What defines personality more than one’s quirks? These endearing little tics develop and solidify with maturity and are the stuff of our stories and adoration for our pets. No dog in my life had more quirks than Tiny Red Dog (pictured on the homepage).

Tiny Red Dog taught me more than any other dog I’ve ever known. It was she that convinced me to throw out the book on dominance (training fad of the time) and just listen. And it was because of her quirks.

I found Tiny at the local animal shelter. We locked eyes, and that was it. She’d just been returned after her second failed adoption. As she was still teething, age determination was a cinch. The reason for her failed second adoption was probably her propensity for snapping. Tiny’s first nickname was The Red Snapper. A little patience and the reminder that ‘kisses are better’ turned that around and started me listening to her. Poor baby girl was snapping because she’d never known safety. Once she had safety, she stopped snapping, started kissing, and began to show her quirks.

Tiny Red Dog’s quirks were legion. She’d wrap her curly tail around my arm and squeeze, an odd behavior I called the tail hug. It was a rare and treasured event to get a tail hug and it was many months before I got my first one. She had a foot fetish; she constantly wanted to lick my feet. She loved to lay half way across the ottoman with her hind legs stretched out, feet facing up. She could not abide being anywhere near when I was showering. This did not extend to anyone else showering, just me. The second I started the shower, she’d beat feet as far away as she could get, returning only when I was safely out of the shower. She turned the bedcovers into a nest daily, digging at them until they created the shape of her desire, then she’d sleep in that nest all day. She was terrified of shiny floors, no matter the composition. If it shined, she could not set foot on it. I had just installed beautiful bamboo flooring in my new house. Tiny was paralyzed. I covered it up with rugs so she could get into every room. I hated that many vet offices had shiny floors (obviously to assist in keeping the place clean), as it started visits off on the wrong foot (pun intended). Funnily, around that time, a talk show on the radio caught my attention. The guest, an expert on dog behavior, was taking call-in questions. A woman asked what she could do for her dog who was petrified of shiny floors. He commiserated that he’d also had a dog with shiny floor issues. His suggestion? Buy more rugs.

This incomplete laundry list of Tiny’s quirks all served to amaze and amuse, but more than anything, it served to teach me about letting her be herself. Quirks appear with mutual trust. The more I listened and let her be quirky, the safer she felt and the quirkier she became. Her quirks were signs of her comfort, security, and love. She trusted me to make our home a place we both felt comfortable with all those rugs. While having my feet licked when I was trying to sleep wasn’t often my very favorite thing, it was a sign of her love and affection. Her sprawl across the ottoman signaled her contentment. Tail hugs were special gifts.

I have no idea what the shower thing was about.

I’d love to hear your quirky dog stories!

With love,

Dr Fairy Dog Mother

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