One Day at a Time: Life with a Puppy

I have resigned myself to this fact: For approximately the next 15 years, I will never again own a piece of clothing that doesn’t have long white hair attached. And I suppose I’ll have to forget about wearing anything black. Too bad. I loved black. But now we have a dog, a mostly white dog.

Ever since we adopted Bailey, a now five-month-old Labrador/Australian Shepherd, the hardwood has looked like the floor of a popular beauty parlor exclusively patronized by strawberry blondes. When I can’t find him, I simply follow the chunks of soft fur.

After our first dog, Tequila, died, I vowed to properly train our next pet, so Bailey and I are taking puppy training classes at one facility and socialization classes at another. We’re signed up for an advanced class at a different facility and I ordered a training video from an infomercial. I’m officially obsessed.

Recently (when things were going smoothly) I learned about the honeymoon period. Enjoy it while it lasts, they said. Well, it lasted about two hours. During that blissful period, Bailey actually stopped gnawing on my ankles and didn’t jump on my friends. I was ecstatic.

Confident the training was paying off, I bent down to praise Bailey. No sooner had “Good boy!” slipped from my lips, when he leaped into the air (mouth open, of course) and snagged my chin with his tooth. I currently sport a nice little scar to match the ones on my ankles.

Now don’t get me wrong. Though I occasionally get frustrated with my little terror, he’s mostly a sweet and funny character. I especially like the way he cocks his head from side to side when I talk to him. He’s friendlier than a campaigning politician. On our walks he needs to stop and visit with anything moving.

This week, Bailey has a new antic. He’s discovered that the hill in the backyard is covered with bark, twigs and other fun things to bring in through the dog door. So when boredom strikes, he brings said items into the house and proceeds to shred them to bits, like confetti. The vacuum has become my constant companion.

When feeling particularly chipper, Bailey amuses himself by snatching something — like my expensive, hand-sewn, new purse — then runs like hell, purse handle swinging from his mouth. He lives to tease. Nothing gives him greater joy than successfully stealing something he knows is off-limits. Then he goads me into chasing him. The pitiful thing is that I usually do.

Sometimes when I’m most frustrated with him, he makes me laugh. It’s difficult to be angry at Bailey’s unabashed delight as he dashes through the house with the TV remote control. I’m running after him, trying to bribe him with treats, and Bailey is dodging and weaving like a young Mohammed Ali.

He may never win any obedience awards, but Bailey shines in the personality department. In the morning I’ll wake to find him patiently sitting by the side of the bed, willing us to get up. He’s very polite like that.

He also shadows my every step. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to use the bathroom alone. When I’m showering, he sits with his nose pressed against the glass door and watches me bathe. He has no shame.

Fast becoming a regular at the veterinarian, Bailey has been neutered, had a hernia operation, extra dewclaws (toes) removed, and a plastic bag forcibly regurgitated from his stomach. All this in one month. With our continued support, our vet is looking at early retirement.

When you have a puppy, you take it one day at a time. Today my goal is to convince Bailey it’s not fun to dig up hoses to the sprinkler system and deposit them in pieces on the bed. Once we’ve conquered that, we’ll tackle the snail-eating issue.

What mud?

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