Bad owner. Bad owner.

After 13 days of living in our house, Cali is doing better. She’s still shy in certain situations, like the gardeners making noise, but in other situations, she is more confident. We can walk her around the block now without burning through a pack of dog treats, and she’s less fearful of barking dogs and other outside noises. Or, at least she can walk away from them, tail down, instead of planting herself.

Best of friends

Clearly, the only thing separating Cali from Labrador greatness and more confidence is me.

Example: We walked her to the pet store tonight to socialize her. All went well and she was doing great. Then, as we stood there debating whether to buy the $5 or $3 clicker, a man with a large Malamute came up to us.

“He’s half wolf,” he said.

“Is he friendly?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

My wife held our yellow lab and she let her sniff the Malamute. The man made some comment about the dog not being trained. Cali put her nose over Luna’s body to sniff the dog. Bold little pup. Good sign. I noticed the owner held the leash tight, transmitting tension to the dog.

Now here’s why I should wear a t-shirt with “I’m an idiot” on it when I’m out in public.

Giant wolf dog. Strike one. Untrained giant wolf dog. Strike two. Man holding leash of giant wolf dog tightly. Strike three.

A full moon moved from behind the clouds at that moment or the wolf dog became jealous of the Disney-happiness of our two labs because it growled and snapped. Wolf-dog’s owner must have expected this because he reeled him in with both hands, fast, like a swordfish on the line.

He apologized and I ignored him, as I was irritated.

Friendly, my ass.

I have no doubt the man will wake up one morning with one leg missing and wolf dog grinding away on his femur.

So, Cali freaked, of course. And I felt like an idiot, a common feeling. But a she seemed to recover quickly. We won’t know how much impact it had until the next time she meets a new dog. We signed her up for puppy classes with my daughter, which will help socialize her with other dogs, as long as they’re not part werewolf.

So, as of today, the dream of owning two Labradors has been realized and is as fantastic as I thought it would be. It feels good to be lucky some days, even when it’s accompanied by stupidity.

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The Curious Case of Cali California

I’ve never owned a skittish Labrador before. But I do now.

We need to turn that frown around

At first, I chalked it up to shyness, her moving to a new home, and her age, 15 weeks, when we bought her. I’ve never started with a puppy this old. And though the breeder did a good job of socializing her to people, I don’t think the pup ever made a trip out of the kennel grounds to places with noise – other than barking dogs.

No washers and dryers rumbling, or UPS and FedEx trucks bouncing up and down the street, or gardeners mowing lawns and blowing leaves.

There is some cowering, and a mild fear of me, at times. Not all the time. If I sit on the ground, she comes to me with licks and kisses and is happy. When I stand up, she’s weary. My tripping over the puppy gate twice and making a big racket didn’t promote a positive first impression.

She seems better with my wife and daughter, making me think she never had anything to do with men, or the men she met scared her. When my wife raises her hand to signal “sit,” the pup sits. When I raise my hand, her tail goes down and she is tentative.

The question is . . . is she the dog for our noisy family? It’s been weighing on my mind this week.

Our plan is not to give up on her. We’re being aggressive in helping her, but not in a bad way. We’re making sure we socialize the hell out of her every chance we get. She rides with us every where now, even to McDonald’s, where she made me proud by wagging her tail when I put the bagged McGriddle next to her. Got to love a dog that loves McGriddles (I suspect they all do, as I’ve never known a vegetarian dog).

We’re following the advice of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, who recommends socialization over parvo-shot quarantine. We won’t take Cali to a dog park, but we’re going to take her everywhere else – now. Otherwise, we’re afraid we’ll lose her.

Today, we saw some improvement. Her tail was up more and wagged – a good sign. She seemed happier. But she still had her fearful moments and was impossible to walk on the leash, planting her English lab bottom on the ground, refusing to move.

It’s baby steps with her. Success won’t come easily or overnight. I see the confidence in her at times, and sweetness all the time. I just need to figure out how to get both 100 percent of the time. Cross your fingers or your paws. And send suggestions if you think they’ll help.