Raising a not-so-perfect puppy

Rants

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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.

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Leash not included

Commentary

Yesterday, after a day of trying to get to grips with the idea that I wasn’t going to have a pet after all, I called the vet to settle the bill for her treatment. He charged us less than I had anticipated, and I appreciated this a lot. We arranged for me to stop by on Tuesday to pay the balance.

As luck would have it, my boyfriend got off work earlier than usual, which happens once every — no, wait, that never happens. And so when I came home we decided to pay a visit to the vet after all. I was set on asking him to keep a look out for me for any potential puppies and let me know. He recommended a local organization’s website that he worked with, and I added that to my list of potential dog resources. By that point, I had realized that the chances of putting myself through that process of selection were very very slim. So bill settled, we left the clinic just as a young couple with their 4-year-old daughter walked in. I felt sad, but not as devastated as I had initially suspected.

As we were getting in the car, the vet comes out and calls us in. “There’s something here that I think will interest you,” he said laconically.

And we walked in to this:

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It was a male puppy that had wandered into this family’s yard, but they couldn’t keep it because they already had a labrador. They figured their vet might have an idea as to what to do with it, and here comes our cue. It was too fluffy and hairy for my taste. It was a little boy and I’ve only ever had girls. It was absolutely not what I imagined I would ever want, but I fell in love with him in an instant. It was as though that serendipitous meeting was meant to happen. We both readily accepted him into our arms and into our home.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I present you Teddy Mercury. In this episode, Teddy Mercury meets a ball for the first time. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Ruby

Commentary

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Let me tell you about that time when I had a puppy for four days.

On Tuesday after a very fruitful talk with my best friend, I came home quite determined to find myself a puppy.

You see, for the past 2 years, at least, I’ve been trying to convince my significant other to adopt a puppy with me. I grew up with dogs in our household — loving little creatures that made coming home an extra special treat. But coming home to an empty nest just made the whole living on your own a bit of a bore. My efforts were relentless: we’d visited the dog shelter together, we’d liked the same dog and on a hopeful whim I had bought a leash for my imaginary dog-to-be. Nothing ever came of these visits; the red leather dog leash filled up the cupboard for all things undefined with a quiet sense of defeatism. At first, stubborn as I am, I refused to give up. I would go through periods of timid acceptance before I relapsed into dog obsession mode and became quite an insufferable person to be around. My significant other, would not give in. He wanted to be ready and I gradually came to believe the one indisputable fact: we’d never be ready.

But then on Tuesday, I came home and with a few clicks and scrolls, I came across Argos Animal Sanctuary and on their Facebook page was a little face I couldn’t resist. It was love at first sight. It was the dog I had been dreaming of. It was at that moment that I knew that this was going to be my dog. That night, I told my boyfriend that we would have a new addition to the household and then I showed him the picture. He smiled in agreement and I thought, what else could this be but divine intervention? My dream was finally coming true — until I found out that there was another person interested in adopting this little cutie. I must admit, I was a little worried, but deep down I knew that if I was meant to have her — as I felt that I was — I would see her at the sanctuary and I would take her away with me for our much-awaited happily-ever-after.

On Wednesday right after work, my mom and I drove to the sanctuary with the effervescent joy of teenagers. We were excited, yet anxious. Would we find her? Would she be there? When we asked for her, we were taken to the puppies area and surely enough, there she was. Tiny and fragile, yet absolutely gorgeous. I signed the papers and yes, we were now the proud adopted parents of the sweetest pup any owner could want. In the car, she looked at us with big, sad eyes, ever so expressive. She was quiet and docile and a little car sick. I pinned it down to the stress of being in a new place.

After I gave her a bath, I snapped the above photo — still thinking that surely this is some kind of half-dream. She was much the little explorer — following me from room to room, patiently waiting for me on my heel, before moving on along side me. She was hungry for love, but she was quite on edge. She refused to eat, but she did drink a little water. It astonished me that she hardly ever sat down — she was always on her feet, evaluating the situation. It wasn’t until I finally took to the couch, that she made an attempt to join in by putting her tiny paws on my resting feet. I set her down on her own cushion next to me and sat down next to her, helping her lay down to rest. It wasn’t long before I gave in and put her on my lap, where she fell asleep as I petted her. It was a moment I held on to dearly, in the days that followed. Even my boyfriend indulged in this loving exchange, as she migrated to his lap, as though I’d warned her about winning him over. Our unit of two was being reconfigured.

But then, on that night, she kept throwing up and had severe diarrhea. It was clear that this was not good news. I took her to the vet that had given her the first vaccine, with the impression that he could have known something more about her history, but this proved to be a big mistake. After a superficial examination, he pronounced her sick with gastroenteritis and prescribed a bunch of medication that it was clear would do no good since she couldn’t eat. And his parting words, “I hope she makes it”, confirmed what I suspected. He had destined her to her death.

In the car, on the way home, she was so lethargic, that I thought she might die before we got home. It pained me to leave her alone for the two hours I had to work that afternoon, but what worried me more was the fear of coming home to a lifeless body. As soon as I got of work, I came back for her and took her to another vet, to get a second opinion. I found her mischievously on the couch like a princess, and put her in arms for that last trip from home. The other vet was very good with her, and after a blood test and an ultrasound it was determined that she had parvo, and that the odds were against her. But I just couldn’t give up on her — I wanted to do everything I could for her. After all, wasn’t it fate that I had picked her? Wasn’t it destiny that she would be given a second chance by receiving proper medical care? Hooked on IV and strong medication, the poor little one stayed in the clinic, trying to fight a losing battle. But she was not fighting alone: i stopped by daily, mom dropped by unannounced, my sister, best bud and boyfriend came along to enliven her. We all wanted to breathe life into her life through love. And she was looking better — there was some meat on bones. But the IV fluids can fool you. I refused to give up on her and I refused to stop being hopeful. I was convinced that I would will that virus out of her.

But then on this Sunday morning, the vet called me. I was wide awake, but still in bed, and I was daydreaming about Sunday walks we’d take together on the beach once she got better. I thought he was calling to let me know that I could go and visit her — ever the Ms. Glass-is-half-full. But instead, he awkwardly mouthed down the line: “I have some bad news”.

You see, I really wanted a dog, but not just any dog. And so when I saw her cute little photo I felt that she had sort of chosen me. And maybe she had. They called her Molly at the shelter, but that was clearly a misnomer. She was a precious little thing. Her name was Ruby.