After weeks of bad behavior and mounting frustration, I started to think that maybe...maybe Herbie was better off with another family? I lost my confidence in my ability to take care of him. But it was Grelia--an animal lover who spent her free time rescuing, fostering, and finding homes for dogs--who told me to tough it out. "Don't give up when you haven't even tried to solve the problem," she said. "Socialize him at doggy day care--it'll be good for both you and Herbie because he'll be tired and happy when you pick him up on your way home from work, and you don't have to worry about him during the day. He needs to be around other dogs, and he'll have less separation anxiety."
It worked. From that point on, whenever I was having any kind of dog issue, I immediately turned to her. She helped me through nearly every dog-related crisis we had, from Herbie's grumpiness when another dog joined our pack ("Take them each out for a walk separately, spend some quality time with each of them") to Nan eating chocolate just last week ("She'll puke for about 3-4 days, but since she only ate a little bit, don't worry. She just needs to get it out of her system"). There is a saying that there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners. If that's true, then Grelia helped me become a better dog owner, which made my dogs infinitely happier, which in turn made my home...well, complete.
When I get back to Pasadena, I'll be picking my way gingerly through the flowerbed, cursing under my breath as I attempt to find the water shut-off valve hiding somewhere along the back wall. Herbie will be supervising the whole operation through the window with Nan by his side, as they normally do when I'm in the front yard. They smirk a lot, those smug huskies. And when I look up to see them peering at me, fogging up the window with their smelly doggy breath, maybe what I should say is this: Thank you, Grelia, for helping me make my home a happy one.
For those of you who live in the Bay Area, please be careful at Pacifica Beach.