All in the Family


Jack Russell Terrier / Mixed
July 26, 2013

Ella is my beautiful Jack Russell mix. She's mainly white with ginger spots and ginger and black facial markings. I'm pretty sure she's part Lab because she has the body structure and excitable temperament of one (mixed with the unrelenting tenacity of a Jack Russell - plus she has a beard!) She's sixty pounds, making her the largest Jack Russell ever, and she'll be two years old in September but is still very much a little puppy at heart. Her favorite toys are her frisbee, a duck that makes an irritating quaking noise, bones that she loves hiding all over the house, and tennis balls. She is very, very friendly and has never met a dog or a person she does not like. Clearly a descendent of hunters, she has an enormous nose and lives her life through it. She never licks, only sniffs you all over in affection. She's particularly fond of everything made of rubber, hairbands (which apparently smell very funny) and coins. Her noise frequently leads her to places she should not go, such as our trash can. As she is good at finding interesting things, she is also good at destroying interesting things, such as money, credit cards, computer chargers, a bag of chicken bones, homework and once, half of a coconut cream pie. She has a ridiculous amount of energy and seems to only have an on/off button: one moment she'll be zooming across the yard to catch a frisbee, the next she'll collapse under the shade of her favorite tree and give me a look that says "Okay mom, I'm done." Maybe I've just never spent so much time around one particular dog, but I swear she is the most expressive animals I have ever known, as well as one of the most intelligent. I've also never had any animal show that much love for me, whether she's wagging her tail at me from her crate when I get home at four in the morning from work (despite her exhaustion), bestowing her beloved frisbee at my feet, padding alongside me on our backyard paths, or letting me use her as a hairy pillow when we're cuddling. She's a genuine joy to have in my life, but she wasn't always such a (as my dad would describe her) "pleasant dog." It took a lot of work, and even more patience, but it was worth it to stick it through. I got her in January of 2012 and my life has never been the same since. She's a rescue puppy so she went through her share of hard knocks before we adopted her. According to the foster home she and her siblings were rescued from a puppy mill (not sure what they were trying to create that resulted in Ella) and they all had Parvo. Only Ella and two of her siblings survived out of the original eight in litter, and Ella was the runt. Because the foster home didn't want their other dogs to get Parvo, Ella and her siblings were confined and kept separate from the other animals. When we adopted her, Ella was four months old and had never been outside (not even to go to the bathroom!!!). She was recovering from Kennel cough and was still a bit sick, but I remember thinking she was the most relaxed, sweetest puppy ever. She didn't make any fuss on the drive home, stayed in my lap with her nose buried up my sleeve and was remarkably calm upon arriving at our new home. What I didn't know at the time was that she actually had a Urinary Tract Infection (we figured it out after several weeks of having to take her out fifteen times every day) and was feeling very under the weather! After a few weeks of giving her medicine, she completely changed personalities on us and went from fifteen pounds to over thirty in a month. I would get up at seven in the morning to take her on a run, walk her along the paths in our backyard several times during the day, play with her all day, and she still would have too much energy to sleep at night (when Ella gets very excited she does a weird lap around my room where she jumps onto my bed, jumps off the other side, runs around my bed and repeats the cycle). We couldn't leave her alone in a room for even a split second because she would find something to chew (I had to rearrange the furniture in my bedroom because she is very good at getting my shoes from their shelf and was particularly fond of my wicker hamper). She was very difficult to potty train because she had never been outside before four months and afterward became very prone to UTI's, so she had many accidents before we finally succeeded. We'd had several dogs before Ella, but we'd always been careful about the selection of breeds so as to get a lightly shedding dog. Ella was our first mystery puppy and at first it seemed great since she had soft Beanie-Baby fur that didn't seem to shed. Then it all got replaced with dense, medium length white and ginger hair that goes everywhere. EVERYWHERE. My parents had agreed to let me have a dog since my sister was so good at training her dogs and I promised to have her teach me all of her tricks. And she did. They just didn't work on Ella. What I didn't realize was that my sister's dogs were shy and desperate to please, so when they misbehaved and she whacked them on the nose, they never made that mistake again. But Ella, despite her size, has the heart of a terrier and when you whack her on the nose, she just gets more excited. She has a ridiculously high aggression threshold and the only way I could train her with a physical reprimand would be to actually hurt her, which I would NEVER do. Eventually we all got fed up with her misbehaving and my fruitless training efforts, so she and I went off to puppy obedience school. And I swear, every time I watch Marley and Me, I see Ella and I, minus the humping. She was just so happy and excited to see everyone else she couldn't be still. Even when I successfully got her to lay down she would just wiggle closer to everyone, seeing how far she could push it. The trainer actually decided to demonstrate his training methods to me with Ella and failed. We didn't get kicked out of obedience training, but we certainly didn't pass it. Ella's main problem, which the trainer explained to me, was that she is a powerful dog with boundless energy and she just wasn't getting the opportunity to spend it. So I started taking her to the nearest dog park where she would race her little heart out until she slumped down next to me in the shade, her legs splayed out in every direction. Unfortunately I had to work and couldn't take her to the dog park everyday and in the fall I headed off to college (though I would still come home on the weekends and whenever else I could to see her - it was only fifteen minutes away). There was a last-resort option that I was reluctant to try: a shock collar. But we got one and I tested it on myself, surprised by how mild the "buzz" option was (we almost NEVER use the "shock" button unless it is an emergency). But Ella responded to it, like she has never responded to anything else and it changed her life. We have a huge backyard at home that she can run all around in, we just never trusted her in it before the collar. Now we just put the collar on and let her out to run around by herself. Although it was a struggle to control Ella's ridiculous energy, I now find her enthusiasm to be such a joy. She makes sure I stay active and seeing how happy she is when we go on a run helps me stay motivated. Unless she's truly and utterly spent she always has to find something to do, whether it is hunting down the bugs around the house (she's a better bug killer than a bat), hiding her bones around the house in very intricate hiding places, or gazing out the window. She looks out the window a lot, and I think it is partly because she just loves it out there so much and also because she has some watchdog instincts in her. We have these push-up blinds (whatever level you push them to, they stay there unless you pull them down) and she's learned to push them up with her nose so she can look out and will be guaranteed to do so if you go in a room with all the blinds pulled down. If she spies something unusual outside she'll begin growling and eventually barking but will stop as soon as you look out the window with her, pet her on the back and talk to her, letting you know you've seen it. All in all, despite the amount of work it took to get her there, she has become a great dog who, when the day is done, loves nothing better than to simply lay down next to you and be with you. So for any of you who are struggling with a difficult to train dog, stick with it because any dog with that level of pure joy will be a dog that you will love forever. The most important lesson I can impart is to work with your dog, not against him or her. Do what is necessary to make your dog the happiest, healthiest dog he or her can be, and then your job will become much easier. I hope you all enjoyed my story and the Ella pictures. I simply cannot contain my joy and love for my baby girl, so I am spreading it to all of you!

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Comments (7)
Jul 24, 2013 YasmineK
Very cute girl I love this picture of her.
Jul 26, 2013 Abiglen
Cute picture of sweet Ella. :o)
Sep 12, 2013 Dailypuppy Team
Happy 2nd Birthday!
Many belly rubs for you on this special day.
Sep 12, 2014 Dailypuppy Team
Happy 3rd Birthday!
Many belly rubs for you on this special day.
Sep 12, 2015 Dailypuppy Team
Happy 4th Birthday!
Many belly rubs for you on this special day.
Sep 12, 2016 Dailypuppy Team
Happy 5th Birthday!
Many belly rubs for you on this special day.
Sep 12, 2017 Dailypuppy Team
Happy 6th Birthday!
Many belly rubs for you on this special day.
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