Here’s the thing. When I first got Santiago from the SPCA he was still shell-shocked from life in the Mill he was in. And for a while after he was, as I am sure all dogs in similar situations going from that to a loving homes with fresh food and water, warm beds and all the petting and belly rubs and warm laps to curl up on, and toys to play with, not to mention all the new sights and sounds and smells they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is over load, and when you are not used to any of it, no matter how good and positive, it’s all so so overwhelming.
The first weeks with Santi there were the ups and downs. As much as he was so happy to be in his new home (it didn’t take long for that tail to start wagging, and it pretty much hasn’t stopped sense), he was still in a shell, one that he would break out of slowly, slowly but surely.
Within a couple of days he became my shadow ( and that’s pretty much gone unchanged to date) All he seemed to want to do was cuddle up on my lap and nap – which was just fine, since I’m a complete couch potato. In his own time, in his own way, he began to explore more and more, but it didn’t matter what toys I brought home, he wouldn’t play with them. Bone after bone, ball after ball, tug toy after tug toy… nothing. It was soon apparent that he just didn’t know what they were nor what their intended purpose was.
Then, about 4 or 5 weeks after his home coming he began to slowly, cautiously, play with this toy or that. It was another couple of weeks before he learned what fetch was and that it was fun. What I realized was, even though he was approximately a year and a half old, he was only JUST beginning to go through all the stages of the puppyhood he never had in the cramped dirty cages of the Puppy Mill.
As time went on, he completely came out of his shell, his real personality shone through and blossomed into one of devoted loving best friend, of adorable actions and mischievous playful glee. And one other thing… an fetch obsessed maniac.
I’m not sure if a dog can have OCD but if they can, Santiago is a Case Book Study. It’s not so much even fetch as it is fetch with his Ducky. Ducky was one of the first toys he responded to. There are others: Raccoon, Bunny, Piggy, but it is the little yellow ducky that has captured Santiago’s heart.
I’ll admit at first it was cute, it was adorable, it was amusing. Just how INTO Ducky he was. As soon as I get home, no matter how deep into his little doggie sleep he might be, he comes tearing out of the bedroom, duck in mouth and greets me at the door. Before I’m completely in the door, before my coat and shoes are off, before any bags I might be carrying are set down, he’s chomping on Ducky insisting that we start to play fetch making the Duck squeek.
Squeeky squeaky squeaky. Squeeky squeaky squeaky. Squeek squeak squeak.
As time went by it was clear that there was something not quite right. It seemed he would not tire of playing with Ducky. The record to date is seven and a half hours. Yes, seven and a half hours of fetch. We only stopped because *I* was tired. Mind you as soon as Ducky disappeared there was about 5-10 mins of frantic searching before he crashed.
Now mind you it’s not as bad as it sounds… he’s not a stickler for the hardcore rules of fetch… We need not go outside, I don’t need to throw it, I can just kick it with my foot. But what I must do is play with him.
And I suppose, I am as much to blame for his compulsive behavior because I am enabling him. After all after I get home I will play with him… and I’ve bought replacement Duckies There are currently 4. And the reason is this, and I’m sure any parent of a child deeply coded with a special toy will know… you MUST FIND IT when it gets lost. There will be no peace, there will be no rest, there will be no quiet until it is found. Ducky #2 came because I couldn’t find Ducky #1 and Ducky #3 came because quite frankly I didn’t want to relive the “I can’t find the Ducky” moment again. Then Ducky #4 came about because I forgot Ducky #3 at the family cottage on PEI (on top of the fridge).
Aside from the aforementioned reasons, having multiple Duckies has the added benefit in that there can always be a CLEAN Ducky at the ready. Honestly how these things go from cute soft yellow to dog spittle moist, black crusty things in a matter of a couple of days is truly astounding.
The first time the Ducky disappeared was after Santi’s dental surgery. I had to hid all his toys so that his gums could heal. But I couldn’t just hide ducky with the other toys. He was fine to not see or have access with the other toys, but Ducky… well that was something different. Even though I had washed all his toys before hiding them. Even though Ducky gets washed every week he can still track it down. He’s by no means a bloodhound, sometimes he can’t find a smelly liver snack a foot in front of him; no, I think he has some supernatural link to Ducky… to ALL 4 Ducky for that matter. He has the Shining. And it’s as creepy as the movie at times. I can’t hide them in the same place, I have to keep moving them around. So the day that I brought out all the toys after the 2 week healing period, one toy was missing. I could NOT remember where I extra especially hid the Duck. Rest assured it was in an obvious spot so I could easily get it when it was time. Yea… I’m getting old. I could not find it anywhere.
This is video of him being all excited about the toys and yet you can see even as he is going through the entire box, and momentarily plays with each in turn, there is no Ducky. He was somewhat appeased with the others to play that night, but I knew I HAD to find either the REAL Ducky, or a replacement.
The next night coming home from work I stopped off and was lucky to find Ducky#2 at the local pet supply store. Then there was video of the Ducky Reunion.
Here’s what’s even more disturbing with the Duckies. I can wash all of them together and then present them in any combination. #1 and #2, #2 and #3, #1 and #3, Number 2 and #4 and so on… he will ALWAYS select the older of the two. It’s uncanny. It’s the Shining. It’s creepy.
In recent weeks if Pinky or I are not as responsive, as receptive to playing fetch (hour after hour) he will begin to whine until we DO play. This past weekend we tried something else… I would bring Ducky out for an hour of play and then put it away for a while (an hour or two) and then bring it out again. This was a complete FAIL! And EPIC FAIL! because in the in-between times he would search non-stop… interrupted only occasionally with whimpers and the odd yelp. He. Wanted. Ducky.
We also tried to supplement the Ducky Downtime with Snacks and Extra Belly Rubs, with extra Walkies; but as soon as the snack was devoured, as soon as we stopped the belly rub, as soon as we return to the house… it’s all about Ducky. Where is Ducky? Where is Ducky? Where is Ducky?
I’m going to need help with this one. While life is Ducky, it’s a little not… I’m going to “Ask the Trainer” (Link to come) because I love Santiago with all my heart, and I love to play with him, but it can’t be right, or indeed healthy that he’ll play as long as the Ducky is out, only stopping when I hide it, then collapse from exhaustion. Well sometimes I collapse first, but you know what I mean.