I like to be as excruciatingly thorough as possible in pretty much everything I do. So of course, when we got our puppy, I spent the better part of my free time obsessing on how to master the daunting task of proper training. The internet was an easy ally in this case: I surfed the endless forums for training, became Cesar Millan’s ultimate fangirl and obsessed over a book I read in a day, bought when I brought the puppy home. How can anyone resist a book called “The Perfect Puppy”?
You could say I have a problem. I won’t judge you.
Before I knew it, dog training lingo started making its stealthy way into my conversation: positive reinforcement, crate training, off cues, sit, stay. I accidentally talked to my 1 year-old-godson in this vocabulary, but luckily no one heard me. My sister fell prey to the same thing; she recently got a dog too, and found herself clicking her tongue at colleagues, friends and myself whenever she wanted to reprimand or hurry things up. It was hilarious, but also sad. We were imaginary queens of dog training, but pathetic examples of defeat, because behind the lingo lay the futile attempts at getting it right, while getting it wrong almost 90% of the time.
You see, all these experts make it seem like it’s a piece of cake. They say: Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a dog. They don’t say: Sucker! Welcome to a life of shit and puddles! They say: Follow these three steps. They don’t say: Haha! GOTCHA! They say: Repetition is key . The don’t say: Repetition is pointless.
Sure, I’m a cynic, but I remember as I was breezing through the book I kept thinking, “Yeah, this is so manageable, I can so do this.” When confronted with failure I tend to either get angry or get angry. And I got angry, but most importantly persistent. Sit, was a relatively easy command, everything after that has been near impossible. I’ve been trying to teach Teddy the cue for “off” which he understands under controlled conditions, but not when we are out on a walk. As a result he has swallowed many a plastic bag, cigarette butts and other unnamed disgusting things that I sometimes feel disinclined to pull from his mouth, even if I always end up attempting it.
And to make things more challenging, he’s growing by the second. My greatest fear is that I’ll wake up one morning and see him towering over me. It’s like he’s devoured that Alice in Wonderland cookie on one of our walks, which could make sense since it reads Don’t eat me. The forbidden fruit is always more delicious even for the illiterate. Recently, I discovered the hard way just how tall he’s become in the past month. In the limited time I had for my lunch break, I left Teddy in the living room and migrated to the study to do some research on short film documentaries. I discovered this gem of depressing creativity, and 2 minutes into it I realized that Oden was actually the dog. It wasn’t long before the mandatory close up shot for the euthanasia scene, and that’s just when I paused it, all teary eyed and sad because I didn’t want the dog to die its inevitable death. It made me feel lucky for my own little fella, and I went to the living room to play with him in a genuine sense of gratitude. As I tried to move past his hyperactivity, I noticed in the far distance a familiar object: my pair of sunglasses doubling for a dog toy. The little rascal got them off the kitchen counter! He was now tall enough to reach pretty much anything. I resorted to my book, which advised teaching the off cue. A no-brainer, right? Too bad it doesn’t work.
So three months after that fateful meeting at the vet, I find myself pretty convinced that I’m not raising the perfect puppy at all. He’s destroyed a pair of Camper boots, a handmade fridge magnet made by my friend G— made by an Icelandic pine cone she got on vacation, the couch, a journal and countless pairs of trousers. When I take him out for the 5:30 a.m. walk in my hole filled leggings and disheveled hair I think to myself, What has become of me? But then when we come back home and he sits patiently for his food eyeing me with the expectation, I melt. I guess they call it puppy love for a reason.