from smaller plastic bottles, another unintentional casualty of his infatuation with bottles? Balloons. I discovered this one day while blowing up balloons for a party… Ok, sure, I bopped him on the head once… ok, 5 times, but he has this idea that everything is potentially a toy, so he was already giving me a look. The balloon was filled and tied, I was standing up by the counter, so I figured a few bops to the face was harmless. I mean, he couldn’t reach the balloon, right?
Well, I was kind of right. He couldn’t jump straight up to get the balloon, although he’s got a solid vertical, he can’t jump that high. What he could do was give me a well timed “punch” to a particularly sensitive area. Which he did, and down I went. Suddenly the balloon was at his level, and while I was doubled over in pain, he was madly chasing the balloon around the kitchen before finally pinning and popping it.
I was able to recover in time to prevent him from eating pieces of rubber, but now if I’m trying to keep something from him, I’m sure to rotate my body.
Pepe le Pew
After fencing in my large back yard, I’d frequently let Milo just hang out in the back yard. He liked hanging out there, master of his own domain, free to sniff, pee, and sunbathe to his heart’s content. At night, he would occasionally see a flash of something that would set off the alarms, and he would start barking. It’s rare for Milo to bark, so I’d have to go check and see what all the commotion was… usually it was just a leaf on a tree, or a tag on a chair flapping in the breeze.
This was my mindset one night when I heard him barking like mad outside. I stepped out into the yard, followed the sounds, and spotted Milo barking at something in the corner of the fence. Every once in a while he would take a quick jump back before barking some more, so I immediately knew he had an animal trapped in the corner, but what? I approached slowly, because the last thing I wanted was to be mauled by whatever it was… but then I got close enough to make out the markings.
In the corner, with its back to a wall, and an angry, wound up dog in its face, was a skunk. Great, I had to figure out how to get Milo away from the skunk without getting sprayed. Then I had to deal with removing the smell from Milo if he was unlucky enough to be sprayed before I got out there. I wasn’t looking forward to any of this… I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t just grab him, Milo was very much in the skunk’s face, no more than a foot, tops, from the skunk. When the skunk made a move at Milo, he would jump clear, and then be right back in the skunk’s face, barking, angrily.
What to do? I tried calling his name, but he would only glance at me for a moment before going back to making sure the intruder didn’t get away. I grabbed one of his toys that was near by, a stick used to chuck tennis balls, and tried to use it to get him further away… that didn’t work. I was standing there, a few feet away from them, the skunk visibly terrified, me terrified I was going to get sprayed, Milo basically yelling in the skunk’s face. I had no idea what to do.
Then, an opening. The skunk made a particularly ballsy, aggressive lunge toward Milo, causing him to jump back more than a few feet. There was suddenly enough room for me to get between him and the skunk, so I made my move. I grabbed Milo, and hauled ass for the door to the house, all while he’s doing everything he can to keep the skunk in his sights, squirming and twisting to get down. I keep him in my grasp, and make it safely inside… I didn’t look back, I had no idea what the skunk did.
Once in the safety of my home, I sniffed Milo all over… nothing. He didn’t get sprayed. I changed my clothes, and smelled them… nothing, I was good. Lucky for me, skunks will not spray when cornered, survival 101 – don’t turn your back on a potential threat if there’s not a clear exit. I didn’t let him out into the yard until I was certain the skunk was gone, but that didn’t stop him from patrolling the yard for a few hours later that day.
Did I mention he farts?
Boston Terriers are a brachycephalic breed, which is big-latin-word for “short stubby nose.” Other brachycephalic breeds include Pugs, Shih Tzus, Boxers, and of course, English Bulldogs. This short nose leads to a few quirks with the breed: snorting, grunting, snoring, and… yup, farting. The thinking is the short nose causes them to gulp more air when breathing than most breeds, which has the not so awesome side effect of causing a copious amount of butt wind. The snorting, grunting, and snoring is cute, the rectal turbulence is not cute.
Milo has gone through various phases with his mastery of the back draft. For a while, for every action, there was an equal and rearwardly fired belching clown. He’d test the Levi wind tunnel when he’d jump up on the couch, cheek squeak while trying to burrow under the covers. He’d be knocked out cold on the floor and let loose a butt yodel, sometime waking himself up from his deep slumber. It was horrible, the house was filled with the sounds, and smells, of the horrid Arkansas barking spiders that followed him around.
He then evolved into a prolific crop duster. The events would unfold thusly: I would be sitting on the couch, watching TV while Milo slept on the bed in another room. Milo would emerge from the room, stroll over to the couch and jump up next to me. He’d sit peacefully for a few moments, and then he’d pop off a blinking brown eye, jump down off the couch, and then stroll back into the bedroom. Leaving me to gag in the noxious fumes of his leather cheerio bark.
Now, he’s at the age where he just doesn’t mind hanging around. I think it stems from the time he split the steam in his own face while licking his nethers. I guess he figured after such close contact with his own brand of brown air biscuits he didn’t have to escape the room when he let one fly. Or maybe he’s just too old to care when he sounds the sphincter symphony.
At one point, his Missouri mud ducks could peel the paint off the walls, so I made it my mission to do something about it. At the least, I was just hoping I could reduce the chances his mudslappers would melt the nose off of my face.
Step one was to get the food bowls up off the ground. In many cases it completely solves the problems. In my cases it stopped him from turning on the rectal afterburners when jumping on the couch.
Step two was to mix plain yogurt in with their food… which is a step I immediately skipped. While the active cultures in yogurt has been known to stop the squeakers outright, Milo is a particularly picky eater, and I didn’t want to risk rotting yogurt in a food bowl.
Step three was to switch to high quality, grain free foods. Dogs aren’t very good processors of grain to start with, but it doesn’t bother most dogs. Some dogs can be negatively affected, increasing the frequency of seam squirrels, so switching to a grain free brand can help. Most grain free brands have the added benefit of being good, wholesome foods, absent of fillers and the general crap found in many well known brand name foods. If the food has anything other than the primary protein as the number one ingredient, it’s probably not a very good food.
Thankfully, step one mixed with step three has dramatically decreased the frequency and the intensity of his poop toots, so while he’ll still occasionally sound the stern foghorn, it’s not powerful enough to cause tears to be shed.
Oh, and for the record, I did manage to get him back for the time he ripped one in my face.
11 years a puppy…
Milo turned 11 earlier this year, but he’s 11 going on 3. He’s showing the visible signs of being an old dog: grey face, stiff hips, sketchy vision, but he doesn’t let that slow him down. He’s still playful, he still likes to sprint around the house like a mad dog when I come home, he still looooves to play fetch. The only difference is he can’t sustain his levels of crazy for as long… he’ll sprint around a dog park like a bat out of hell for a short time, before going to lay down and take a break. He also tends to get quite stiff after a particularly insane play session, and on more than one occasion I’ve had to carry him up the stairs when we got home.
11 years is a long time, and as you would expect, he’s been a loyal companion the entire time. He made the move with me from Illinois to San Diego, and he’s accompanied me on a number of road trips, essentially dipping a paw in both oceans. He’s been by my side when I’ve been floating on cloud nine, and laying on my lap when I’ve been down in the dumps. He’s never far away, laying next to me in this oven of a room as I type, and is even sure to make sure I’m following down the stairs when I take him for a walk. He’s been a part of my life for 11 awesome years, and it’s hard for me to think about what those 11 years would be like without him.
But he’s getting old, and I’m becoming more keenly aware that our time is growing short. I find myself looking at him from time to time, holding back tears as I think about the unfortunate inevitability. I’ve talked to him about how he’s becoming an old fart… obviously he just looks at me while I’m talking, not having any idea what I’m on about, but it helps me cope. It’s a sad thought, and a future I wish I didn’t have to undergo, but I know I must, and I’m trying to prepare myself for when I will. I know I’ll be an inconsolable ball of snot and tears when our time is up, and I accept that. I’m proud of it. When it’s time, I’ll break down, I’ll cry endless tears, I’ll wish he wasn’t gone, I’ll wish for one more day. I’ll miss him dearly, but if there is a Heaven, it’s filled with dogs all gleefully running and playing and sniffing butts, waiting for their owners to meet them or looking for a lonely soul to adopt. He’ll fit right in.
But he’s not alone
When Milo was very young, some troubling signs showed up. I would leave for work or to go out with friends, only to come home to a house covered in couch cushion stuffing. Destructive behavior is often an indicator of a common ailment in dogs: Separation Anxiety. I didn’t want him shredding the house while I was gone, so I looked into ways to help, including some pheromone releasing wall plugins, before eventually settling on a course of action that would change both of our lives…
I introduced his half sister, Penny, to the household.