Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Murphy the terrible

Top 40 before 40 – number 18: Train Murphy – he has to be an educated dog before I am in my 40’s

I was warned. I was interviewed. I was determined. I wanted an Irish terrier.

Daredevils they are called. I made my research beforehand, sturdy medium size dogs with a high spirit. That’s what I wanted, and the time was getting closer.

My 11 year old Schnauzer, Diva, was very sick and the vet told us she was ready to go. We wanted Diva to have the chance to meet Murphy (yes, we had the name way before we knew he was a done deal, as a tribute to his Irish origin and my favorite Irish punk band: The Dropkick Murphys) and needed to have Verdell’s new companion; Verdell is our baby, our 11 year old Lhasa Apso with the most amazing personality (and subject of his own amazing stories to come). We found the location: San Pedro, California was his birth place and he was ready to go.

We drove all the way up to Cali to pick him up; his home was gorgeous, a nice house on a hill, with a great lawn and his brothers – all four of them, all perfect - marked with multi-colored ribbons – Murphy was red. They all ran towards me, mom included, and jumped over me; I rolled on the grass with them, I didn’t care, on the contrary, I loved it.

We took him with us with the basic Irish terrier kit: holistic puppy food, ear glue and his comfort-security doll (a stuffed toy previously rubbed on his mom’s belly). He travelled on my lap, snuggling and yawning like little puppies do. I was delighted. His breath still smelled like milk and his brown eyes were full of life and curiosity.

After 8+ hours driving, we’ve got home and he started his first tour – smelling the patio, getting acquainted with the area, eating a little, drinking a little and stretching his little legs from the long trip. Then it was time for bed. We put him in his kennel with his doll and cozy blankets. 2 hours later, the first act began: Murphy was crying, he wanted out, only to show us his other side, his gremlin side; I couldn’t believe how a little tender puppy could have turned in to this possessed creature, barking and jumping and biting, oh yes, BITING everything, including our legs, ankles, pants, hands, hanging from our very flesh making demonesque noises but not letting go. I thought: what have we done?? This is not a dog, this is something else! What happened with cute little doggie? It turned out he was over energized from the long trip, he was stressed from the big change, and that was his way of channeling – bad energy flowing thru. That was the only day he behaved like that… he was saving the best for later.

Months passed by and he started to get sturdier, faster, his legs longer, his chest wider. His energy higher. His ideas brighter. He learned how to get on top of the BBQ bar, how to roll the garbage container and take the garbage bag out without opening the lid. He ate every single floor mat, regardless of the material, color or brand. He hunted doves and birds and ate them for snack. During winter time, we covered him with a pink (yes, pink) sweatshirt that used to be Diva’s. He didn’t like it and learned how to take it off and toss it by our front door, as a firm statement of his disappointment on our fashion choice.

Verdell and Murphy got along quite well… until it was time to eat: the fight for food is titanic. We learned to feed them separately and to always make sure there is no food involved when they are together; other than that, they play and cuddle like angels.

He started his group training and socialization sessions – amazingly, among other dogs, he was so calmed and noble, always following instructions, always rolling over letting other dogs smell his tummy and beyond. It was very weird for me – how come? If back home he is nothing but a confident dog. Group training was a good start, but he needed something else… more like a military school.

You may thing: what in the world is this person doing with a dog like that? I wondered myself the same thing when he learned his new trick: climbing on top of our car like a cat… scratching including. That was it… boot camp time.

We sent him to a 10-week personal training boarding school with our own private version of the dog whisperer; 10 weeks turned in to 16…but at the end, we’ve got the call: “Murphy passed the obedience test, he is ready. He wants to go home”. We spent one week with this amazing trainer for the transferring of command sessions and he explained it all: what we were doing wrong (like allowing the dog to set his rules and not the opposite and confusing love with weakness), he told us what an amazing dog he was, how smart and stubborn at the same time a terrier can be, how challenging it is to be consistent and determined when a cute dog gives you Shrek’s’ “Puss in boots” look to get away with things and the most important thing: that he was not punished by being educated, on the contrary, he was even happier now than he was before.

He is back home, now is time to put into practice in his own territory what he does so well outside. The first days were difficult, considering that Verdell was doing his best to make him fail – imagine Murphy laying down as a result of the “stay” command while Verdell is jumping over and running in front of him with his favorite toy – but he is over that too. The look in his eyes when he is walking by our side leash-free, looking up toward us with a happy and loving expression that almost says: Look at me! Look at me! I am a good dog! The feeling is outstanding.

He is still the same dog, he is our puppy, the youngster of the house and Verdell’s best friend. We still need to separate their food though…after all, nobody is perfect.


  1. I love your picture with Murphy, you can see the twinkle in your eyes that he has in his spirit, you guys are really soulmates!

  2. What a great story. You've done a lot for Murphy. Now it's his turn to love you and make you proud. Great picture.

  3. I don't know... but it still looks to me that Murphy just learned how to use his newly acquired knowledge to please his mom & dad in order to get his way. Just a different approach; same results.

  4. Ha.. I love that he would take off the pink jumper to show you what he thought of your fashion choices.

    Best of luck getting him trained.

  5. What a great story! The take-away line for me: "His ideas brighter." I've seen my cats get "brighter ideas" often!

  6. Great story! Wow, what we do for our pets, who are so much more than "an animal" in our home. They are a huge part of our lives, our families. Thanks for stopping by my blog, too!

  7. Awww he is so darn cute! I think you both are lucky to have each other!!

    Have a great weekend!

  8. Oh so sweet. Dogs are the best. We had an eager to please beagle (but also very stubborn) and that "Puss in Boots" look gets you every time. Stopping by from SITS!


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