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Our Life With The Hellhound: Month One

Kora with her bone
This rawhide bone tastes like a soul. Mmm nom nom nom.

We’ve been wanting a Hellhound around the Needcoffee compound for some time, and finally this summer, we began looking for the perfect one. While a fully grown hellhound would be cool to have, we thought it best to get a puppy so we could start training the hound early. After all, a hundred pound toothy mammal that doesn’t know how to behave and knows where you sleep…can be problematic, to say the least.

We also wanted to get a mix breed–not only to save money and because “pure breeds” just seem so terribly frou-frou–but also because pure bred dogs have the potential for all manner of genetic problems. Saint Bernards are awesome beasts, but reading the laundry list of stuff that could go wrong with them is just sad.

So after endless hours looking at Petfinder and other local rescue sites online, then meeting quite a few puppy candidates, we either hadn’t felt a true connection with anyone, or else they were adopted before we got to meet them (yay!). And then, late one night in May, we stumbled upon two puppies that needed a home on the Adopt A Pet website.

[ad#longpost]They and their mother had been rescued from a home where the mother had been chained to a tree and was underweight. Apparently while the rescue folks were there helping build fences so the dogs in the household could have better living conditions, the mom decided to get out while the getting was good and hopped into the volunteers’ SUV. So they took her and the two week-old puppies to a very loving foster home with their other doggies. Their mom, Niobe (who still needs a forever home) is a Cane Corso, or Italian Mastiff, and their dad is a bully breed of some sort. Widge locked onto the idea of having a Cane Corso, because…well, look at what they can grow up into. (Magnificent beasts! – Widge)

We met both puppies and their wonderful foster moms. By the end of the visit (well, probably sooner, actually), we knew that one of them would be coming to live with us and be our very own hellhound in residence. After a long discussion–mostly bemoaning the fact that as responsible adults we couldn’t take both girls–we decided on the larger and seemingly more thoughtful of the two sisters. We also decided to name her Kora after the Greek goddess of the Underworld. And a short week later (during which she was spayed), Kora came to live with us!

(As a note, her foster name was Sophia. And when we received her, we decided that if she already had enough name recognition going on, we would keep her original name. But a quick test showed that not only would she answer to Kora and Sophia, but also “Spaghetti” and “Ice Cream.” So Sophia is now her middle name.)

We have had Kora for a full month now, and she seems to be settling in very well. She already knew how to sit when she came to us (amazing!), and now she can come when called (most of the time), lay down, stay, and is adept at the house rules for playing Tug. She is also getting housetrained very well, learning to ring bells on the door when she needs to go out. Her first vet visits with us went remarkably well– she is very good natured with people so far, and she’s even submitted with little protest to two baths and to having her nails trimmed. She’s definitely conniving, though, and likes to jump on the couch when she thinks she can get away with it.

When she goes outside, she likes to crunch down on magnolia leaves outside like they’re damned souls ready for hellfire, but the softer side of her hellhound nature is really betrayed when she shamelessly begs Widge for a belly rub…which she pretty much does whenever he comes in the room. And we also found out that she has a nemesis: the Evil Red Dot. The Evil Red Dot (or laser pointer, as we humans know it) has no smell and insists on flitting erratically around the room, coming and going as it pleases and refusing to be captured. It makes her a bit crazy, and tires her out when she needs to go to bed.

Kora and Widge on a walk

We finally got the okay from the vet to take her for a walk–as puppies need a variety of shots before they can go out in public. We’ve been probably overly cautious about letting her out into the world at large but now she gets to explore! She has been making the rounds and meeting neighborhood dogs and even encountered some children at the local farmers market–and didn’t eat a single one.

Based on our experiences with Kora, we’d like to make some recommendations on What We’ve Learned So Far.

Training – This is our first dog as adults, and before we always had the family dogs growing up. And Widge and myself always thought that training a dog was something highly specialized, complicated and best done by a professional. However, after checking out the work of Dr. Ian Dunbar, an animal behaviorist, we found that the only piece of our previous notion that was 100% accurate was the complicated part. There’s nothing quite like having to discuss command words to ensure that they don’t sound like anything else. Regardless, Dr. Dunbar’s work has been extraordinarily helpful to us and we recommend anybody check him out for their own pooches. You can find more info here.


Kongs – Combination chew toy and food distribution method–the idea is to get a dog addicted to one of these rather than, say, addicted to chewing on your couch. Or your clothes. Or another pet. They have multiple varieties. I’m sure at some point, having a mastiff on hand, we’ll need the black “extreme” version but for now we’ve got one puppy kind and two of the standard red ones. They are perfect for dry food or getting food wet and then freezing it for a Kongsicle. Also, peanut butter can be added to the inside contents to make a dog go even more mental than normal.

Bitter Apple and Nature's Miracle

Bitter Apple – When trying to convince a puppy hurtling headlong into Teethingville not to gnaw on something, you’re going to need to make it taste terrible. Bitter Apple is, so far, the most convincing way to do that. It’s got enough alcohol in it that I’m not sure how anybody could find it tasty, but I’ve heard that other dogs have apparently acclimated themselves to the taste and won’t stop gnawing. It seems to deter Kora. She always looks so mournful when you spray something with it, though. So be prepared for that.

Nature’s Miracle – A stain and odor remover that will take care of things when the puppy doesn’t get outside often enough. Seriously, you apply it to the carpet and wait five minutes, then wipe up the mess. It will also take care of any lingering after-odors–the idea being that if a dog smells where it’s gone before, it will make it easier to go there each time. No idea what’s in it since the main ingredient besides water is “Nature’s Enzymes.” Whatever that means. I will say that if you have to enlist the help of the “Nature’s Miracle 1.5 Gallon Power Sprayer” as mentioned on the container, then…you have serious problems. Of course, it helps when you have a puppy to also have something else we recommend…

Old carpet

Decades-Old Carpet – Seriously. There’s something so liberating about knowing that one day soon you’ll have to replace the carpet anyway, so to hell with it. You know?

Reading the Ingredients on Food – Also seriously. Read close. You might remember the nightmare that came out of the pet food recalls from a couple of years ago which made a lot of animals sick and killed others. So you’ll forgive us if we’re a bit sensitive to stuff coming out of China. And we’ve found a lot of products that have an American flag on them but say “Made in China” on the back. Actually, it doesn’t have to be made in the USA for us, we just don’t want anything from China.

More to come. Any questions on living with a cute avatar of the underworld, just let us know.


  • congrats on becomg a pet-parent… adorable dogs…

    me, I love all animals but lean towards cats because I’m lazy, err, I like their independence

  • I think cats are fascinating animals, however I am deathly allergic to them. It would be cool to have a cat just because, like you said, they’re low maintenance and they don’t need you and aren’t afraid to let you know it. I respect that. However I also like my flesh to stay on my body. So.