It’s been two years since I first brought Winifred home, and she has turned into the sweetest, most cuddly, difficult, unbiddable dog I’ve ever loved.
Before Winnie I always had herding mutts–dogs who lived to please and stuck to me like glue. I don’t know what caused me to stray from my type and bring Winnie home, except the warmth I saw in her gaze, and my childhood dream of having my very own Sandy like Little Orphan Annie.
We don’t know Winnie’s breed, but she was labelled a “Delta Mix” (meaning the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta in Western Alaska) by the rescue organization. My best guess is that she’s a combination of Alaska Husky and Wheaton Terrier. It’s been a steep learning curve trying to figure out what makes her tick. Terriers were bred to work alone without a human present at all, which pretty much means they don’t give a sh*t what you want them to do. Unlike every dog I’ve had in the past, scolding Winnie only makes her act worse (we went through a period of about a month where every time I would leave the kitchen and come back I would find her with all four paws up on the counters or table). I’ll still correct her in the moment, but I also heap praise on her for anything and everything she does that isn’t objectionable (you came inside from the backyard, what an amazing dog you are! Wolsey head butted you and you didn’t try to hump him in return, you’re fantastic!), and it seems to be working.
The other thing that has really helped is our new dog walker. When my pregnancy turned difficult and I couldn’t walk the girls anymore, we hired Juli Morgan of Barks n’ Rec. She’s been amazing–she is patient and sweet with Winnie, and just seems to really get her. Both girls come home exhausted from afternoons with Juli, and Winnie also seems mentally exhausted, but in a good way. Juli also takes great photos (all the outdoor photos in this post are hers)!
Our other dog Cora is basically Winnie’s life coach. For her own part Cora isn’t that excited by other dogs, and that includes Winnie, but Winnie loooves Cora. She’s always trying to get her to wrestle and play, and when we’re out on a hike Winnie sticks close to Cora and watches her for cues about what she’s supposed to be doing.
Winnie doesn’t always have the best reactions–she can be growly if she’s startled or nervous–and I always watch her with Opal. But I have to give her credit and say that she is really devoted to Opal and has always been gentle and sweet with her. She isn’t one to dole out kisses, but if Opal’s face is nearby, it’s another story.
Winnie has a special spot in my heart. She’s a complicated soul with a checkered past, and I’m really proud of how far she’s come. She’s much more trusting and relaxed than she was two years ago, and I completely adore her.
By the way, she still sleeps on the dog bed I made for her to celebrate her official adoption, but I don’t recommend making a dog bed out of undyed muslin. I’ve washed the bed lots of times and the printing has held up well, but the fabric is no match for Winnie’s perpetually damp and dirty lady beard. Next time I’ll use a darker fabric!