Rubbers

I went home for a three-day weekend in San Diego, taking advantage of a “work optional” day in my group at Microsoft. It’s been a long time since I’d been down in San Diego; the combination of sunny weather in Seattle during the summer and having Margot in town for her internship gave me much less reason to travel. Now that Margot’s not in Seattle and summer is coming to an end, I’ll probably be taking more trips down south, especially once the rainy season starts again.

While I’ve been gone from San Diego, my mom got a “replacement dog” – that is, the dog is replacing me. He was 20 lbs. when the got him from the animal shelter, and he’s about 40 lbs. already, after about 2 months. Fittingly for my parents, they’ve named him Rubbers, and he has to be the most spoiled dog on the planet. So, as part of my trek down to San Diego to visit my parents, I also got to meet the newest member of the Paradise Family, who happens to have 4 legs and likes chewing on things.

This all comes as a bit of a surprise to me. My entire childhood memory is filled with my family always owning a cat. My parents told me that when I was really young we had a cocker spaniel named L.C. (Little Cocker), but he was too hyper, ate through everything, and never got housebroken, so they gave him away. I’d had a few cats after that, including one that lasted about 15 years. To think of my parents as “dog people” all of the sudden didn’t make sense – dogs require walking, training, and a heck of a lot more attention than cats, and I didn’t really imagine my parents being up to that task.

I flew out of Seattle on Friday morning, and landed in San Diego about noon. There to pick me up was my Mom and you guessed it, Rubbers. He growled, he barked, and he tried to chew my hand off. This did not make me happy. I’ve always had a bit of a fear of dogs, which I atribute to being bit on the ass by one as a small child. As long as I can remember, I’ve had a problem with dogs barking at me, jumping on me, or biting at me. There’s nothing like getting nipped on the buttocks to instill a fear of dogs in young children.

On the way back north towards my parents’ office, we stopped at Chicago on a Bun for lunch. I was told to hold rubbers on his leash outside while my mom went in and ordered for the 3 of us, but Rubbers wouldn’t have it – I was some weirdo come to take him away, so we switched and I did the ordering. Mom, Rubbers, and I all had a hot dog. A good portion of the meal involved me feeding bits of the hot dog to Rubbers, since it kept him from barking or chewing on me. Rubbers was a much slower eater than us, so the remained of his hot dog came along for the rest of the car ride.

At the office, I got to see Rubber is his more natural habitat. He loves running aronud the office, and he’s got more or less free reign over the place. Andrew, one of the guys who works in the warehouse, loves to roughouse with him and play tug-of-war. Rubbers mostly ignored me, except once in a while he’d pay attention to me by barking at me and growling.

That evening, both my Mom and Dad left to go pick up dinner and left me alone with Rubbers. He ended up hiding under a chair by the front door, and then ran away when I came over by him. It was quite obvoius that in the ranking of people, he liked my mom best, then my dad, and I was somewhere near the bottom. He kept looking out the window for the car to come back, but every once in a while wandered upstairs to see if my Dad was in his office. I guess he forgot that they went together in the car.

The next day, I woke up to more barking, but this time when he came up to me he actually started licking my hand, in addition to his usual chewing. I also barked back at him, which I think confused the heck out of him – nobody other than another dog had ever barked at him before. All the sudden I think I was okay in Rubbers mind, although he still barked at me. Later than morning I went on a walk with him and my Mom, and while he mostly ignored both of us, I think he got used to the fact that I was there and wasn’t going away if he barked. By the end of the day, he’d actually let me scratch him, play with him, etc.

On Saturday night, my friend PJ came over to visit, and then it all started anew. PJ got barked at plenty, as did I – I guess since I was the friend of the enemy, so I must be the enemy too. PJ noted that he probably wasn’t introduced to enough people as a puppy (my parents got him when it was already a bit too late) and that was why he didn’t deal so well with new people. At least PJ was a good sport about it – he’s had dogs in the past, and knew how to handle them. I think if I were PJ I’d have just been freaked. Rubbers growled the entire time, and only got quiet when PJ left.

Sunday morning I woke up to more barking, but it was very short lived and more of a playful bark. At this point, I think Rubbers really likes me. He spent a good amount of time playing tug-of-war, frisbee, and fetch with me, so I think I’m alright in his book now. Oh, and feeding him a lot doesn’t hurt either.

I’ll be back down there in two weeks for Labor Day, so I’ll be curious to see what his reaction is to me then. It’s long enough that he might not remember me that well, but I’m hoping I don’t have to deal with re-introducing myself to him every single time I visit. Rubbers is a cool dog – he’s very playful, but not being a dog person myself, I could do with a bit less barking and hand-chewing all the time.

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