The promise of a new puppy
January 11, 2016
By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register
You’d think that getting a puppy for Christmas would be a bad idea, particularly when it’s been raining for 25 days straight. And if you cared about preserving sanity and order in your home, you’d be right.
As I write this, I am under “Scout surveillance.” Our 3-month-old pup watches my fingers carefully, trying to decide which one to nibble next — or perhaps pondering which hand is holding his treats. The pockets of my coats, all of them, have random Legos, mandarin peels and training treats in them now.
I got out of a friend’s car the other day and left what appeared to be some scat behind. Nope. Just treats.
It was awkward, but I’m adjusting to awkward pretty well. Which is apparent to neighbors and friends driving by my house since Scout’s arrival.
There’s been a bit of rubber-necking. I’m not sure if it’s because people are confounded by my being awake and outside before dawn or surprised to see a dog apparently belonging to me, as I am notably not a “dog person.”
They are probably just admiring my Lightning McQueen Snuggie, paired with flannel pajamas and slippers. It’s a coveted look. A statement, actually.
It says this:
“Though I’m rarely ready to leave the house until 8:07 a.m., we got a puppy for Christmas, so here I am at 4:30 a.m. Good morning. Now, look away.”
You might ask, “But, you have a backyard. Maybe that’s a better place to rock the Snuggie and slippers?”
You’d be right every other month of the year. But this month, we have a pond out back.
That could be a problem with a curious new Borador. Yes, you read that correctly; we’ve acquired a labrador/border collie mix.
That makes it sound like he’s a popular new type of designer dog. But no, he’s a different kind of popular — a stray mutt.
Insert Public Service Announcement here: Spay and neuter your pets, people. And also, don’t buy live animals spontaneously just because they are so cute and it’ll be so fun. It’s not all cute and not all fun, and the responsibility is both real and forever.
I know some people have wonderful spontaneous pet stories. But I also know the story of my first puppy, Lucy Baby. And while I can’t regret the time we had with her, I think I literally loved her to death.
Sadly, it’s not a unique story, as anyone who has a heart for animal rescue and shelter work will attest.
We didn’t know what we were doing when we got her. We weren’t planning, or prepared, to get a dog.
We went to Wilco one day to get wood screws, and there she was. So we brought her home.
We did some right things, but mostly wrong ones.
I treated her like a furry little human. She rode shotgun in my truck, and really, shotgun is how she rolled.
Until, a year later there was a baby. And then she sustained a terrible injury. And then the baby turned into a toddler. And then there was another baby.
I didn’t train her to stay in the yard, as I should have. I didn’t keep her safe enough. Then we moved to a new house, in a new town, near a busy street.
When we lost Lucy, we were in the process of trying to find a better environment for her. It was heartbreaking.
I was sure we’d never get another dog. The boys were pretty sure, too. So sure, they even went a couple years without even asking Santa for one.
The other day, my 5-year-old told me he was glad we got Scout.
“I didn’t even think I could ask Santa for something so good. He’s my best friend,” he said.
“Guess what I am going to ask for next year, Mama?” I held my breath. “A girl!”
“Like a girl dog?” I asked, seeking clarification. He shot back, “No! A girl sister!” He said he would learn to sew like his cousin and make his new girl sister rainbow gloves, adding, “and she will love them.”
He is learning a lot about love already. For instance, he told me solemnly that sometimes love is having to hold your pee.
That, friends, is one of the truest things I’ve heard. As we’ve been potty-training the puppy, there are times we must respond to his, uh, needs immediately — before our own.
That reminds me of a time when people like my husband wondered what I did all day. With the years buffering that reality, and fogging my memory, it seems easy to forget those early years were spent minute-by-minute, getting through each succeeding day by doing the next necessary thing, tending to basics like essential nourishment.
Just keeping other living beings alive seems a bit momentous when you realize it’s on you to keep the chokeables from choking them, the dropped chocolate chips from killing them, or what have you.
Having been given another chance at caring for a dog, we intend to do better this time around. We did stuff like, you know, research and plan.
We saved up for a kennel set up so we could be successful in training him. And, we got firm about the way we wanted things to go in advance instead of making up the rules as we went.
Lucy Baby was absolutely not allowed up on the couch. Except when she was. Which was all the time. See how that could be confusing?
I thought Lucy Baby made me a better mom, and maybe, in some ways, that was true. Now I think what I’ve learned about child raising will help me with our new adventure in dog raising.
Scout is teaching us, too. For example, he’s taught the boys how their toys will get eaten if they aren’t picked up.
After he ate one highly specialized Lego piece, I developed a pair of the fastest picker-uppers on the planet.
Here’s a tip: If you’re going to set up an indoor kennel for initial training, and place it near a Christmas tree sheltering paper-wrapped presents, consider things like the effect of gravity in an old house with sloping floors. Otherwise, things are going pretty well with our new best friend.
Also, I feel you should know that Snuggies are way cooler than they look. And these slippers are practically shoes.
Happy New Year!
Nathalie Hardy’s second book, “Merry is Optional,” was recently published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. To learn more, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.
Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two young boys who understand deadlines come before dusting.
Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.