Friday, September 20, 2013

The Puppy Diaries: The First Week

For K.K. and I had always known we wanted to be pet owners. From the earliest times of our relationship we discussed all our hopes and dreams, and both of us were in agreement that pets—both dogs and cats—would be in our future. We adopted our kitty, Calliope, in the fall of 2010, after some friends of ours adopted one. When I saw their adorable kitten, I decided then and there that we would not wait another month. I wanted a kitten, and I wanted it now. After several weeks of driving around to different shelters (most depressing thing ever), we finally found our little tortoise-shell miracle in a cage by herself at a large shelter on Long Island. She was about 12 weeks old and quite the bundle of energy and delight.

Calliope was a grumpy cat before Grumpy Cat.
But we still love her!
(This is at about 4 months old.)
As much as we loved Calliope, we still wanted a dog. I had grown up without pets (I don’t count my guinea pigs, which were boring and stinky, mostly) but yearned for a cat or a dog or both. I had always vowed to myself that I would get a pet as an adult. Mostly I thought of myself as a cat person, but dogs appealed to me, too. Once I took up jogging on a more regular basis in grad school, I especially liked the idea of having a dog I could go jogging or on long walks with. K.K. had always had dogs growing up and was nearly mad at the thought that we couldn’t have one in our duplex on Long Island. It just wasn’t feasible there, however, since we had no yard, a neighbor downstairs, and a picky landlord. Our move to Tennessee, though, and the house that we found with a gigantic fenced yard meant that it was puppy time.
            We picked up Bingley last Saturday from a breeder near Athens, TN. (N.B. Cookeville is near Sparta, TN. I believe there is also a Troy and a Carthage, TN. So it’s not just NY State with its delusions of Homeric grandeur.) Long ago we had decided that we wanted a breed of dog that would be predisposed to pleasing his owners, a naturally friendly and low-key breed. Around the same time, I had proposed that if Mr. Bingley, the character in the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice, were to be reincarnated as a dog, he would surely be a Golden Retriever since he was so friendly, and he always desired to please everyone. (At the same time, he was very obedient in listening to his good friend, Mr. Darcy.) Thus, it seemed the very pinnacle of perfection that we should adopt a Golden Retriever and name him Mr. Bingley.
I mean...he even looks like a Golden, amiright?
A week into puppy ownership, I have to admit I wasn’t exactly ready for what it all entails. All our friends kept warning us it would be a lot of work and pretty exhausting, but no one explained that it was more psychologically exhausting than anything else. Having a puppy in your house is like having a stranger come to live with you.  A stranger who cannot explain his needs at any given time. I find myself constantly guessing, “Is he hungry? Is he tired? Is he annoyed? Is he sleepy? Does he need to pee? Have we spent enough time outside today?” After the first two days, I went back and reread some sections of the puppy books we bought used off the internet, and I felt better when I realized that many people get a puppy and then go right back to work. Our puppy has the advantage that one of us was home almost all day long, since we teach on alternate days. Maybe I wasn’t such a bad puppy mommy after all. Similarly, the book explained (something I had missed in my earlier reading) that between 8-10 weeks, you cannot expect your puppy to do much of anything, obedience-wise. You are lucky if he doesn’t pee in the house or whine at night. (Bingley does neither, barring one small accident. But one accident in the first week seems fine to me!)
            Of course, Bingley is a little bundle of joy, too. He is probably the cutest thing with four paws every to walk the planet (except for Calliope when she was a kitten, of course). He looks a little like a teddy bear, and sometimes, when he’s rolling around on his back waiting for me to pat his belly, I swear he’s smiling at me. He’s especially adorable when he’s asleep, pooped after a day of chewing his toys, running around the yard, discovering all sorts of new smells, and occasionally growling at his trout-shaped chew-toy. But it’s hard not to smile when he comes running over to you, too, to say hello and give you a friendly lick. He’s still transitioning from being dog-oriented to being people-oriented—after all, it’s only been a week since he’s been away from his mom and dad and littermates.  But it seems like he’s adjusting pretty well. I look forward to the time when he’ll be ready to learn how to respond to commands, walk on a leash, and sit calmly when guests come to visit. (Right now he seems to think of guests as chew-toys…) For now, he’s just a puppy baby: sweet and cute even when he’s growling at a stick in the yard. And of course he’s tiny—he weighs just about the same as the cat!
Gaaaah! too cute!
And speaking of kitty…Calliope is slowly adjusting to having the pup around. We have a baby gate set up for now between the kitchen (Bingley’s domain) and the living room and the bedrooms (Calliope’s territory—for now). The first day, from behind her side of the baby gate, Calliope observed the dog in a position that clearly screamed, “I’m ready to run at any second.” Sunday morning, it was clear that Calliope had not expected that the dog would still be here. So far she has alternately ignored him, watched him carefully, hissed at him (he’s barked at her only once so far), and run away. Increasingly, she has become more curious. At first she would only come into the kitchen when we took the dog in the back yard. Then she would scramble awkwardly onto a counter and over the gate back into the living room. Last night, however, she boldly sauntered into the TV room, which is just off the mudroom/kitchen area, where K.K. and I were watching The Sopranos with Bingley asleep at our feet. While he slept, she hung out in the den, climbing up the couches, but always keeping a watchful eye on the dog. She didn’t hang around long once the dog started to wake up, but this could be the start (we hope) of an interspecies perestroika.

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