whos training who

Dear Uma: Sorry, sorry, sorry for the middle of the night phone call; I was so excited about the pups and wanted to tell you about them right away, forgetting it was very late. You were right to hang up; I understand.

Dear Uma:

Sorry, sorry, sorry for the middle of the night phone call; I was so excited about the pups and wanted to tell you about them right away, forgetting it was very late. You were right to hang up; I understand.

Aren’t they adorable? I realize the photos are all of sleeping puppies, but that’s been the only time we’ve had to take pictures.

They are not from the same litter, though they are just a couple of weeks apart in age. Both are a mixture of breeds; it is hard to tell exactly which breeds, though I think between the two of them they may represent at least a dozen different ones. It appears they are going to be vastly different in size. We are told the pinto one will be huge and the black wee one will remain wee. Pete has named them Mutt and Jeff.

We went to the shelter to look for an adult dog, but there they were, the baby dogs….

A trip from Whitehorse is a different thing when there are puppies on board. They are too new and too little to ride in the back of the truck and the travel crate looked like punishment somehow, even with the sheepskin blankets and the toys; besides, there’s no heat back there.

They were on my lap, or the floor at my feet, for most of the journey, though once in awhile one, or both, would get on Pete’s lap, or the floor at his feet, where the gas pedal and brake pedal were a bit of a problem for all concerned.

Pete was a model of patience, pulling over to the side of the road at least a dozen times (he says 41 times, but I think he exaggerates) to either get them out from under his feet or let them out to piddle. We were pretty worn out by the time we got home.

Pete and I went to bed almost as soon as I had hung up from my attempt to talk to you, but we didn’t sleep.

No living thing in our house slept last night; the puppies, fed, watered, warm and assured of affection, were grieving for the shelter, I am assuming, because they did the dog equivalent of weeping and wailing for all of what remained of the night. They would not be comforted, even when brought into bed with us as a desperate last measure. We’d resolved we were not going to be the sort of dog owners that had their dogs on the marital couch.

Dog misery seems to demand a fairly constant release of body fluids as well as a steady whimpering; they can pee and cry at the same time, a skill amply demonstrated during the long dark hours.

We took turns taking them outside, but they only huddled at our feet, whimpering and shivering. Finally, I put newspapers down on our bedroom floor; we would put them off the bed and on the floor at what seemed appropriate moments. They wet the bed and puddled a dozen times on the floor.

This cycle of unhappiness was broken when we hauled our exhausted bodies out of bed at daybreak: as soon as we were in our slippers, the pups were grinning and gamboling around the room, clearly at ease in their new home and eager to start a new day.

The gamboling was cute; tired as we were, we were captivated, until Mutt gamboled around Pete’s feet as he was leaving the room to make the morning tea.

It was a dramatic fall; noisy with thumps, bumps, the pups yipping and Pete swearing, but no one was really hurt. Pete has some darkening patches on one leg from hitting the bedside table as he fell, and a bit of a lump on the back of his head from trying to avoid landing face first in a puddle of pup piss, but nothing a good sleep won’t fix.

We decided the pups should have the spare bedroom. The morning was spent creating the ideal dog space and, as you can see, it looks good. Setting up the beds, filling the new baskets with all the toys, and arranging the little feed and water dishes on the place mats took a lot of time—Mutt and Jeff were very keen to contribute their ideas and combined with their separate needs to pee, poo, eat and drink, it was well past lunch time before it was completed to everyone’s satisfaction.

The pups demonstrated their pleasure in all these activities by falling asleep—on the kitchen rug in front of the sink. Rather than disturb them, Pete went to Growlie’s to get us burgers and fries for lunch.

While he was out hunting and gathering, I very quietly put away the bags of puppy food, the doggie shampoo and creme rinse, the recommended treats to be used for training, the special biscuits for their teeth, the collars and leashes, etc., etc.

Having stowed all the canine goodies, and still waiting for Pete’s return, I sat at the kitchen table and casually added up the sales receipts from the pet shopping.

Uma! we’ve spent over $600! And there’ll be another checkup with the vet in two months. Having some idea of the costs involved with your horses, I guess you don’t think this is such an enormous sum but you make money with your animals and ours are only going to cost more.

I was surprised, I admit, but leather collars and leashes are simply nicer, right? And we’d already been told not to skimp on the quality of dog food.

The beds were expensive, but they are raised off the floor, which is supposed to be healthier, and they came with washable sheepskin liners.

Pete wasn’t likely to ask what all this cost anyway, and there they were, curled up together sleeping—our fur babies.

The smell of our lunch roused them; I’d thought they would sleep for hours after such an eventful night and morning, but they seemed much refreshed from their short nap.

By the time we’d sat to eat, they were in full cry, jumping up and yowling for food in a manner suggesting shameful negligence on the part of their owners. When directed to their own dishes, full of choice puppy food, they were not in the least interested: they wanted to eat what Mom and Dad were eating.

We shared; after all, it was the first day in their new home.

After a lunch which left Pete and I still hungry, we took the pups for a walk. Getting the collars adjusted and the leashes on took a considerable time, with the dog babies more interested in playing and peeing than in being outfitted. The collars are not popular, but the leashes are a hit, with both pups enthusiastically chewing on the braided leather.

The walk was not an unqualified success. Pete didn’t even get out of the yard; by the time we got both pups to the end of the driveway (about 20 minutes) he said his leg was hurting and he was going to go back to the house. I recognized the signs of approaching total fed up-ness and agreed that was what he should do.

The pups liked the woods, and I’m sure there will come a day when we all can enjoy ourselves on a walk—when these critters are grown up and trained. And trained they must be.

The entire hour was spent with me crouching on the ground every few feet in order to untangle leashes while fending off dirty paws and puppy tongues. Why do they lick faces? Will they outgrow this?

Arriving home, I spent another half-hour wiping their paws off and divesting them of their collars. I found Pete asleep on our bed with the television remote in one hand and a half-eaten sandwich in the other.

Ignoring howls of protest and the sound of little claws scrabbling desperately at the door, I locked the pups in their room.

It was a testament to how tired Pete was that he didn’t stir when the house filled up yet again with the sounds of doggie distress. It was a testament to how tired I was when I joined him.

About an hour ago I got up to find the place silent as a tomb. Peeking in the dog room, I saw them being angels again, asleep on the floor, sharing a blanket they’d pulled from one of the beds.

I’m still tired; Uma, have I made a terrible mistake?

Love,

Heather

Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

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