I can only imagine that Preston’s previous family (families?) had kept him as a back-yard dog. Partly because he wasn’t housebroken. He also just did not seem to know what to do. He would follow me around the house when I was doing things such as laundry, watch intently and look at me as if to say “Wow! What is that?!”
When he wasn’t sure what he should do next, he would stand against a wall with his head hung slightly and just kind of stare at the floor. This was what our friend, Jim, called Preston’s “screen-saver mode.” Preston would stand like this for 15 to 20 minutes until he realized that nothing that involved him was going to happen. Only then would he lay down somewhere.
This went on for at least 6 months until he started to get the feel of our routines. When he did finally get the routines and understood that he had the run of the house and could sleep wherever he wanted, he was all about comfort. The futons in the living room or my office, the bed…it was all his. He loved pillows and all of the comfort he could get.
Preston was kind of a scary dog at first. He had a rather wild look about him. His eyes were sort of all one rusty-brown color. His fur was coarse, probably from eating cheap food at the shelter for four months. He probably never had good food. I have also read that black dogs like Preston were the last to be adopted (and therefore, the first to be euthanized) because they were deemed ‘scarier.’ I had known this about black cats, but never about black dogs.
When I took him for walks, people would often skitter away from him and / or say to me “you need to put that dog on a leash.” Preston was never anywhere near these people. Preston basically didn’t care in the least about other people, or me for that matter, or other dogs. Preston just followed his nose. I would just roll my eyes and say: “He’s not anywhere near you!”
One night I was sitting up and reading in bed. Preston was laying at the end of the bed. I suddenly had a strange feeling come over me. I looked up at Preston. He was just staring at me.
“I wonder what she would taste like.” At least that was what I thought he was thinking at the time.
As I look back on pictures of him from that time, I realize that he was probably more scared and worried than I ever was. He was probably looking at me from the end of the bed and wondering if I were going to treat him badly or dump him off at another shelter like his previous owners had. He was sizing me up.
Because I never wanted him to worry about being left again, I never boarded him in a kennel, either. Of course, I didn’t have to because we had our own network of friends who looked after each other’s dogs.
He also did not wag his tail at first. I had nearly forgotten that since he wagged his tail all the time later. I don’t even know when he first started doing it. It should have been like the first time a baby tried to stand up, but I don’t remember the moment. I guess at some point he had come to the realization that he could trust us.
Forever after that, I could always look forward to the thump, thump of his tail as it banged against the walls or between the rails on the stoop of Paul’s front porch. Paul is my second husband.
Another thing that he did not do at first was to greet us at the door when we came home. This actually lasted for the entire time Eric and I had him. He would just sit on his futon and wait until we came to him. He never had any separation anxiety either.
“Boy, I thought they’d never leave,” I imagine Preston thinking.
Later at Paul’s, Preston did start coming to the door. I guess that Ursus taught him that eventually.
Preston was a little out of control in those early days. And he could run. I actually thought he might have been part greyhound because of how fast he ran and how long his legs seemed. The vet said that he had a slow heart rate and I had read that greyhounds do also. Of course, I found out later that there wasn’t even a hair of greyhound in him.
We first took Preston to our favorite spot at the beach about two months after we got him. When we took him down to the sandy beach, it seemed obvious that he had never been to the beach before. He looked up and down like it had to be heaven. Then he ran. And he ran. Up the beach. Back down the beach. Finally, he noticed the waves and started chasing them. When a wave broke on the shore, he would bite at it as if it were attacking him. He looked like the happiest dog in the world once again. Of course, he did that a lot.
The first thing Preston did when we walked into our hotel room was lift his leg and pee on the bedspread. Ah, I bet all the dogs do that, Eric and I told each other. No need to report anything. We all know what happens on those comforters that never get washed, right? We opened the door to the deck overlooking the ocean and Preston immediately went out, stuck his nose through the slats of the balcony railing and sniffed up the entire ocean.
The next day, we took him back down to the beach. This time, he decided to explore the banks. So he trotted near the banks and the little dunes full of beach grass. We were filming him as he neared an opening in these banks, sniffed around, and then disappeared behind the bank into the grass. We were still filming as we waited for him to come back out. And we waited. And we waited. Suddenly, the camera was off and I was running to the bank and yelling for him. Of course, with the wind on the beach Preston couldn’t hear me. Not that it would have mattered even if he had, I was to learn a bit later.
So I frantically searched the banks for him. Finally, Eric (who had remained on the beach) signaled to me that Preston had appeared up the beach. I came out from the beach grass and onto the beach and saw him about a football-stadium away. We started walking toward him but Preston started going the other way. I started running after him. But he kept moving farther away. I picked up speed as much as I could on sand and yelled as loud as I could. Preston trotted on. Finally, I caught up to him. He looked at me, not the last time, as if he were disappointed that I caught up.
We headed back to the car and went back to the hotel room.