Lessons Learned by New Fur Parents, Part II

 April – May 2011

1.  Adopting a puppy is the perfect excuse to get Lasik eye surgery.  This will really hit home the first time you stumble outside in the middle of the night for a pit-stop (get it?) without glasses and the puppy bolts into the darkness of the yard after a squirrel/bird/shadow/you couldn’t see it anyway. Blind whisper-shouting-hunting in the dark doesn’t get anything but nasty, passive aggressive comments from the Suburban Vampire Neighbors the next day.

2. Helpful hint that the Monks forgot to mention: when you have to wake up the puppy for an outting overnight, it’s time to push the alarm back an hour.  One whole, glorious hour.

3.  Know a good time to get hardwood floors installed?  When you bring home a puppy.  The floors go from looking new to weathered in a week.  PS: If you would like to borrow our dogs for a weekend to break in your new floors, just let me know.  They’re helpers, really.

4.  If the puppy doesn’t like where you’ve positioned her crate along the back of the couch, she’ll move herself.  Or, Fur-shui.IMG_0136

 5.  If the puppy doesn’t want to be in her crate, she will find a way to break out of it, after moving it and her brother’s bed across the room first.  You can also bet that the cat is hiding under the bed or on top of the fridge in response to this jailbreak.








6.  If it’s raining, you will have to carry the puppy out the door because she does not like getting her feet wet.  Also, do provide an umbrella over her delicate, princess head while she does her business.  If you don’t she’ll fake squat and wait until she’s back indoors and in her crate before relieving herself.  Annoying  Clever. Girl.

7.  This puppy will also get the “good dog discount” at the vet’s office.  Even when she’s a complete basket-case.

8.  Embrace chaos.  It’s sort of fun to live in squalor and mayhem.  Eventually the puppy will get a little more on-program (right?) and the older-brother-who-should-know-better will settle himself down (right?).  And in those moments when you think, “What have I done? I can’t handle this madness,” the little snout wakes up from an epic snuggle-nap on a lazy Sunday and looks at you like this…

"nap nose"

“nap nose”

We’re in so much trouble.

Tooth Fairy

July 2008, continued

Zozo is the most charming pupper-doodle ever.  Eh-VER.  He’s sweet and goofy and smart.  Here he is with a rope toy.

with rope toy

Other than Dragon, who is gingerly moved from one corner of the apartment to another like a security reptile, this rope toy becomes a go-to Mama’s Little Helper.  When Zo gets antsy in his crate, we drape the rope in, around and/or through the crate sides and the puzzle is on.  When he gets nippy, out comes MLH for a game of tug-of-war.

Know what else comes out? His molar.  It klinks to the floor in a moment of absolute silence.  We both look at it, he with curiosity (can I eat that?) and I with terror.  I broke the puppy.  I played too rough, and I’ve destroyed Zo’s dental integrity.  There’s no OW in fun.  Game over.

Quickly, I run to the kitchen and pull out an ice cube for the pup to nom until I can verify if his mouth is bleeding.  However, he’s more interested in herding the cat and rearranging our dining room chairs.  Completely unphased, his world continues on.  Why these things happen when I’m home alone with the pets is beyond me, but it’s starting to feel very unfair.

Maybe it wasn’t a tooth, I start to explain the situation away.  Maybe it’s a pebble from a shoe that just happened to fall out of thin air the very moment you and Zo were playing.  I’m muttering.  I carefully store the possible pebble-tooth in a ziplock bag, and I try to go about business as usual.

James has taken off work tomorrow.  I’m finally heading back in to the office after spending two days at home housebreaking and crate training the dog. I’m rereading the sections I’ve highlighted in “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” in hopes that we can start positive reinforcement obedience training later in the week.  I’ve over-thought my fur-motherhood.  I’m tired and it’s good that I’m inserting myself back into my pre-Zozo routine.

I call James twice from work the next day, casually asking if Zo seems to be salivating more or indicating soreness in his gums from the empty socket where his molar used to be.  Nothing to report.  He sends me pictures of Pupperdoo (that’s nickname numero uno, thankyouverymuch) so I’m involved in the going’s on at home.  Napping.  Pee breaks.  General boy stinkyness.  I wish I was there.

Finally home from work, I’m on the rug puppy-pouncing with Zozo while James cooks up dinner.  Zo bobs and I weave and he clonks his head against my chin. Plink.  I freeze and he trots away to the kitchen, looking for a carrot or some cat food.  Still splayed on the floor, I stare at the tooth and erupt into tears.  Our six month old new dog is losing his teeth, and it’s all my fault.

I pick up the phone and call the vet’s office, but it’s after hours and I’m redirected to the Alexandria Animal Hospital.  The tech who answers the phone listens to my guilty confession.  She asks for Zozo’s age, his breed and for a general health history.  She puts me on hold.  I’m gesturing to James that he should find the leash so we can get in the car because the dog is obviously dying, but my charades aren’t particularly specific or good.

Both Zozo and Athena have made their way over to me.  He’s licking the salt from my cheeks, and Athena bats the tooth across the floor.  I’m up, nudging her out of the way to prevent it from gliding under the couch, and Zo gets excited at the activity.  “Oh, we’re running!  The cat is being my friend!  This is the best night of my life!”  He barks for the first time, a tenor that sounds like a tarnished New Years noisemaker.

The tech doesn’t return to the phone, but the doctor on duty does.  Turns out he’s the same vet who gave Zo his first series of puppy shots yesterday.  “Tell me what’s up with our boy.”  I recount the tug of war and the head-bonk.  I tell him we have two dog molars in a ziplock bag.

“Wow,” says he vet, and I can’t breathe.

“I’m really sorry, it was an accident,” I plead.

“No, this is really cool.  We never see them.”

“See what?”

“Puppy teeth.  You know dogs lose their teeth like human children.”

“…. oh… oh yeah, sure.  Totally, yes.” I’m lying.

“Usually, they fall out when they’re eating and they end up swallowed.  We don’t get to see them.  Can you bring them in with you when we see you in a couple of weeks?”

“Sure, yeah. Yes. Totally.”  Because rearranging the words makes me feel like less of an ass.

I hang up the phone, and I relay our prognosis to James.  Totally normal.  Zozo’s just losing his teeth like any other little boy.

I’m getting a beer.

Why can’t we save them all?

May through June 2008

We’re going to get a dog.  We start telling people, “We’re getting a dog.”  Not really designer people, and since I’m a sucker for a good bleeding-heart story, we know we’ll rescue.  But from where?  With so many resources out there, and a significant lull at work, the emails flew:  links to websites and rescue societies, craigslist ads for people “looking for a new home for their pet they love so much but can’t have anymore because [insert reason here],” news stories about dogs from puppy mills and hoarders in need of a forever home (we could save one or four, right?).  We exchange more emails during the months of our dog hunt than we have during our entire courtship.

And then we find him.  I stumble across a link for a Chow/Lab mix who had been so mistreated by his previous owners that he’s gone blind.  The photos online show a dog with a perpetual smile, eyelids sewn shut, purple-tongue extended and ears open to face the world.  His profile boasts of a big, slobbery, happy boy with zero aggression-tendencies seeking a calm, forever home.  We must save him.  I send his foster-mom an application email, and the waiting begins.

 To keep busy during the waiting, I know I should do something totally unrelated to the pup.  Knit, read, take a language class, maybe clean the apartment.

 Instead, I lose my mind. 

I contact several veterinarians and scour the internet for information on how to train blind dogs. I reach out to consultants in our area specializing in “nesting” for special-needs pets.  I engage James in extensive dinner-time discussions about what scents we’d make each room in the apartment so the pup would know where he’d wandered to.  Would James feel incomplete having a dog he can’t play catch with or have as a running companion?  My amazon.com wishlist fills up with toys specifically designed to engage dogs with sensory impairment.  I become the Wikipedia of blind-dog knowledge.  The Monks of New Skete are my homeboys.

But the unthinkable happens.  The foster-mom abruptly ends our correspondence and disapproves our application.  We’re perfect.  We’re gainfully employed and around.  We’re prepared to take care of whatever medical needs the pup has.  Our references are impeccable.

The response?  The apartment’s Property Managers have changed their breed policies.  No dogs with any Chow genes are welcome.  For the record, none of the following breeds are welcome: Staffordshire Terriers, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, Akitas or Dobermans.  (We’ll get back to this later.)

 And I am heart-broken.  No one would love that fur-boy like we could.  I take the news like a 14 year old girl’s big break-up from the love of her life.  I cry.  I shred pictures.  I’m angry and I decide we should move—apparently, that’s irrational of me, and so James and I fight.  We will never find another dog. (We= me making declarations.)

 James, meanwhile, is clandestinely continuing the search. Smart man.  After a week, he gently sends me the PetFinder link to a Border collie/Something mix. 

Me: Ok, he’s kind of adorable… Is that a star on his chest?

James: This fuzzy boy is living in West Virginia but can be driven to NoVa for the right family. 

Me: I don’t know, James.  Maybe we’re not the right family.

James, ignoring the previous comment/trap: Great with other dogs and cat-tested.

Me: Whatever, Athena will hate him no matter what.

James: He shows some signs of anxiety around people, men in particular.

Me: Well boys are kind of dumb, so he’s a smart dog.

James: He’ll need love and patience.

Me, perking up: I have those things.

James: Socialization exercise with humans. 

Me: We have friends!

James: The rest of his litter has already been adopted.


Homeward Trails Animal Rescue is handling the adoption applications.  We send in a form, and within 24 hours we’re contacted for references and to schedule a home visit.  If all goes well and we’re approved, the pup will be on the next transport.  Fingers crossed.