Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Dog's Life In The Twin Cities Part I - Victor & Roxie

One of the things that made the transition from life on the East Coast to life in the Midwest fairly easy was the fact that I moved from the dog-friendly city of Buffalo, NY to the equally dog-obsessed Twin Cities.

Roxie (pictured above) didn't join me until I had been here for a little over two weeks. In fact, she wasn't really part of the original equation. When I embarked on my two-day drive to Minneapolis in a rented SUV, my only passengers were Victor, my somewhat neurotic German Shepherd/Akita mix, and my two cats Issac and Ishmael. (We'll talk about the cats another time... right now, it's all about the dogs.) Roxie is a purebred Rottweiler, but she's small for that particular breed, only weighing in at around seventy lbs., and has the luxury of still possessing her tail, which she sometimes chases in circles when she's not beating me about my knees with it.

Roxie originally lived with my dear friend Margot in Buffalo. As far as dogs go, Roxie is a bit of a "special" case. She was originally a stray, and was taken in by Larissa, who is Margot's sons athletic trainer. Roxie had obviously lived with people at some point, but was not very trusting of them when Larissa encountered her, as she would take food that Larissa left out for her, but would not come into the house for three days. My vet here believes that from Roxie's tooth wear, she was kept in a confined space, and eventually chewed her way out, thus beginning her "life on the streets". (If anyone needs a diagram to figure all this out, e-mail me.) It turned out that Larissa couldn't keep Ms. Roxie, as she already had another dog and the two of them weren't getting along. Knowing that Margot was a board member of the Erie County SPCA, Larissa asked Margot's son if she might know someone who could take her in. At the time, Margot was technically dogless, but not really, as my dog Victor spent the vast majority of time at her house.

Phone calls were made, negotiations ensued, and Larissa brought Roxie over to meet Margot and Victor. The two dogs took to each other immediately, and involved themselves in a wrestling/tooth-sparring match, followed by a chase around the backyard, which became sort of their trademark. After a few minutes of this, Margot agreed that Little Orphan Doggie could come live with her. (I guess that would make Margot Mommy Warbucks?) Since Victor and Roxie spent so much time together over the course of the next year, as my moving date loomed closer, I began to be quite concerned about how the separation would affect the two dogs... Victor didn't spend any time at my house, unless Roxie came along with him, and when I traveled to the Twin Cities for the holidays, and Margot didn't need the hassle of BOTH dogs while she was having Christmas/Hanukkah with her family, they were sent on "vacation" to the tony Waynewood Kennels together. I left with the understanding that if for any reason Margot couldn't keep Roxie, she could come to Minneapolis to live with me. (and Victor)

The excitement of the two-day road trip, with all of it's new and different sights and smells followed by a new house kept Victor occupied, and he seemed to make the transition fairly smoothly, although the first few days I noticed he would go to the back door frequently as if he were looking for Roxie.

Speaking of Roxie...

She has an almost heartbreaking level of cuteness for a Rottweiler, which she uses to her advantage, and once she decides she likes someone, petting her starts one down a path where they eventually end up with a small Rottweiler in their lap.

If she decides she doesn't like you... well... that's another issue altogether as she will suddenly turn into a seventy-pound furry mass of fangs and attitude. Over the course of time it has been determined that certain things will trigger what I now lovingly refer to as "Roxie's Attitude Mode".

They are:

1. Strange men.

2. People seen in silhouette.

3. Small white dogs.

4. A Stranger startling her awake from a sound sleep.

5. Any combination of the above. If you are a strange man, walking a small white dog and suddenly appear in silhouette in front of Roxie startling her awake, it was nice knowing you... and your little dog too.

That leads us into how Roxie joined Victor and I here in the Twin Cities... A couple of weeks after I arrived here and was settling in, I received a phone call from Margot:

Margot: "I know you just got there, but do you remember you said you'd take Roxie if I couldn't keep her?"

Me: "Uh... yeah... did she already kill and eat someone?"

Margot: "We had a little incident."

Me: "How little?"

It turns out that Margot had an appraiser come to her house to look at something, and he had walked into the bar in her house, and turned on the light... while Roxie was asleep on the couch in the bar.

Strange man.

Strike one.

Startled Roxie awake.

Strike Two.

He was in front of the light, so she saw him in silhouette.

Strike Three.

She didn't kill the guy, but she made him feel most unwelcome. Add to that the fact that Victor was no longer present, and she felt that the protection of the house and her person was her number one job. With the amount of entertaining that Margot does, this could turn into a bad situation pretty quickly.

Me: "Of course I'll take her... how do you want to get her out here?"

Margot: "I've already talked to Charlie, he'll rent a car, drive her out there, and fly back."

Me: "Okay, when do you want to do this?"

Margot: "She'll be there Tuesday."

It was Friday.

Me: "Okaaaay... not wasting any time on this, are you?"

The following Tuesday afternoon, Roxie arrived, along with her crate and all of her toys. Victor was quite pleased, and after a few moments of tentative sniffing, the two of them were chasing each other around the yard and wrestling, as this video from Roxie's second day in Minneapolis shows:

So now, as opposed to just one dog, I now had two. This wasn't an issue, as those of you who have known me for awhile are aware of the fact that it was rare for me to have fewer than three dogs at any given time. I busied myself with installing a child gate until the cats got used to the idea of living with two dogs, one of whom could be a little rambunctious, and had never lived with cats before, and placing signs on the front and rear gates that showed a picture of a German Shepherd and read:



With one exception (that didn't happen until about a month before I moved), the signs were quite effective at keeping unwanted visitors from entering the back yard. In the old neighborhood, that wasn't exactly a bad thing, as I found out from the police not too long before I moved that there was an "undesirable" element living in an apartment complex less than a block away consisting of a group of Somali youths who had apparently seen "Boyz in the Hood" too many times, and formed a gang. We'll save those idiots for a future entry as well.

In all, both of my canine companions seem to have adapted to life in Minnesota with relative ease... I think the two of them would happy anyplace, as long as I'm there to take them on their now twice daily walks... which are a story unto themselves.

Next: A Dog's Life In The Twin Cities Part II - Why Are There So Many Little Dogs Here?


  1. Roxie sounds like a real sweetie! We know about the 'saved dog' issues here. Walker (who is a rottie/shepherd blend), apparently escaped his outside-only existence at his previous home by climbing the chain link fence, thus rendering him a stray. Though he is loving dog, he can be 'protective'- he has a couple of strikes against him in Erie County. He's 11 now, so we're hoping that phase is over...

  2. I hear you on that Val. I've been able to control Roxie with little difficulty, but the City of Minneapolis has very strict criteria as to what constitutes a "dangerous dog". An incident or two wouldn't end up with Roxie being put down, but she'd have to be licensed as a "Potentially Dangerous Animal" after Strike One, and a "Dangerous Animal" after Strike Two.

    A "Potentially Dangerous Animal" has a laundry list of rules that the owner has to follow to simply take the dog for a walk, including being muzzled, and kept on a leash no longer than three feet.

    A "Dangerous Animal" has to meet the same laundry list, and in addition, the owner has to have a separate liability insurance policy for that animal of no less than $300,000!!!.

    Suffice it to say, I keep a close eye on her, and don't even leave her in the fenced-in yard unattended.