Dog Whisperings: Life with Emily

“Cute dog!” a runner said as he passed my dog and me on our evening walk.

I’ll give him that. Emily is cute, a 14-pound Jack Russell terrier mix. At that moment, Emily was walking nicely by my side on the park trail. The runner had not seen her lunge at a Lab a few blocks before entering the park. Nor did the runner see her attempt to rid Collingswood of its entire goose population when we got there, all while trying to roll through every possible specimen of their poop.

Cesar Milan, the “Dog Whisperer” of book and National Geographic Channel fame, would not be pleased. Milan, who is appearing at Resorts in Atlantic City on April 18, would tell me to be “calm and assertive” and establish myself as the alpha in the situation. But even after reading Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems and watching episodes of his Dog Whisperer TV show, I still can’t figure out how to get this ball of fur to listen.

I adopted Emily from the Animal Welfare Association in Voorhees about three and a half years ago. I went in with one criterion: no puppies. I’d picked a different dog first, one that was so small she was kept in the puppy room along with a litter of Lab mix puppies and a tiny Jack Russell Terrier mix.

I liked the JRT, and she seemed to like me, but I didn’t want a puppy. Emily had just been transferred to the shelter, so her information was not on her cage, but she was so small – what else could she be but a puppy?

When someone else adopted my first choice (they don’t “hold” dogs for you, so you have to act quickly to be the first adopter), I went back to the cages to start looking all over again.

Emily’s information had been updated. She wasn’t a puppy. She was 4 years old — just small and not eating. I bent down to her cage for another look. She licked my fingers, then went back to her blankets, dug out a Milk-Bone, and dropped it at my feet.

Sold.

Emily, now 7, is not an easy dog. I’m her third owner. She was abused by a previous owner, and she is aggressive toward other dogs, so there’s no doggie play dates or dog parks. She loves to sit on my lap while I work, but she also tries to kill squirrels and brought me a baby bunny as a gift. After my first six months with Emily, a span in which I hit her in the face by accident while playing fetch, and she leapt off a second-story balcony when I wasn’t looking (unhurt each time), I wondered if I had picked the wrong dog.

But when I come home and that little dog springs up to kiss my face, I know I picked the right pal. I know Cesar would say it’s wrong of me to pet Emily without making her work first, but I don’t care. I just wish she’d stop rolling in the goose poop.

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