Status: In A Relationship
On December 1, I wrote about my pressing need for Patience.
The cause of my patience deficit was, of course, my puppy.
Theo and I had not had a good week. His emerging leash skills had retreated back into the weird cave he seemed to share with Satan. He nipped constantly at the backs of my knees, and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand the fascination with that part of my anatomy. Neither could I fathom his desire to gnaw on my hands, as I had spent a considerable fortune on seven kinds of squeaky and smelly chew toys. He’s gotten bigger, and so has his barking – louder and shriller. And after he had finally seemed reliable on the peepee front, he had suddenly regressed to an attitude of “I think I will pee wherever I happen to be no matter where I am or how small the urge.”
My husband and I tagged-teamed the dog. When I was at my breaking point, he would take over. “Calm” is not a word that I would use to describe my husband, but somehow he found some measure of calmness when I was completely on the edge of berserk. But still, twice that week, I sat down and had a good cry.
Why had I not been satisfied with cats? Even with the smallest kitten – you just show him the litter box and you are done. Training complete.
And they are quiet.
Last week, we went to our fourth puppy kindergarten class. Theo is the oldest, biggest guy there (at five months and 25 lbs) but he is hardly the star pupil. But the teacher has been training dogs for 27 years. She’s a little better at it than I am.
So instead of my usual overt show of cheery optimism – (no matter how I really feel, I always have an enthusiastic “Great!” when anyone asks me how things are going in any aspect of my life) – I confessed to the trainer that I was terribly discouraged.
We stayed after the group class, and the trainer watched me walk around the yard with Theo. He started out great (the little liar) but soon reverted to pulling at the leash, nipping at the backs of my knees, and barking.
And the trainer said,”You don’t have a behavior problem. You have a relationship problem.”
Yes, it seems that Theo and I are not communicating. He wasn’t really Satan. He was a little boy who couldn’t understand what he was supposed to do. So he was confused and frustrated. And making me anxious and angry. “Walk faster and talk slower,” she advised. “And Theo doesn’t want to play rough and tumble with you – he wants that from your husband. He wants gentle hugs from you.”
She showed me (again) how to walk with him. How to soften my voice and use simpler language. What behavior I shouldn’t tolerate, and what I shouldn’t fret about. What touch Theo liked. What he didn’t.
I felt bit better.
We got home and hugged. And played Fetch. Which is boring, but Theo seems to like it – and he does look awfully cute trotting back with a slobbery ball.
We discussed it. Theo and I. I said, “We have a relationship.” He put his nose in my crotch.
And this week, he walked a little better on the leash. Not perfect, but when he even came close to adequate, I lavished my praise.
“We are in a relationship,” I reminded him.
He slept late several mornings this week. I got a little more sleep.
And last night!
I was Christmas shopping online. My husband was playing a game on his cell phone. And Theo was chewing away on a bison bone. (We have a bison farm nearby. Yeah, in Connecticut.)
We weren’t paying much attention to Theo. He was quiet. Which we love.
And I suddenly realized that he had wandered away. I heard him in the kitchen. I was just about to call him (okay, yell at him), when he came prancing back. In his mouth was his leash. He dropped it at my feet.
I was amazed. I clipped on his leash, put on my coat, and took him out. He peed. He pooped. He wagged his tail.
I feel a little like Annie Sullivan.