The first thing Solace does inside my parent’s house is pee on the deep
shag rug in the TV room.
We’re all surprised by it. She does it again a few days later, looking me right in the eye as she squats on another corner of the same carpet.
The next week at dinner my mother has to put Solace in a down-stay 12 times before the dog actually stays. A test to see who’s really in charge, and mom wins.
But when she heads to bed that night she finds a puddle on her yoga mat.
By Thanksgiving no one is surprised when the dog squats the moment we enter the carpeted rec room at my grandmother’s apartment building. We stop her mid pee in a way that we hope will help her remember not to do so in the future. But that remains to be seen.
I’ve had her inside a handful of friends’ and strangers’ homes, but she didn’t pee in any of them before coming to Ontario.
At least, as far as I know. I adopted Solace from the Whitehorse Humane Society five months ago. She was brought in by bylaw, and her history before then is unknown. It was love at first sight for me: I walked into the dog runs behind the shelter last April to see her standing calm, black, and silent in the midst of a barking grey blur of hyper husky activity.
Since then we’ve spent our time living deep in the woods of a year old burn, under the trees of an Okanagan cherry orchard, on the road in a friend’s car, hopping in and out of my camper around the Yukon, and for the most part, at a cabin 40 minutes south of Whitehorse.
Through this Solace and I have bonded, deeply, irrevocably, her loyalty is unlike anything I have ever experienced, we are extensions of each other’s bodies – and we dress the same.
But in the circles of extremely well trained dogs we travelled in the Yukon, Solace was known for her bad habits. She hasn’t been the most popular dog in social situations because she would bark at people, steal their food, and rip apart their garbage and scatter it across their homes/lawns.
Training her has been an all-consuming passion for me, and her growth in confidence, behaviour, and affection are obvious. But every time our life changes she finds a new way to challenge me.
Aside from peeing on carpets, Solace has also left all her leash training in the Yukon. Our walks in Ontario leave me with a sore shoulder and an old frustration-wrought impatience: when will my dog be as good as everyone else’s?
One morning I take her to a busy dog park. I watch the other dogs jump up on people, jump onto the picnic table, refuse to do anything their owners ask, run away when their owners try to leash them, make their owners chase them around the park, ducking out of their grasp. Solace plays happily with the other dogs, returns to check on me regularly, and when I say it’s time to go, simply trots after me towards the gate.
Afterwards we go to a pet store, and while dogs around me are getting into fights in the aisles and pulling their owners off their feet, I tell mine to lie down and stay while I look at training collars, and she does, smiling and watching the scene around her.
I might have a dog with trust issues that pees on carpets and eats garbage, but I’m so glad she’s from the Yukon.