By Lisa Batten Kunkleman
Tending a puppy is a reminder of what life is like with toddlers around. Exhausting. Time consuming. Frustrating. Impossible. I’ll try to remember that most dogs do end up house-broken and finish teething. I made it through the toddler-years-times-four, and my kids are all potty trained and no longer bite. Puppy parenting should be a piece of cake compared to that. Wrong.
Our youngest daughter Sarah came home from college for the summer bringing a puppy she named Tucker. Sarah was home only a week before taking off gallivanting for two weeks through Spain for Art History college credits. When she returns, she’ll find her puppy is twice as big, lost his puppy breath, and is swapping his soft puppy fur for a coat of coarse dog fur. She’ll find her puppy is partially house-broken and bites a little less. She’ll find a puppy delighted to see his mommy.
I’ll be delighted to see his mommy, too. She gets to take over cleaning up messes and making endless trips outside to potty. She gets the pleasure of dealing with sharp teeth piercing hands, shoes, pajama pants. She gets to pull the puppy off our big sweet older dog’s jowls, which he bites far too often.
He bites everything. Like puppy, like mama. Almost twenty-one years ago, teething was bad enough with Sarah. That girl had eight teeth pop in at the same time and she’d bury them into the shoulder of anybody brave enough to pick her up. We called her The Piranha.
After repeatedly peeling Tucker’s teeth off my hands and bedspread, I head out into the hallway only to find an unopened, plastic peanut butter jar riddled with teeth marks. How the heck did he get that out of the pantry? I give him and our three other dogs numerous rawhide chews hoping to solve one problem but only creating more. Tucker wants his and theirs too, yielding squeals, growls, and snaps. Nothing deters Tucker for long.
This puppy follows a long-time doggie tradition of eating cat poo. I see him sneak into the laundry room/bathroom, snatch a snack from the litter box and dart away before I can retrieve the pretend brownie bite from his shark like teeth. A few moments later, he comes back for more and I discover him standing with all four feet in the litter box, ready to have a full meal. I wonder if I could train him to do his business like the cat: in a litter box.
I am five foot nine and he’s not even a foot tall. How can such a little creature require the attention of everyone in a house full of tall people? He can go outside and do his potty business and receive a gold medal’s worth of praise for his performance only to sneak off to “go” some more behind the guest bed, or the TV cabinet. My closet is also a favorite secluded spot if I forget to close the door.
We’ve raised all our belongings up high and closed off closets and bedrooms that provide attractive chewy items or secluded potty spots. This is all so similar to child-proofing. This puppy sure is bringing back memories of how challenging parenting can be.
While the puppy naps, I try to accomplish a thing or two. As a new mom I remember always hearing, “Nap while the baby naps to keep up your strength.” It was impossible for me to do when our children were little because that was the only time I could catch up on chores or me time. It’s the same with a puppy naptime. Who can sleep when there’s so much to do?
Perhaps this puppy business is preparing me for grandparenthood on down the road. Parenting either baby or beast is a full time endeavor. There’s a famous saying, “It’s a good thing babies and puppies are cute.” No matter the aggravation and sleep deprivation, they’re worth the effort. This stage will pass. It must! In the meantime, I’d better take this puppy out the minute he wakes up. I appreciate him napping long enough for me to write about him. I don’t want to forget this experience. Fat chance. I can just look for teeth marks on the chairs’ legs. And my legs, too.