As expected, getting a new puppy right after moving has been a great way to start settling in to our new community. I take him on walks several times a day, which is great for improving his behavior and my mental health. While we’re out, we chat with the retired guys shoveling sidewalks, we meet the girls waiting for the middle-school bus who think he is “sooooooo precious!” and we explore new parts of the neighborhood. As it gets warmer and our walks get longer, this will start getting even better.
We’ve also ventured to the dog park on the edge of town, and have therefore been introduced to some of the drama of being “pet people.” There are the people who tell me it’s okay for Max to jump on them when I have just chastised him, because “he’s just a puppy.” I have seen an untrained Labrador knock over a child, which is unacceptable for a domestic animal, so please excuse me while I teach my dog to behave better than yours. Others make snide comments about how “you know what you’re getting because all Labs look the same,” and tell me they fell in love with their rescue dog just before he was going to be put down, which makes me feel like I should reassure them we worked with an ethical breeder and that strong breeding lines benefit dog owners everywhere. I usually smile and tell them their dog is wonderful even if I think it looks like, well, a real dog.
And crate training is apparently very controversial, too. Some dog owners think it’s awful and abusive to “lock your puppy up in a jail cage.” In contrast, I feel great about establishing myself as the head of the pack by teaching Max it’s a privilege to be in the house with me, and that he likes playing by himself in there anyway. I don’t even want to know what people would say about shock collars on the little guy if it is needed when we start retriever training this spring.
Sometimes it’s a bit of a dog-owner-eat-dog-owner world out there.
Maybe it’s because I’ve home by myself all day for a month, but I feel like I really have a sense for what Max would be saying to me if he could speak.
“No biting! That hurts me!”
-“Yep, sorry. I know that.”
“You can chew a stick or sit by my feet.”
-“I’m just licking my stick and your sock now. Licking, licking, lick/nibbling, licking, it’s more of a tooth massage than a bite anyway, licking, you don’t have to notice this bite, licking, licking with mouth on you, BITING, OK I’M JUST BITING AND I’M NOT ASHAMED.”
God must think I am such a puppy sometimes, too.
Though Max is still naughty, and what he has gained in maturity just barely compensates for the fact that his increased size means he’s more powerful in disobedience, there are still so many wonderful moments where we all get to enjoy life in our new home. My friend Bethany reminded me that living harmoniously with animals is nature as it was truly intended. We are reclaiming a bit of Eden and proclaiming a bit of heaven, and we’ve been soaking up all these wonderful moments.