the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Our Little Chupacabra

During the first six weeks of Chuck’s life we were unsure whether or not we’d actually adopted a dog and not some sort of abandoned scientific experiment, perhaps a hyena crossed with a mountain lion crossed with a mythical Latin goat sucker. He was four weeks old when we brought him home, and so all those little life lessons he should have learned from his brothers and sisters during the first eight weeks of his life, like not biting, and understanding that when someone else yelps they’re saying stop it, you’re hurting me, all those little nasty feral dog habits were left up to us to cure.

And since he was the first animal I had ever owned, aside from a few nondescript goldfish who had the audacity to up and die on me when I merely suggested that they have a hot bath, I had no idea how to get the little beast to stop biting me. And he was biting me all the time, on the fingers, on the ankles, on the elbows. He even managed to bite me on the forehead, I’ve never been able to figure that one out.

So we read tons of books and websites, some of them written by pacifist monks, some of them written by sergeants in the U.S. military, all of them claiming that their method was the best method and that if you didn’t follow their method then you might as well just give up now because your dog would inevitably bite the fingers off starving, innocent children.

The general consensus among dog “experts,” however, is that no matter what method you choose, you have to prove to the dog that you are the alpha dog in the pack, the leader, the one who calls all the shots. And I tried telling that to Chuck. I tried telling him in a large, neanderthal Tony Robbins-like voice that I was the big dog in this relationship. And you could tell, if not from the giggling then from the gaping scar he left on my shin that he just wasn’t buying it.

And so we tried more physical methods of demonstrating our alpha-ness. We tried flipping him over on his back and gripping his jowls like his mother might do. We tried barking and baring our teeth. I even tried biting him back. But nothing seemed to impart our authority to the little fang-baring gargoyle living under our roof.

Everything got better after we spent a large sum of money on a trainer who came into our house and beat the living shit out of him. And I know that sounds violent and unecessary and totally inhumane, and I’m totally exaggerating, but when the trainer left our house after the first lesson, Chuck may as well have been run over by a concrete truck, he was that humbled.

And since we’ve moved to Utah things have been changing with Chuck on a massive scale. He’s been growling at people lately, although I can’t really blame him; I’d growl at the people in Utah if I had that capacity. But it’s strange now, because he totally knows that we are the alpha dogs, and he’s never let on that he’s known until recently.

And now that he knows that we know that he knows, I can’t even look like I’m mad that he jumped up and knocked over that 4-yr old girl, or that I’m disappointed he ran across the street in front of an Airborn Express Van, or he will mope and shake so violently in fear that he won’t eat for two days. There are even times when he hides behind other people when he knows that we’re mad at him. And sometimes I’m like, where is that little fucking fiend we knew and loved so much?

  • jess

    2003/01/14 at 11:19 am

    i think chuck is growing up. and as for the biting back thing, i did that to my puppy too. because he used to bite me all the time. sadly, the biting back didn’t work for me either.

  • S.

    2003/01/14 at 11:21 am

    Nostalgia always seems to be in bad need of an optometrist appointment, doesn’t it?

  • Jake

    2003/01/14 at 11:24 am

    I have a nice little mutt, rescued from the Humane Society, and she too is a little too conscious of my being the Alpha in the house. I have probably been stern with her only five times in three years, yet she acts as though she feels my wrath much more often. It’s gotten so that she will leave the room if the wife and I have a serious discussion. Not a fight, but just saying, you know, that war is stupid or something. We have to call her out from the bedroom and assure her that everything is OK. Thankfully, that is the only complaint I have about the pup. She’s too focused on being good. She needs to lighten the hell up. But how can you tell that to a dog?

  • KT

    2003/01/14 at 11:25 am

    i think chuck might have also been mixed with a vampire bat. just look at the picture and you can see the resemblence.

  • jimmypage

    2003/01/14 at 11:27 am

    nice pic, d00ce. there is a hint of mental instablility in that photo of chuck. this reminds me that a co-worker of mine recently had his cat put to sleep. the catch is that there was nothing physically wrong with the feline… it was simply psychotic. i had many questions for this asian guy who had his cat euthanized, but since he’s a db admin, i thought i’d just leave it be and share this story here.

  • Tracey

    2003/01/14 at 11:29 am

    It is most unpleasant, but whenever he bites, stick your fingers down his throat until he gags… he’ll get the picture.
    I love reading your Chuck posts, especially the doodie-related ones as we are going through the same things with our 10-month old basenji terror Mac.

  • marshall

    2003/01/14 at 11:31 am

    Chuck’s getting close to his teen years now, and confusion will abound. Remember when you were a teen? Imagine going through all of that with a low IQ and a pathalogical need to sniff butt. It’ll be a wild ride from here onwards ’til he’s about 1.5 years. My advice is to try to enjoy this time, because later you’ll miss it.

    And another thing…socialize him with babies and children as much as possible, or you’ll be looking for a new home for Chuck once you pop out a human baby. Seriously.

  • Kerry

    2003/01/14 at 11:32 am

    I had a dog that was very rambunctious when he was young, so I made it so that he had to sit and stay for 10 full seconds before eh could do anything – get fed, go outside, come inside, get petted. It was hard, but after a week, I had a whole new dog.

    Unfortunately, for some reason, everytime my ex-boyfriend, who was not my ex at the time, went to pet him, he peed a little. I could never tell if it was fear or excitment.

    Also, I think your dog is just going through puberty. But now he’s like one of those shy kids that totally loves D&D, but is never brave enough to be the dungeon master. Chuck just needs more punk music.

  • Funtime Ben

    2003/01/14 at 11:34 am

    Chuck is just going through puberty, soon he’ll be listening to loud music, slamming doors, and insisting you don’t understand. He’ll get over it and if he doesn’t… beat it out of him.

  • Thug

    2003/01/14 at 11:45 am

    Well, keep him on lead all the time and that prevents the running out in the street thing. My male is a brat and has to be on lead all the time for that very reason. As for the other stuff, study up some more, and get into a basic obedience and socialization class at a local dog club, your park district, whatever. It’s a few bucks well spent.
    You are more correct than you know about the early socialization thing. The problem is multiplied by him being a big enough dog to knock a kid down if he is not under control. I make my dogs sit to meet people and get attention, and only after that can they meet the person, get pet, etc. The more rambunctious the dog is, the longer they have to sit and calm down. I have big dogs who like people, but of breeds most people fear, so I have to be real careful.
    If you don’t deal with these things now, he could become a menace, not due to malice, but ignorance. And as for the growling at people, he may be doing it to protect you, thinking that he needs to. You want to prevent him from thinking so unless it is needed by the facts you encounter (I’m a fan of protective dogs, but we are responsible for channeling and controlling that ability.)

  • kyote

    2003/01/14 at 11:59 am

    Tracey’s suggesstion is pretty good, actually, and effective (if not a bit painful and messy).

    We used to have a dog, Prince, who was just too sweet. He never had to be scolded. Prince hated get dirty too. That dog would walk around puddles and sometimes refuse to cross dirt paths if they were too muddy. I think bathing shamed him. He was a shetland sheep dog, so he was two-thirds hair. When my sister and I were little we’d laugh seeing him so wet and scrawny. I think we gave him emotional scars.

  • Kate

    2003/01/14 at 12:11 pm

    At least you don’t encourage Chuck. When we got our dog, my father would *laugh* when she would try to bite… no, swallow, my 3 year old cousin. I have a funny photo somewhere of my dog with the kid’s screaming (although not visible) face in her mouth. Now she’s too rough to play with other doggies, too, without kicking their asses like she was trained to.

  • the mighty jimbo

    2003/01/14 at 12:22 pm

    you know it’s time to get a trainer when you actually resort to biting your dog.


    we had a dog who was totally convinced we were HIS people, not that he was our dog. dammit i loved that dog. despite the fact that i had to fetch him his toys and beg for food and sit still with a beer balanced on my nose.

  • Miss Mea-Mea

    2003/01/14 at 12:23 pm

    It’s Chuck! Yay! Thank you, Dooce:)

  • Benjy

    2003/01/14 at 12:25 pm

    Tell Chuck to stay away from those Airborn Express vans! You should have seen what one did to my poor Jetta, I can only imaging if some poor pup were to cross one’s path.

  • anarchocyclist

    2003/01/14 at 12:58 pm

    Long time reader, first time poster. It looks like you have some variety of a Labrador there, Dooce, and I can tell you from personal experience that labs are totally fucking psychopathic until they’re about a year and a half or two years old. At that point, most settle down and become perfect little model citizens of the dog park. Well, not quite that good, but they do settle down quite a bit. It doesn’t help when they act up that most of them are smart enough to do your taxes, and I’m talking itemized, like with home office deductions and shit.

  • James

    2003/01/14 at 1:00 pm

    “tonight, on a very special, ‘Dooce…'”

  • Chuck Cheeze

    2003/01/14 at 1:04 pm

    I can think of a few 4 year olds I would like Chuck to push over. Actually I could think of quite a few X year olds that need a good shove. How much per hour? And I’ll cover his flight cost to Sacto.

  • ex southern babtist

    2003/01/14 at 1:25 pm

    It does sound like Chuck is being a little over protective of you. One way to get him to mellow out is to strike up a friendly conversation with the person or persons he is trying to protect you from and at the same time reassure him with a pat pat and continue telling him that everything is ok, good boy!

  • Jasmine

    2003/01/14 at 1:33 pm

    When I moved, both my dogs started whining and fearing me. I think it’s just the new environment and having to adjust to everything. One of the dogs kept jumping the fence and trying to find her way back home (interstate, mind you). They settled in eventually . . . though it took a couple of months.


    2003/01/14 at 1:33 pm

    “Chopper, Sic balls!”

  • chris

    2003/01/14 at 1:38 pm

    I used to have a golden lab and I was always amazed at how good she was at picking up on facial expressions and subtle tone of voice. She always knew when to run and wait until the trouble had blown over. She was a little voice-stress analyzer.

  • Chris

    2003/01/14 at 1:40 pm

    Oh yeah, and she chewed and bit everything that could fit inside her mouth. She even gave the stuff that was too big a good ol’ doggy try..

  • Bern Rome

    2003/01/14 at 2:21 pm

    Dooce, I know you want to know this. Jane Pauley has an “exclusive” interview with Avril Lavigne tonight on Dateline.

    By the way, I’m of the opinion that Avril could kick Britney’s ass in a bar brawl. My money’s on the Canadian.

  • peggy

    2003/01/14 at 2:37 pm

    Whew, Chuck’s definitely a man with a past. He sounds like the teen angst thing is messin’ with his head. Or he’s trying to be a “new age sensitive guy,” but still thinks badass is more fun.

  • Zan

    2003/01/14 at 2:42 pm

    I think that Chupacabra is about the best description you could possibly have given for that photo… and he looked like such a nice, calm dog in the holiday photos…

  • Angelique

    2003/01/14 at 3:06 pm

    wow, you know, it warms my heart to see how dilligent and caring of a mom you are. i wonder if the method i used to stop my ferret from nipping would work with chuck. i know this sounds gross, but it’s a reaction/stimulus based response training: whenever Thor would nip (he had a mean ‘ol foot fetish) we would immediately pick him up and shove a pinky down his throat. i know it sucks, but we had the prob licked in like 2 weeks. and what’s cool is that he didn’t even associate all interactions with us as a choking potential, he just associated his mouth/teeth aggressions with it. kinda cool. well, kudos on your stalwart efforts. i’m in the market for a dog, i’ll keep in mind the previous posting on the hellacious habits of those labs.

  • freshgroundpepper

    2003/01/14 at 3:07 pm

    Hmmm…according to babelfish, chupacabra translates to “it absorbs goats”, is this some fancy exotic way of saying “goatfucker”? Just curious, cause if it is, I want to start injecting it into every day conversations.

  • Anonymous

    2003/01/14 at 3:18 pm

    give him prozac

  • Shoefly

    2003/01/14 at 3:18 pm

    My flying squirrel has also developed a habit of biting lately. I’m even to the point where I think she’s developed a taste for blood.

    Trust me, a puppy that can nibble on your forehead is a lot safer than something with the words flying and squirrel in them.

  • Jennifer

    2003/01/14 at 3:22 pm

    Could Chuck not be adjusting fully to the move? Puberty also makes a lot of sense but dont forget Utah is a lot different from CA! Even for dogs.

  • first-time

    2003/01/14 at 3:32 pm

    I think “a little disturbed” maybe explain the whole alpha deal. Fucking the dog will definitely not prove that your the alpha. And thats just animal abuse.

  • da

    2003/01/14 at 3:45 pm

    more like “a lot disturbed”, funny as hell though.

  • PD

    2003/01/14 at 3:49 pm

    freshgroundpepper – ‘el chupacabra’ is the Spanish word for “goat sucker.”

  • Snyder

    2003/01/14 at 3:50 pm

    wow, that is one freaky picture of your dog.

  • Irk

    2003/01/14 at 4:46 pm

    I often think I might like to have a dog. Until I spend time with other people’s dogs. Actually, it’s just this one dog I know that ruins it for everybody else.

  • annie

    2003/01/14 at 5:26 pm

    my gosh, that picture!

  • shy

    2003/01/14 at 6:16 pm

    kerry… that bit about your dog peeing whenever petted by an ex.


    chuck is so money.

  • Anonymous

    2003/01/14 at 6:19 pm

    OMG dooce are you watching Avril on dateline… please stay calm … it will be over soon ..

  • rosebaby

    2003/01/14 at 6:24 pm

    everybody has a theory. i kinda wish that biting back thing would work. in OUR brains it seems reasonable, in dog brain… well. not so much. Probably just doggie adolescence. I’m enjoying the relative quiet of puppyhood for the moment. I’ll commiserate in a few months.

  • Jane

    2003/01/14 at 6:35 pm

    I love that picture! He was posing for the pic; “Yeah, I’ll give them something to be scared about; Fear this!”. Chuck is a mixed breed? Is it known from what breeds he’s from?

  • Teacher from WI

    2003/01/14 at 6:52 pm

    Love your site! Now you know what we put up with daily.

  • the propagandist

    2003/01/14 at 9:54 pm

    dressing him up as satan and jennifer beals IS NOT helping.

    but you gotta admit, more often than not, the hound is a great judge of character.

  • Igor

    2003/01/14 at 11:25 pm

    What did you do to that dog to get that expression on his face ? He looks like you’ve shown him ALL of your Alpha female self and he went “Yow Momma!” -which I could totally relate to-. Yes, yes, Dooce the Alpha female… here’s a woman who could never have enough sisters. I’m swooning here, do you mind ?

  • Jen

    2003/01/14 at 11:56 pm

    I hafta second the recommendation for an obedience/socialization class. I have a little shit of a Shih-Tsu/Bichon and the class helped him (mostly) get over his fear of anything living that wasn’t me.

    Another great thing – he made a TON of new doggy friends. Perhaps Chuck could find a suitable Utah substitute for his far-removed bestest friend in the whole wide world.

  • D

    2003/01/15 at 4:18 am

    Have we ever learned what kind of pooch this Chuck is? Something pure? Something blended?

  • PJ

    2003/01/15 at 5:52 am

    I think Chuck is suffering from delayed stress, stemming from the move. Dogs are creatures of habit, and his world has changed. The people and places he knew and loved are, for the most part, nowhere to be found. My brother brought his dog when he came for a week for Christmas last year, and the stumpy little hound totally freaked my butt-wigglin Springer Spaniel. She mostly hid out upstairs, cause the dog cousin could not climb stairs. The cat also hid out, not only that week, but the entire NEXT week until she was sure it was gone. Lots of TLC and many bags of treats later, they finally started acting like themselves again. It took about a week before they stopped treating me like a big traitor. Thankfully, my brother did not bring his dog this year.

  • julia

    2003/01/15 at 6:43 am

    i think chuck might be mad about the move. when i moved, my ex-dog, max kindly repaid me by acting like a freakin’ klan member in public. he suddenly turned into a foaming-at-the-mouth maniac dog whenever a black person was within sight. insane barking and lunging. baring of teeth. very nice. of course, this was made all the more interesting by the fact that 1. we had moved to atlanta and 2. max is BLACK lab (man, if that doesn’t set off the alanis-iron-o-meter, i don’t know what does.) anyway, it was pretty mortifying. i think it was all a big “up-yours” for making him move.

  • Bast Herself

    2003/01/15 at 6:56 am

    As the owner of a dog who did the same thing Chuck’s doing now, try this. Every time he bites you, howl and screech like there’s no tomorrow. It only took a couple of times before my dog learned. They think they’re hurting mommy and the noise is usually enough to stop them right away. Good luck.

  • Mike

    2003/01/15 at 8:08 am

    Hey, about that “Avril” thing… that’s French for something, I’m sure. I’ll get back to you when I find out!

    Nice Chuck pic.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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