Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Recently, my live-in boyfriend, Jordan, and I made the decision to get a dog. We already had two cats, Digit and Lily, but we longed for an animal companion who we could take for walks, bring to the park, and play fetch with. We have tried to do all of these things with our cats unsuccessfully. I even bought a kitty harness and leash for our more playful cat, Lily, in hopes that she would accompany me on walks around the neighborhood, but found that as soon as I strap the harness on her, she immediately goes stiff and falls over on her side as if she is made out of cement. She made it clear to me that she was not going to be doing anything while wearing that harness, much less walking.

And so, this past winter, we started entertaining the idea of adopting a dog. We agreed on getting an older puppy or young adult dog, because we didn’t want to go through the hassle of house breaking and training. We started looking into adoption and went to go meet some dogs at the Kankakee County Humane Society. We fell in love with one, an 8-month-old Australian Shepherd mix, and decided we would name him Merlin. We were just about to go put our deposit on him when I got a call from my brother. His Australian Cattle Dog was pregnant, and he was wondering if we’d like to take one of the puppies when they were born and old enough to give away. We weighed our options.

Getting an older dog would mean that we wouldn’t have to worry about house breaking and training, but we would miss out on the cutest stages and those early bonding opportunities. Also, we were getting ready to move into a new house, and the extra time before the pups were born and ready to go would be helpful.

Our minds were made once the pups were born and we went to see them in March. There were 6 of them, 2 girls and 4 boys. Two of the boys were red, and the rest of them were black with brown faces and paws, and a couple of them had white on their chests. They were just a couple weeks old, and so tiny and adorable. They were just big enough to romp around and play with each other. Immediately when we entered the room, 4 of the pups ran up to greet us and crawled on our laps, but then easily got distracted and went off to go play. While the others were playing, there was one little female, a black and brown one with a white T on her chest, who seemed a little more shy than the rest. She came up to me, crawled on my lap, and went right to sleep. This was the one I wanted!

While the puppies grew and developed at my brother’s house, we tried our best to prepare ourselves for what was about to come. I checked out a bunch of DVDs and books on puppy training from the library’s collection, and we did our homework. We also went and bought toys, food, treats, a little pink collar, and all of the necessities. We decided on a name- Priscilla, or “Prissy” for short.

In May, the time came to bring Priscilla home. She cried most of the way through the first few nights, but seemed to adjust pretty quickly and get used to her new routine and surroundings. Also, she seemed to be doing a great job with not going potty in the house. Had we chosen some miracle puppy that wasn’t going to be any trouble or work at all for us?

The answer, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, was no. Within a week, her angelic façade had started to wear thin, and her true puppy nature began to show through. As is natural for new puppies, she has been a lot of hard work for us. She is now 4 months old and 30 pounds (she is expected to reach 60-70 pounds), and has the idea pretty much down that she should only go potty outside, but she still has an accident almost every day. Also, she has started teething, and has chewed up some of our window sills, corners of walls, and pulled up some of our carpeting. She greets us by jumping up on us and getting our clothes dirty. She bites our hands when we play with her. She bites our feet when we try to walk away from her. She tries to herd the cats and any small children that come into our house or yard. When we go for walks, she pulls so hard it feels like my arm might come off. She barks at the neighbors, garbage men, mail carriers, and anyone else who might dare to come within 30 feet of our house. But for each of her bad habits, she has at least a dozen redeeming qualities.

She is very intelligent, and very sweet. I have already successfully taught her to sit, stay, lie down, beg, jump, and dance. We are working on speak, but she doesn’t ever bark in the house, so she’s having a hard time getting it (which is actually a good thing). She loves to play fetch, and will play for hours on end. She is a very cuddly dog, and still tries to get up on my lap with her bone in her mouth, even though she is now too big for all of her to fit on my lap. She is protective of us, and lets us know with a soft but alert “woof” if there is someone or something outside of our house. Though a little on the timid side, she is very happy to meet new people and loves to make friends with other dogs. I enjoy taking her with me to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, on long walks almost every night, to my friends’ and family members’ houses, and on the weekends, we like to go to Prairie Trails or the State Park and go swimming in the river or play Frisbee in the grass.

Having her in our home and life has been an adventure, but mostly a good one. We are enjoying watching her grow and learn more every day. She has given me something extra to look forward to when I come home, and even though there are days when I come home to messes on the floor or chewed –up walls, it is difficult to stay mad at her, especially since she is just doing what puppies do. I know with work, she will eventually grow out of her bad behaviors. Also with work, we will grow to be better dog owners and not give her the temptation to be bad. We look forward to the days when she is the epitome of a perfect dog, but for now, we are enjoying these fleeting moments of her puppy-hood.

Sarissa Johnson
Adult Services Media Lead
Kankakee Public Library