Raising a small dog is a lot like raising a small human in that, sometimes, you get lulled into a false sense of security and disaster ensues.
In the small human scenario, this typically occurs after a period of exemplary conduct on the part of the child — a superior kindergarten report card, angelic deportment in church or a trauma-free sitting in the JCPenney’s portrait studio.
A parent thinks, “I’ve won the offspring lottery. Not only is my kid the cutest on the planet, he is perfectly behaved, to boot!”
Then, you let your guard down and, next thing you know, said child has shampooed the neighbor’s cat in your new Bosch washer and is drying her fur with the leaf blower.
The irony holds true with puppies, as I painfully discovered in the last few weeks.
Raising Lucy, the cocker spaniel, was going swimmingly. She was onboard with the housetraining program, trotting like a trooper at my husband’s side on their daily walk, and had passed the Good Canine Citizen obedience class with flying colors. We even have the diploma to prove it. (True, the instructor wasn’t fond of her penchant for pooping every time she entered the building, but she still got that little piece of paper, people!)
Lucy held her barking to a minimum (unlike Spike, her predecessor, who wasn’t happy unless he was piercing the air with ear-splitting yips and yaps). In the evenings, she would stretch out at our feet, — sometimes, ON our feet — and gnaw on a bone, content just to be near her loving family as they hurled vociferous epithets at “American Idol” contestants.
At night, all it would take was a simple command, “Go to bed,” and she’d amble happily into her crate and sleep soundly until morning.
Best of all, instead of losing her puppy dog cuteness as she grew in length and height, she was getting more adorable by the minute!
(We’re talking serious, off-the-charts cuteness here, folks.)
I thought, “I’ve won the house pet lottery. Not only is my dog the cutest on the planet, she is perfectly behaved, to boot!”
Then, I let my guard down.
It was one of those lazy Sunday afternoons we’ve had lately. (You know the type: gray, cold, 10 inches of snow on the ground?) Lucy and I were lounging in the living room, chewing on a brand new rawhide bone. (Actually, the bone was hers. I was munching on a day-old tuna salad sandwich.) Hunkered over my laptop, I was perusing Facebook for new status updates from my friends:
“Jeanie is having chili for dinner tonight!”
“Karen can’t wait to see the grandkids tomorrow!”
“Bobbi is shopping for new window treatments!”
The content was so deeply compelling — I mean, can you blame me? — I lost all sense of time. Twenty minutes later, I looked up from my computer and said to no one, “Where’s Lucy?”
A sense of dread washed over me as I closed the computer and sprang to my feet. I stood there, in silence, listening for a clue, any clue. Then, a muffled but rhythmic sound crept into my consciousness. It was kind of a digging noise, I thought. No, more like scraping, really. Sort of like the sound a puppy makes when she ... oh ... my ... God ... IS TEARING A GINORMOUS FREAKING HOLE IN THE BACK OF YOUR BEST SOFA!!!!
I tore around to the back of the couch and there it was: a six-inch gaping perforation barely covered by wisps of shredded latte-colored corduroy. (The new rawhide bone had, apparently, found its way under the sofa.)
“Lucy, NOOOOOOO!” I screamed, and frantically ushered her outside, because that’s what you do when they tinkle on the floor, I figured, and they didn’t cover furniture destruction discipline in Good Canine Citizen class. Or, maybe they did and she was too busy pooping to pay attention.
If that incident wasn’t bad enough, Lucy’s follow-up acts were making mincemeat out of my $300 retainer and my spare pair of glasses. Those stories weren’t quite as dramatic, but they pushed our cumulative dog damage total upwards of two thousand dollars, which is dramatic enough.
Is she worth it? Of course, she is. I still feel like we won the lottery with Lucy.
But, it’s a good thing she’s so darned cute. Or, she might find herself taking a bath in the Bosch one of these days.
— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author. She can be reached at 832-6319.