MARMADUFUS Pamela Jenkins
As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed the stray dog sitting by the gate as if waiting for me to come home. The big, clumsy puppy bounced in happy circles around my feet, tripping me several times before I got to the front door of my house. He also jumped up to bite at my hands with his sharp puppy teeth. What a nuisance, I thought as I struggled to get inside my home without being mauled. Where did this puppy come from? He looked happy and healthy, but definitely was not well mannered!
We phoned our neighbors to ask if they were missing a puppy. After making sure no one was looking for him, I decided to foster the new arrival until he could be adopted. I often foster homeless pets, and with a little guidance and fine-tuning, I thought this one would make a nice dog for someone. Because of his large size and color, I decided to call him Marmaduke, after the lovable cartoon Great Dane.
The new puppy made himself right at home, meeting me with joyful abandon each time I stepped out of the house in the morning. Leaping and pawing at my clothes, he'd pull on my sleeves with his teeth while I stumbled over him. It wasn't long before I realized that, in spite of his resemblance to a Great Dane, the name Marmaduke didn't fit this big fellow at all. He was proving very hard to train. A scolding meant nothing to him. As happy and cute as he was, I had to admit that he wasn't the smartest puppy I'd trained. After one exasperating session, I frowned at him but then caught myself laughing. With his thumping tail, head tilt and lolling tongue, how could anybody resist such a silly pup? From that day on, I called him Marmadufus.
As Marmadufus continued to grow, his enthusiastic games became rougher. Several times he caused me to fall, and my hands and ankles bore the marks of his playful nips. But the problem that worried me the most was his aggression toward, of all things, his own tail.
I first noticed the obsession with his tail when Marmadufus was resting. He would curl around, grab the end of his tail in his mouth, and chew on it. At times he bit it so hard he yelped. He kept it damp, and the skin became irritated. Most alarming, though, was his reaction when we fed him. He would begin to eat, then stop and stiffen. His lip would curl, and he'd give a throaty growl. Then he would suddenly spin and snap at his tail. His snarling and growling became so fierce that even though he was the only dog in the yard, it sounded as if a terrific dogfight was occurring right outside the front door! Peering out the window, all we saw was Marmadufus spinning in circles and snapping.
I read all I could find on dogs who spin circles and chase their tails. I tried several suggestions, even giving him a veterinarian-prescribed antidepressant, without success. I began to suspect that the chances of this foster puppy finding a home were becoming slim indeed. Few families would be interested in a large-breed, food-aggressive, tail-chasing Dane!
To our horror, we returned from church one summer morning to find Marmadufus had actually caught his tail while we were away. He greeted us as usual, wagging a tail that was now about four inches shorter and freely dripping blood.
"This is not how I want to spend a Sunday afternoon," grumbled my husband as he and our son loaded the happy pup into the pickup for an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic. As Marmadufus underwent surgery, I stayed behind to scrub the front porch and glass door and remove all traces of what had apparently been a very traumatic morning for the young dog. As I cleaned, I had to wonder what kind of a silly dog bites off his own tail?
The next morning, ol' Marm was quite a sight when he came home from the veterinary clinic. He had a bandage on his short tail and a big Elizabethan collar on his neck. For 10 days he clumsily bumped and crashed into things, but the collar did the job and allowed the tail to heal without further injury.
Marmadufus is now 2 years old. His manners have improved, but he still does his crazy spinning and growling when he's fed. In spite of his quirks, he's a handsome dog and truly devoted to our family. I never found anyone interested in adopting a huge, silly, bob-tailed Great Dane.
On second thought, I guess I did find someone. Marmadufus is very much loved, and here to stay!
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