November 20, 2013

Shaky Jake

The family dog's name is Jake, and he's a rat terrier.  The picture above shows how he sleeps at night: in his soft doggy bed, covered with a blanket, between Beaver's feet and mine.  It's a little bit tight, I'll admit, but he feels safe and secure in a burrow, sort of like a fox.

When we bought Jake his pure breed papers (and price!) came despite the fact that the American Kennel Club didn't recognize rat terriers, but now they're included in the AKC breed list and have their own Breed Standard page.

Jake is devoted and loyal to his family but anxious around other people.  True to his breed he tends to be submissive until he senses an intruder, at which time his shrill, insistent barking shows his aggressive side.  It's a problem sometimes, like when he barks at anything that walks down the street in front of our house, or when the UPS delivery person drives by or even -- the horror! -- comes to the door.  But he's a great watchdog so I don't punish him for being wary.

When a person in his family leaves, he stays sad for days, acting all mopey and forlorn.  His memory of a familiar person is faultless and he welcomes a missing loved one back into our home with pure ecstasy even after months and months have passed.  We raised him alongside our two awesome cats, who lived 16 years. Jake and the cats were as friendly as the kitties would allow; sometimes they'd let him cuddle close for a nap. When they died Jake went through a distinct period of mourning.  We could really sense his loneliness.

We call him Shaky Jake because his hind legs shake when he's happy, excited, or nervous.  He's in one of these states pretty much all the time unless he's sleeping.  His favorite thing to do is cuddle up close to Beaver on the deep, soft leather sofa and nap during a football game.  He'll wake up from time to time and nudge Beave's arm, insisting on being petted or just held close.  Jake's least favorite thing to do is ride in a car.  He practically faints from terror when he figures out we're going to make him go somewhere.

Jake and one of his "brothers" doing what they do best.
I don't like that he's so nervous.  I wish he were the kind of dog I saw at the pet shop years ago, the one who made me fall in love with the breed.  This rat terrier belonged to the man who set up temporary operations at a pet store, a traveling bird wing clipper.  He had a very old terrier with him, and while he worked his calm, quiet dog laid at his feet under the table and contentedly watched the feet of the pet shop world go by.  When the man got up to get something in the back room his dog didn't flinch - he just sat there nicely and looked at me as I stared rudely at him.  I asked the bird wing clipper man what kind of awesome dog he was, and he sang all of the praises of the rat terrier breed and convinced me that I just had to have one!  So we bought Jake.

He's pretty great though.  We love to brag about how many moles and voles he killed every summer in our back yard.  Indoors, the cats handled the mice, but Jake ruled the yard and woods.  He even took the tail off a squirrel one winter.  Normally the squirrels could get to a tree and climb out of reach before Jake caught up, but this one time the poor squirrel had to hop through a foot of drifted snow and Jake had the advantage, biting off a bit of tail as the squirrel screeched up the tree.  Jake might be afraid of the garbage truck (he used to cower and quiver at the sound of it) but outdoors he's in command and in control, a mighty vermin hunter and a fearless dog.

President Teddy Roosevelt, who coined the term Rat Terrier, was quite taken with the breed and owned one himself.

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