Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Philosophizing...

...on a dog.

Nola 080507-02

During the past few weeks, as I’ve cleaned up dog poop, dog puke (damn those black walnuts all over my parent’s yard = lesson learned), pulled foreign objects from a mouth filled with needle sharp teeth, and listened to a little whine from the basement the moment my alarm goes off (thereby making the snooze button obsolete), I’ve silently wondered why anyone, including me, would ever get a dog. I mean, why do we do this to ourselves, anyway? This puppy raising thing is a lot of work, and initially isn't near as rewarding as I imagine a baby would be. I mean I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I just didn’t realize what a change in routine it would require. I’ve been at the end of the proverbial rope with this dog, as I’ve spent the past two weekends alone with her, and have, at times, been ready to find her a new home. Of course, as much as I threaten I couldn’t do that to her (or to Rykert). I took this responsibility on after full consideration and thorough research, and I’m not going to just give up.

Despite the bite wounds on my hands, the scratches on my legs and the muddy pawprints all over the carpet this morning, there are upsides to this little puppy. She rides in the car like a champ. She is patient to children dressing her in beads and otherwise trying to love her to death. She loves people more than anything else – food, toys, even other dogs. She knows that when outside she is supposed to do her “business” (though she still has not quite mastered that this is the only place where this business should be conducted). She’s shown that she is capable of learning – and has mastered, for the most part, the “sit,” “come,” and “down” commands. And she is unbelievably happy to see me – whether I’ve been at work all day or just been upstairs and out of sight for a few minutes. She sleeps a seemingly inordinate amount of time (usually while leaning up against an air conditioning vent) - which is a very good thing at times.


Nola Sleeping July 2007

In the midst of all of this puppy business, I picked up Marley & Me from my parent’s house last weekend. This is one of those NY Time Bestsellers that I am apparently the last person to read. The moment I told people I was getting a dog, they immediately asked if I had read it. So I read it. It took me less than 48 hours of occasional reading to finish. It was a fast read and a nice story with an attempt to answer my question from above – why would anyone ever get a dog? Despite all of Nola’s initial faults, she is apparently not that bad. And above all of these faults, she is a very sweet dog. But that being said, there were parts of the book that seemed as if they had been taken from our life over the past few weeks.

I pretty much always had a dog growing up. When I was born, my family already had a three-legged Sheltie named Puppy. Puppy was calm and sweet and moved about just fine with only 3 legs. Five or six years later, my dad gave my mom a golden retriever for Mother’s Day (the timing of this was a source of controversy, and should probably not be duplicated unless the dog decision had been previously made). We named her Lucy because of her dark red coat and she was trained, for the most part, by Puppy. They were best of friends and slept together every night. Puppy died in her sleep a few years later. Lucy was part of our family and our neighborhood for some 15 years. Lucy pretty much had the run of the neighborhood and was not chained or fenced during the last years of her life. The neighbors would let her in and kept treats for her in their garages. After nearly 15 years my parents had to make the agonizing decision to put her to sleep. Though they may not admit it now, they were heartbroken. My family had a few other dogs through the years that never quite worked out for one reason or another. The bottom line is that each of those subsequent dogs had the misfortune of having their puppy behavior judged against Lucy’s calm and easy going middle-age and senior years. In some ways, I fear that Nola may have this same misfortune as Rykert and I each have an idyllic vision of the golden retrievers from our childhood.

So, I’m trying to loosen up and remember that a few pawprints are not the end of the world, an occasional chewed up shoe is likely inevitable, her tomato picking habit will soon be curbed, the scratches will heal, and there will be other messes in the next few years that will be cleaned up or replaced, but that will not be the end of the world. And besides, getting up an extra half hour early to take a morning walk is not a bad idea for either of us (though I’m concerned about how this will go down in the dead of winter when it is still dark at 6:00 a.m.). As Marley & Me artfully notes: dogs remind us of what is important in life – companionship, loyalty, etc. But even more, dogs teach us what isn’t important in life – fancy cars, spendy toys, race, creed, etc. A dog sees a person for who they are, a lesson we could probably all occasionally use a refresher on.

07-21-07 Nola's First Swim 2

Now, how do I curb her over-excitement at seeing me which leads to jumping and playful biting? She’s starting Puppy Kindergarten (yes, we are apparently becoming “those” kind of people) in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that helps, because I can handle just about everything else.

Last week was my 10 year class reunion. I was the only one who didn't bring a digital camera. So, you will hear no more about this from me. The tomatoes are really coming fast, and I may attempt to do some canning this weekend. I'm also considering making some variation of pepper jelly. In the meantime, I have a number of craft projects in the works for a craft sale benefitting The Preemie Project next week.

8 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

Anya said...

HI! and welcome back. I understand your pain and frustration as I am very much a clean freak and love my organization of things :) however, since having a child 7 months ago I learned that nothing is every going to be the way I'd like it to be COMPLETELY. That the house will always be a little dirty, that I will have toys around my house for a little over a decade and our mahogany furniture is about to get scratched to death by a BOY, that I am a walking talking milk-truck and I can't watch any more scary or violent movies, that I jump at every baby's cry and my body will never feel the same. Just count your blessings now. He's adorable and you'll get a hang of it! Don't give up!

Kaitie Tee said...

Awww, but she's so cute! I have two dogs that never fully grew out of the puppy stage. The only guaranteed way to keep them in check is to run them until they're too exhausted to move - so doggy daycare will probably help you a lot (even if it makes you one of those people).

Debbie said...

I probably shouldn't say this, but goldens are notoriously slow to "grow up." They get big, but they remain puppies at heart for a good two years (and then they become calm and wise but still a bit goofy). But the rewards are so, so worth it. She will worship you as if you invented sunshine. She will love you absolutely no matter what, more than anybody ever has loved you. She will bring joy to your life when you need it, and even more joy when you don't. And you will be a better person for it, too. (And you will learn to stand outside in the subzero weather and snow and ice in your bathrobe, parka and boots in the early morning, which probably will make you a stronger person, too.)

Hang in there!

Genie said...

I had to chuckle at this post, not just for the black walnut issue (since I have a great and profound dislike for the black walnut tree in my yard, and to find out it not only makes plants but also animals sick is an interesting discovery...), but also because I, too, just picked up Marley and Me yesterday and thought I was the last person to read it.

I'm going to have to live vicariously through your puppy ownership -- I have too much travel on my plate to get a dog right now, but man...do I ever want one, regardless of dog puke...

Knittripps said...

I can totally relate. Shiloh, my Golden, is my first dog. I thought I was a horrible person and a horrible mother for feeling like I did about Shiloh when we first got him. I too read Marley and Me and discovered that things could be much worse, although it really didn't make me feel all that much better. There are times that the only thing that has prevented me from finding him a new home is seeing how much joy he brings my Hubby. For that, I am thankful. He is an energetic, teenaged puppy now but I keep telling myself that he will someday grow into a well-behaved dog. Until then I am learning lots of lessons!

Jan B. said...

The first time I raised a puppy, I thought I was going to go insane. I went about 6 weeks and actually called the breeder to ask about returning him...and then I couldn't do it. Despite all the chewing and pooping and crying, etc., I was madly in love with the guy. I simply had unrealistic expectations.

Since then, I do try to warn people who start out with their first puppy that this is NOT easy work. (But believe me, babies are even more work and frustration!) No one understands until they go through this themselves. However, the dogs we raised as pups turned out far better than any of the older dogs we've adopted. They do eventually settle down and then they're the best friends you'll ever have.

Just don't try to raise a baby and a puppy at the same time! Now THERE'S a recipe for insanity! :-)

peaknits said...

Puppy raising is a tough endeavor - but it pays you back so much once you get through the trials. As you already know. That puppy sure is sweet, at least in pictures, right? Good luck getting through the next few months - "puppy kindergarten" will pay off - I am one of "those" people too:)

Emily said...

ummmm... I don't remember you cleaning up any of the puke. . . just an observation.

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