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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pup Watch Update

Well, I had vowed to myself that I would keep my blog strictly writer-focused in 2008, which was my original intent in starting it. But I think it’s only fair that I follow up on a post from a few months ago about my new puppy.

I mentioned my long grieving process over my previous dog, and how I was grieved in a totally different way when I brought Aztec home as an 11 week old pup on December 15th – the stress of normal puppy life – having to get up at all hours to give potty breaks, the accidents, the chewing of off-limits items despite having tons of her own chew toys, the hyper-drive without an off-switch, the having to watch her every second to keep her from damaging herself by eating something dangerous, and so on. At one point it had me so depressed I feared I’d have to return her to the shelter. I feared either I was going to strangle her or she was going to be the death of me.

I am pleased to say that as of today, 60 days since bringing her home, things are looking much better and I finally believe we are going to make it as a team. While most definitely still a puppy with all the playfulness that engenders, Aztec has calmed down considerably. While she still must be crated when I am gone, I can leave her with access to most rooms when I am home and not have to worry every nano-second about what she is doing.

For the most part she has quit chewing furniture and boxes though she still has to be monitored for attempts at chewing the sheets that cover the couch. Accidents are now very rare and she finally understands that she can spend some time playing by herself and that my every waking moment is not hers alone.

And because the stress level has decreased for both of us, I am able to be more patient and calm with her, and she in turn more settled.

She has turned out to be smart in many ways. She picks up rapidly on training for sit, down, shake, come (at least while not distracted). She has been slow to pick up on the use of the dog door, and it took several weeks for her to recognize her name (even though the shelter named her, not me).

But we still have problem areas to work on. She still has a very bad habit of roughhousing and nipping that she simply refuses to be corrected on, even though I’ve done so a billion times. She continues to have a bad habit of jumping up on people – I’ve tried to be gentle with her about it but may have to go to the Marley method – (Marley and Me by John Grogan. In this book, Marley's "dad" has a friend come over and when Marley goes to jump up on him, the friend gives Marley a very strong knee to the chest and while it hurt for a minute, Marley never jumped on anyone else. You can view info on the book by clicking here: )

She’s also very bad about pulling on leash and is an ADD dog if I’ve ever seen one – so easily distracted it’s ridiculous! Still, an enormous improvement from where we started.

So those of you out there who are thinking of getting a puppy or just got a puppy, take heart! The constant vigilance in those first 4-6 weeks is extremely excruciating, exhausting, and irritating – and it might at times make you feel homicidal. But it is well worth the time spent, even though you can’t see it at the time. I know that the constant vigilance I exercised in her earliest weeks here at home will go a long way to providing long term benefits that might otherwise have been long term training problems.

I guess it’s like raising 2-legged children – the time you invest in them in the early years makes all the difference in how they’re likely to turn out when they get older.

And technically I can make this post slightly writing-related. Since Aztec is maturing, I hope that in the next few weeks my derailed writing schedule can resume again. It’s like I’ve been on maternity leave from the job of writing. And, while happy to have the new baby, I’m also eager to get back to work. I miss my story.

Happy writing. . .and dog raising. . .to each of you.

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