14: Snowstorms

14: Snowstorms

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Snowstorms

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.

~Edward Hoagland

“Leon! What am I going to do with you? Look at this mess!” A snowstorm of fluffy white comforter batting completely covered the utility room floor. I started gathering up the mess our one-year old Dachshund had made once again. “You’re determined to be a bad boy!” I scolded.

He gazed at me from his bed with clear, unblinking eyes as I stuffed the thick layer of fresh, white fiberfill into a trash bag. He was trying his best to be invisible but the puffy white goatee dangling from his chin told me he was guilty of the crime. He was adorable.

We had met Leon one evening when he and his sister, Noel, were out for a walk with their family. My husband, Ed, asked their owners if Doxies were good family pets.

“Oh, they’re great house pets. They’re affectionate and loving. We wouldn’t have anything but a Dachshund,” the man said. “This younger one, Leon, is for sale if you’re interested,” he added.

With his nose to the ground, the short-legged wonder zigzagged along our driveway following the scents from past visitors. He was sturdy and agile with an auburn coat that glistened in the sunlight. His eyes were warm and filled with curiosity. It was love at first sight.

Leon was terrified after leaving the only home and family he’d ever known. He peered at us from under the patio table with questioning expressions: Who are you? Why am I here? What’s going to happen to me?

Within a few weeks, however, he was running through the house as though he’d lived with us since puppyhood. He stuck close by and only vanished for short periods to take snoozes behind the king-size pillows on our bed. He had captured our hearts with his engaging, people-pleasing antics.

Leon was a charmer and a perfect fit for our family, but his behavior was not exemplary. He had his own room, which was a converted utility area with a doggy door. His room adjoined a large bedroom and full bath so there was plenty of space for him to wander. The problem arose when we put him in his room and closed the door to leave and run errands. As soon as the door closed, he became a dog on a mission to destroy anything that was soft, stuffed or fuzzy.

In just a few months, Leon had destroyed countless pillows, comforters, sleeping bags and throw rugs. He shredded one king-size comforter into thousands of tiny puffs of simulated snow. Throw rugs were nibbled into a frayed mass, and then he’d drag them outdoors onto the grass. It was clear Leon wanted to make a statement, but what was he trying to say?

“I’m at my wits’ end with this dog! He’s loveable and smart and it seems he wants to please us, but I’ve about had it with his destructiveness. Something seems to snap in him when we leave him home alone. It just doesn’t add up!” I complained.

One day after work, Ed burst through the front door. “I think I’ve figured out what’s going on with Leon,” he exclaimed.

“Talk to me! He chewed the corners off another pillow today so I’m open to any reasonable suggestions,” I said with a sigh.

“I think he’s angry and hurt. He gave his other family his loyalty and devotion, and then in return they gave him away! It has to be the ultimate betrayal for a dog.” Ed was convinced he’d solved the problem.

“Okay, I’ll give you that he might have abandonment issues, but what can we do to stop his destructiveness?” I asked.

“We’re going to leave the door to his room open when we leave. I totally believe that when we put him in his room and close the door, he’s terrified about who will be on the other side of the door each time it’s opened.”

“I’m not sure about all this,” I said, shaking my head.

“He’ll be able to see us come and go, day in and day out, which will alleviate his fear of being carted away by strangers. He needs to feel safe when we’re away and secure that only you and I are coming home to him,” he insisted.

“You might be right about him needing to feel safe,” I conceded. “But I’m still hesitant about leaving him alone with our best overstuffed couches, chairs and pillows.”

“Think about it,” Ed said. “He’s only destroyed his stuff, nothing of ours. We need to leave his door open when we go out so he can roam about the house just as if we’re home. Let him look out the windows and explore the house as he pleases. He’ll soon feel safe and secure and the destruction will cease. Trust me, this is going to work!”

I started by leaving Leon loose in the house for a few minutes while I ran to the post office—no problems. Over time I tested him for a couple of hours in the afternoon—nothing was touched. Then we left him when we went out for the evening—everything was in its place upon our return. Within a few months, we trusted him for a couple of days with only a pet sitter looking after him.

Ed had realized Leon’s problem. Feeling safe and secure in his new surroundings was the key to calming his frustration and easing his fears. He became a changed dog, never destroying anything again. His fear of abandonment has stayed with him throughout the years but now he cuddles when he’s fearful instead of destroying things. Leon is now enjoying his golden years curled up on a cozy, warm comforter where snowstorms only exist in his past.

~Cynthia Briggs

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