Who knew when we rolled into 2020 that we would soon be facing shortages of things we seemingly have taken for granted for decades… toilet paper… bicycles…flour… dogs…. ? I’m sure that vanilla ice cream must be on the list somewhere too… Things we never really thought much about before suddenly became essential.
Dogs have always been a part of my life. Growing up, it was border collies – Mike and Peter – and when I was old enough to have my own dog I got a yellow Labrador Retriever puppy called Nutmeg.
I don’t remember much about training that puppy, but somehow, in spite of me, she turned out to be a great dog. I do remember the chew-ing. Lots and lots of chewing. My other dogs, also yellow labs, I got as older dogs – one was retiring from a life raising puppies, and the other was looking for home bigger than the postage-stamp-sized back yard she had spent her short life on. I was lucky to have such great dogs that came to me well-mannered and made wonderful additions to our family.
When my elderly dog died in April, I decided that I didn’t want to go through that stage again and that she would be my last dog. That feeling didn’t last long. Along with some not-so-subtle agitation from a family member (I should have said relentless agitation) suddenly I, too, caught puppy fever and decided the time was right for a new dog. I always feel for dogs who are unwanted and started by looking to adopt one of those. Even they were in short supply. Or maybe I just didn’t find the right list.
Luckily for us, we found the perfect puppy from Doralee Kennels near Harriston, breeders we have had a long association with through our former pig breeding business. The sleeps anxiously counted down until “Puppy Day” arrived and Doralee Sophie joined our family on November 6, An early harvest worked in our favour – as spending 18 hours a day in the field does not really go well with bringing a new puppy into the home.
Knowing nothing about puppy training, we did lots of reading and watching videos on the subject. We even enrolled in a kinderpuppy class – what can be more fun to say that “kinderpuppy”? We learned about crate training. Although everything about the crate screams “cage”, it is really more of a den and thinking about it that way helped us get over feeling like we were isolating our new baby in a cruel way. It was amazing how fast she decided it was HER space and the cats better stay out.
Yes, we also have two cats. Our matron took one look at Sophie and seemed to decide that she knew all about small dogs. She realized it was the time to bring them to heel before they become big dogs is short. And so began the lessons on cat appreciation. There has been lots of scrapping but now, after sharing a space for a month, the two take turns eating out of the same bowl. Although, I’m sure the cat is doing it just to show that she can, not because she actually wants to eat dog food.
Our other cat, larger and more of an outdoorsman, seemed to adopt the attitude of an old uncle who didn’t quite know what to make of this rambunctious youngster, and didn’t much care to learn. His lessons were a bit more stern and the two are still figuring out how they will get along in the future.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since Sophie arrived is how much baby dogs have in common with baby humans. If you can’t hear them, you better get moving fast and figure out what is going on. The quieter they are, the faster you should move. Also, being on a regular schedule of eating, sleeping, and playing makes everything better. No one learns their lessons well if they are tired or hungry or just too squirmy to pay attention. Also, no toy is better than a toy that someone else wants. Long forgotten cat toys suddenly became hot commodities as Sophie discovered how fun they are. Playing with them WITH the cat makes them even better.
Seeing the lightbulb come on in those bright eyes as the lessons are understood is very rewarding. There are few things more fun than watching babies – humans or dogs –experience the world for the first time. They are so curious and find interest in things that you had long ago stop noticing. I remember when my kids were little; I learned so much about the world seeing it through their eyes. Before I had boys – I thought there were two kinds of dinosaur – Dino and T-Rex. Having a puppy offers a similar experience. Who knew how many different things in the yard were actually chewable? And, like human babies, puppies are happier with routine, learning good manners, and how to play well with others.
The special relationship between humans and dogs goes back over 14,000 years. And even the most prickly person can be connected with if you ask about their dog. As we prepare to move into a new year, instead of making resolutions, I am stealing a thought from CJ Frick, to be the person my dog thinks I am. ◊