A Penny for my Thoughts

Introducing Penny the Tiny Dog.

Those who follow this blog know that I spend my summers in Washington State, far from home, where I do mostly agricultural work with my helicopter. Before coming up here this spring, I was excited about the prospect of bringing along Charlie the Dog, our Border Collie mix. My husband was stuck in a 9 to 5 grind and I’d have most of my days free. It made sense to bring Charlie with me to come on my morning walks and play with my friend Pete’s Black Lab in the open spaces of farm country.

But just before my departure, my husband got a new job that made it possible to work from home. Charlie wouldn’t be left home alone all day after all. And he wouldn’t be coming with me to Washington.

Although I have Alex the Bird with me here in Washington, a parrot is not the same as a dog. I’d planned to take Charlie with me just about everywhere I went — I cannot do the same with Alex. I miss the companionship that you can only get from a dog (or a person on the same wavelength that you’re on). So the other day, in a moment of weakness, I stopped by the Quincy Humane Society.

Penny the Tiny Dog
Penny the Tiny Dog, sitting on the steps inside my RV.

And I left with Penny the Tiny Dog.

To be fair, her name wasn’t Penny. It was Pixie. But people who know me also know that I’d never have a dog named Pixie. Hell, I can barely say the word without being embarrassed.

But she is sort of like a pixie. Full grown and weighing in a just under 4 pounds, she’s absolutely tiny — smaller than most cats I’ve seen. In fact, I had to buy a cat harness for her because the dog harnesses at PetCo we just too darn big.

She’s the kind of dog you see people carrying around everywhere. The kind of dog in purses. The kind of dog people bring into shops, restaurants, and supermarkets as if they’re fashion accessories instead of — well — dogs.

I don’t play that game. A dog is a dog. And while a big, slobbering Great Dane is a different animal from a recently groomed toy terrier, they’re both still animals and need to be treated as such. So Penny won’t spend any time in a purse while she’s with me and she’ll be carried as little as possible. And she certainly won’t go into a place of business other than one that encourages the presence of dogs.

Penny and Beau
Penny and Beau. (And yes, Beau does have a bit of a weight problem.)

I do try to take her with me everywhere I go — provided it’s not too hot for her to spend some time waiting for me in the truck if necessary. She’s been to Pete’s winery and played with Pete’s Black Lab. She’s been out to the helicopter while I refueled it and buttoned it up for its rest time between flights. She’s been to PetCo twice and has waited in the truck while I’ve run errands in Quincy and Wenatchee and Ephrata. I’ve taught her how to climb up and down the steps into the RV and I’m trying to teach her how to jump in and out of the truck’s cab on her own.

Penny Chasing Birds
Penny’s favorite thing to do is chase birds out on the golf course.

In the evening, when the golf course I’m living on has emptied out for the day, we make the half-mile walk across the fairways and roughs to the two ponds they’ve stocked with trout. She’s fine off-leash, frolicking around, chasing birds and really having the time of her life. I can see that this is all new to her — she’s probably done more running around with me in the past week than she did in the first year of her life. She sniffs around the water’s edge as I throw food into the ponds and the trout make the surface boil. When the food is gone, we walk back. Or maybe I should say that I walk back and she runs all over the place around me until we’re home.

When I leave her alone in the Mobile Mansion, she plays with her toys and drags my shoes around. She hasn’t destroyed anything yet. She likes playing with Alex the Bird’s toys, so whenever Alex drops one from her cage top, she’s on it, chewing away. She has a love-hate relationship with a bell.

She’s not 100% housebroken, which is a bit of a pain in the ass, but we’re working on it.

When I get home from being out for a few hours, she goes nuts. I let her out onto the lawn to do her business and she jumps all over the place, rolling over and over like a crazy dog on the grass.

When I work at my desk, she either curls up into a ball at my feet or stretches out in a sunny spot on the floor for a nap. It’s as if she has two speeds: on and off.

At night, she literally climbs onto my bed — like a cat! — and tucks in next to my body. She’s tried to get under the covers with me, but I won’t let her. I still can’t believe I let her on the bed. She’s the first dog I’ve let sleep on my bed since the German Shepherd we had when I was a kid. But she’s so tiny and she remains absolutely motionless all night long. Turned off.

Technically, I haven’t adopted her. I’m fostering her. But the great folks at Quincy Humane Society encourage fostering for adoption and that’s the path I’m on. But I fully admit that I’m not sure whether she’s the right dog for me. She’s certainly not a replacement for Charlie, or even Jack the Dog before him. She requires too much supervision. She’s so small and not nearly as smart. She needs more attention — more care — to keep her safe.

But for now (at least), she’s a good companion.

7 thoughts on “A Penny for my Thoughts

  1. When I read that you were fostering rather than adopting Penny, I thought but how could you part with Penny?
    It then occurred to me that I do a similar thing each summer in Greece. I spend hours each day playing and feeding the dogs on the airbase and every October I leave them to fare for themselves.
    I do what I can to make their lives better. When I returned this summer they all greeted me as they do each day. They walk with me every place I go and if I sit outside in a chair and read they all pile up at my feet.I’m not the only one who feeds them but I am the only one who they follow around. Today one of the older females brought her pup around for me to meet. I was honored and that fat little pup is awful cute. I hope he lives to adulthood like most the dogs here I have known them since they were pups.

    • I’ll probably wind up keeping her. My personal life is pretty screwed up right now and I’m not sure how the chips will fall. I didn’t want to commit. But she really is sweet and if I can get her to reliably come when called, we’ll be fine together.

      It must be very hard for you not to want to take those dogs home. I remember spending a few days down in Supai, which is the Havasupai indian village in the Grand Canyon. Dogs there don’t seem to be spayed/neutered at all and there are lots of strays. I got pretty attached to a puppy hanging out at Navajo Falls and was prepared to take him home. But when the day to leave came along, I saw he’d bonded with a young guy who had the same idea. I still don’t know if I’m disappointed or relieved. I suspect more dogs find homes outside the Rez than inside it.

      It’s nice to be able to take care of an animal without having ultimate responsibility for it. Maybe that’s what I was thinking when I opted to “foster.” But, at the same time, I suspect I might be fostering her for a long, long time.

  2. Penny’s so cute, and that’s a great name for her.

    I’m glad you mentioned her weight — she really is small. Our two little guys weigh around 5 and 7 Kg, while it seems Penny comes in at just under 2 Kg.

    Our guys aren’t specially smart either — training takes a long time, but they’re very cute and that makes up for a lot. And that wonderful welcome when you get home is always a boost to the spirits.

    Even if I’ve only been out for 15 minutes on a quick errand they’re likely to give me the full treatment as though I’ve been gone for hours.

    Does Penny’s hair fall out or will you have to get her clipped? Did the Humane Society have any idea of what breeds are in there? She has a bit of a terrier look about the face, and she seems pretty wiry.

    • She goes absolutely nuts when I get home after being out for a few hours. If I don’t bend down and pet her or pick her up, she’ll carry on for quite some time.

      Charlie’s a very smart dog and Jack was also very smart. Penny just doesn’t have the same brainpower. It’s really tough for me to make her understand. I’ll likely get a trainer involved to help me. Even if I do decide to give her back, the next folks will have a much better behaved dog. It’s worth the investment and the least I can do to help the local Humane Society. They’re doing such good.

      I don’t know about her hair yet. I’ll check the vacuum next time I run it. She’s so small that there isn’t much hair to shed. And I don’t think it’s thick enough to have trimmed. I do want to get her groomed this week, though — her nails are long and I’m worried she’ll damage my screen door or furniture when she’s climbing. I suspect the groomer or a vet can give me a better idea of what’s in her.

  3. Cute! Do you know why she ended up in a shelter? I’m thinking of a full-sized unit here for further amusing the deer, but it’s such a lifestyle change, going to hold off a bit longer. If you keep her, maybe you can bring her this way on your way southbound this fall. RV hookups are ready for you.

    • What you want to try to find is something with herding dog in it: Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Heeler, etc. They are REALLY smart dogs and a good size. Because I’m apparently not getting custody of Charlie the Dog, I’ll likely keep Penny. Just need to keep working on that housebreaking…she’s driving me nuts.

    • And as for the RV hookup — well, the Mobile Mansion will be staying up here. I found a garage to store it in for the winter and since I don’t use it in AZ, it doesn’t make sense to suck so much fuel for the drive down. I might have to crash on your sofa instead. I’ll bring a sleeping bag.

What do you think?