Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Learning How to Do Life with a Puppy

Well, Charlie's been home with us for about 2.5 weeks now, and I must say that I'm loving it...loving her.  For so long, during the time I was researching dog breeds and saving money for the purchase of one, I was always thinking about how good a dog would be for the kids and how much they would benefit from having one, etc etc.  When it came to thinking about having a dog and me, I mostly thought about how much work it was going to be and how inconvenient it was going to be at times.

I started getting excited when we picked out an actual dog...then got deflated and guarded again when the first dog didn't work out for us...then got cautiously excited again when we picked out the dog that would become our Charlie.

What I didn't really count on was how much and how quickly I would come to love this little thing.  And I do.  She is a lot of work, and she is inconvenient at times when we're planning our day and working with Charlie's schedule and figuring out how we can bring her with us to things, etc etc.  But when I enter a room she's in and see her head turn at the sound of my voice, when I see her hurtling her little body towards me with joy and in anticipation of a tummy rub, well, my heart kinda just melts.

My single favourite moment with her so far was on the weekend, when the kids and I took her to a nearby field to watch my niece play soccer.  On the way home, after most of the crowd dispersed, I took her off of her leash and let her run with the kids.  My three kids and my niece were all vying for her attention, calling her name and trying to get her to run in the general direction of home.  She was going all which ways, running and in full joy mode.  Because we were making almost no progress towards home, I finally called her myself.  I called her name once, and in the midst of the din of the kids shrieking and playing with her, her head whipped around at the sound of my voice, and I could see her eyes scanning for me.  When she saw me, about thirty feet away, she bolted towards me.  Full tilt, joy in her face.  She crashed in to me and rolled over on her back for a tummy rub.  She followed me the rest of the way home.  And needless to say, I had my own child-like little moment of pride and happiness that she knew me, followed me.  I felt like I was back in grade school with feelings like that, but whatever...

In private I whisper to her that she's really my baby, and I find myself talking to her in baby talk.  Yikes.  It's like falling in love with one of my kids...I'm a big marshmallow around her.

She definitely knows us now; she knows her name and I love watching her floppy ears perk up when she hears it being called; and she responds pretty well now to a 'sit' command.  She's quite smart, I think, and once we get this house-breaking thing down, she's going to be amazing.  For a dog that couldn't go up or down a single stair without somersaulting two weeks ago, she's picked that up pretty quickly, too!  She's not allowed upstairs yet, unless we carry her up at bedtime, but just last night she snuck up there right in front of me and bounded up all fourteen steps.  Her little body isn't even as tall as a stair, but man could she motor up there.  She stood there at the top step looking down at me, and I'm pretty sure from the smug expression on her face that she was laughing at me!

Oh, and I guess I should mention the kids in all of this...after all, it's for the kids we bought the dog!  :)

The boys are doing great with her.  I knew that Matthew would love having a dog, but I also kinda thought that his attention would flag a bit after a couple of weeks; but he's been my biggest surprise so far when it comes to the kids.  He's wonderful with Charlie - looking out for her best interests, trying to anticipate her needs, understanding her body language, knowing how to talk with her, etc etc.  I've been really happy to see that.  He loves having a dog, and says almost every evening that he can't believe we actually have a dog and how awesome it is to finally have one.

Seth is pretty much exactly as we expected.  So much of our discussion, before getting a dog, was about how much that boy needed one.  And he did, and does.  He loves that little Charlie with his whole heart - there's nothing he wouldn't do for her.  He's faithful, loving, never complains about having to clean up after her at times.  And in a hard hour that he had last week, he cuddled on the floor with Charlie, rocking her, and his rage dissolved and he leaned against me while hugging Charlie; he kept whispering to her how much he needed her.  That moment was precisely what I imagined before Charlie came home.

Lizzie.  Well, that's been a more interesting situation.  Lizzie's had a hard time adjusting...not that she'd think so.  She adores the dog, no doubt about that, and she's remarkably good about cleaning up a Charlie accident on the kitchen floor.  But the timing of Charlie's arrival proved a little challenging.  We got Charlie two days after the busiest few weeks of our past year.  We'd gone through the Romeo & Juliet performance week, which followed two full weeks of daily play practice and all-day interaction with friends.  Around then we all went through the flu as well.  Anyway, although we loved those super busy weeks and wouldn't change a thing, Lizzie's anxiety was through the roof by last week.  She is highly social and loved spending so much time with her friends, but the combination of such a high social activity level and general busyness was really too much for her little system to cope well.  And then, of course, the first week that we had Charlie was insanely full of emotion and an almost-frenetic time of excitement for her.

At the end of week 1 with Charlie, Charlie began biting Lizzie - not puppy nibbling that we expect in a puppy, but an aggressive attempt to bite her face or arms.  Thankfully, with the help of a friend, I was able to assess that the reason for this was that Lizzie was unable to leave Charlie alone.  Lizzie was constantly (and I do mean constantly) trying to pick Charlie up, hold her, squeeze her, pin her to the ground to stop her from leaving her, rubbing their faces together, and on and on.  She was simply not able to manage herself at all around the puppy.  At. All.  Obsessed would not be too strong a word.

So, for the past twelve days or so, Lizzie has not been allowed to play with the puppy unless I am right there with them both.  She must ask before touching dog and when she does, it is with one hand only (the other hand must be behind her back), and she is not allowed to pick the dog up or chase the dog.  The  dog is thus assured of having complete freedom to come and go as she wishes when it comes to playing with Lizzie.  And thankfully, this seems to have worked.  Lizzie still gets lots of time with the puppy, because I'm almost always with them, and Charlie has relaxed again with Lizzie.  Charlie went from being a very anxious dog about twelve days ago to one that has resumed her joyful and loving and bouncy little nature.  It's a lot of management for me, but I'm determined to conquer this early so that the two of them can have an awesome relationship.

Anyway, it's been a growing experience for all of us, re-learning life with a puppy and me needing to devote almost as much attention to her as to the kids right now.  But everyone's pitching in and loving the change in our lives.  We love having a dog!  It feels like the exact right time for our family, and she is a real joy to have around.

Here she is a couple of days ago, running free in a park near our house.

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