Essay - My New Puppy
I wrote this about Lucy
when she was about three months old:
when she was about three months old:
I am a thirty-something guy in Memphis. I’ve got a soft spot for animals, and I’ve made a few dog rescues, but I’ve never kept the dogs. I’ve always found homes for them; but I have never broken down and had a dog. Finally, I went and got a puppy because I’ve always wanted the companionship that can only be experienced with a pet. I have spent a few evenings a month for the better part of a year researching breeds, breeders, and my own soul. Two months ago, I brought my eight-week-old Australian Cattle Dog home. This is the story of how she has changed my life.
Before I got the dog, I prepared to name her. Like many people gearing up to have their first pet, I had majestic plans for naming her. I had prepared a list of potential names that were meaningful to me in some way, or that I just thought would be ultra-cool. I spent a few weeks poring over the list, written by hand on one of those nasty yellow legal pads. The pad’s unpleasant, not-quite yellowness may have contributed to my never choosing one of those names, but the bigger reason was that I realized that all those names with creative hidden meanings and subtle ironies were very much like custom license plates for cars: CAKN8 may mean something to the driver, but it’s schizophrenic nonsense to everyone else. I needed something simple, something that I would not have to spend the next fifteen years tiredly explaining to people. I went with Lucy. Somehow, I still have to explain this to people.
Of course, upon bringing young Lucy home, I was immediately confronted with housebreaking. More on that in a minute. What I was surprised by and totally unprepared for was the chewing. Don’t get me wrong, here; I know that dogs chew, and that puppies often chew incessantly, but I had been told on many occasions, by people who know, that a firm but loving hand at home would blah, blah, blah, blah. This is a lie. The chewing does not stop. It didn’t stop at shoes, mattress ticking, or computer equipment. It didn’t stop at power cables, video cassettes, or linoleum. I have tried several over-the-counter chewing remedies that are made of harsh chemicals or of natural but irritating oils. Lucy enjoys the tastes of these products and is now drawn to chew on my possessions. I recently had the pleasure of spending a thousand dollars for the surgical removal of two-dollar tweezers from Lucy’s innards. Good trade.
Housebreaking. Wow. Where do I start? I guess I could start by summing up my experience at housebreaking Lucy with one sentence: Today I almost punched a guy in the mouth for saying, “That’s strange. My dog never went to the bathroom in the house.” At work I have been asked if everything was ok, told with a tone of understanding that it looked like I’d been crying. Of course, things were not ok. I had been crying. I had been going out of my mind. I had spent many sleepless hours cleaning my floors and swearing life-debts to whoever could stop the madness. “Little accidents,” as they are often called by the misguided, are not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is getting Lucy to recognize the need to go outside. I wouldn’t mind if she knew what to do but still had the occasional “little accident.” But to her, there is no difference between inside and outside. There is no early-warning scratching, sniffing or barking. There is only the harsh reality of the suddenly engaging smell of feces from somewhere in the house. I’ve even been awakened by this emanation. Don’t underestimate the horror. Twenty times a day I take Lucy outside, and twenty times a day I end up sterilizing my floor and spraying air freshener into the ceiling fans. During one particularly dramatic late-night episode, I really and truly almost took my dog to the yard to show her what I wanted her to do outside. Honest to God. I was so stressed by sleeplessness and delirious with frustration that I almost showed my dog how to go potty outside. Some days I still think about it.