Puppy Mayhem, Puppy Love

About 18 months ago, my husband and I were having a peaceful morning coffee together, chatting about various household issues. Our then eight-year-old black Lab (Sula) was asleep on one end of the sofa—her preferred napping spot. Suddenly my husband said, “If I die before you and you are left on your own, would you like to have a dog for company? I know that I would.” When I said “Yes” (tentatively), he immediately embarked on a search to find a black Lab puppy whose life would overlap with Sula’s.

Sula is now 10, and on April 29, at the West Jet cargo depot in Vancouver, we met 10-week-old Sami. She came from a Labrador breeder in Saskatchewan and, to my embarrassment, already had a sizable “carbon footprint,” with two unaccompanied flights and another to come home to Whitehorse with us.

Life has been mayhem since then. How do two mid-seventies folks, who normally lead a relatively quiet organized life, adjust to a crazy puppy?

First has been the change in sleep habits. Initially, Sami would start yipping in her crate at about 4 a.m. I used to sleep until 7 and have a leisurely start to the day, with tea in bed. Now the wake-up call is at 5, and today we were excited that it was not until 5:20! No more evening activities for us past 8:30.

Sami’s presence has meant a total reorganization of our house. Gradually, the living area has been puppy-proofed. All the granddaughter toys have gone to the bedrooms, no shoes can be left outside of closets, all dog food has been moved to a metal cupboard, an empty margin of eight inches is left on all counters and there is a constant awareness of tripping hazards. When the recycling boxes on the back porch began to be emptied and the contents distributed around the backyard, that necessitated a relocation to the garage. Fortunately, we already had a well-fenced backyard and raised garden beds. And we have both become expert poop scoopers!

Sula has been less than thrilled with the new member of the household. She is a very quiet, laid-back 10-year-old and not at all interested in playing. As a result, Sami’s attempts to engage her are usually met with either avoidance (if we are lucky) or with snarls and growls if Sami doesn’t take the hint.

When I began to have small cuts and scratches on my hands, arms and ankles, I researched “puppy biting” and learned that Labs are one of the mouthiest, bitingest breeds of dogs. It is most acute until they lose their baby teeth and finish teething (around seven months). As older folks know, aging skin is very fragile and for the first month I wore bandages on the backs of both hands and boots to cover my ankles. She is learning how to restrict her biting to little nibbles, but still gets out of control if she’s excited.

This is sounding like a litany of woes and puppy regrets, but it is not all negative. Sami has had one session of puppy preschool and is now learning basic manners. She is picking up skills very quickly and, of course, we think she is the smartest puppy around. And when she sits and looks up at me with that quizzical Lab tilt of the head, my heart melts. She leaps onto my bed in the morning and shoves her whiskery nose into my neck, with big kisses. I find myself playing with her as she runs around the yard carrying balls and sticks and investigating the world. Her crazy antics make me laugh, even when she shredded a box of tissues all over the floor.

Sharing life with these two dogs is a privilege. It reminds me of my connections to nature and of our oneness with all of the other creatures who share the planet. They are endlessly accepting of me and always welcome me home. A good example of unconditional love. So I’ll take the mayhem and the love—and all my bites are healing.

(Well, maybe … she just unravelled a large ball of my homespun wool!)

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