Friday, June 12, 2015

Professor Puppy

My husband, teenage daughter and I are the proud owners of a new puppy. Zydeco Royale, named in honor of NOLA, our favorite city, joined the family at the beginning of April. In two short months, he's dug up our garden, chewed through the cable TV cords and completely, thoroughly, irreversibly won our hearts.

Zydo is mischievous, mouthy and perpetually hungry. (When we brought our first miniature dachshund to the veterinarian many moons ago, he warned us, "If a dachshund won't eat, death is imminent.") Truly, anyone who saw Zydeco inhale his kibble would think we were starving him.

Trust me, we're not.

As a breed, dachshunds are notoriously stubborn. With advice from our friends at the MSPCA as well as our current vet, we signed Zydo up for obedience school. (Have you ever heard a dachshund laugh?) It began this past Tuesday evening. Neither husband nor daughter could get to the doggie daycare center two towns away in time, so I headed off alone. The first class was just for owners (or "handlers" as we were officially called). We bring the canines next week.

Over the course of two hours, I learned just how many things we were already doing wrong:

- Rewarding bad behavior
- Giving him attention for the wrong reasons
- Letting the little guy pull on the leash 
- Letting him chew on our fingers and pants legs (not at the same time though)
- Plying him with too many treats
- Spoiling him with too many toys
- Saying "No" without the right inflection
- Saying "No" when we should be saying "Off," "Down," or "Gone"

"Oh crap," I thought, as I furiously took notes. "This is going to be harder than I thought." And, I wondered "How can I rework everyone's schedules so my daughter can take this over?"

To be fair, she was disappointed when the puppy class conflicted with a weekly lesson she teaches to a younger equestrienne. And if the time and effort she's put into training our other pet (the thousand-pound one) is any indication, I think my daughter would do a bang-up job with the pup. 

If she can quit kissing and hugging him long enough.

On the way home, I thought about all the lessons little Zydo had in front of him. Then, I realized that he may be in the position to teach us a few lessons too. Like ...

- Be friendly; you never know when you'll meet a new playmate

- When you're happy, don't hold it in; run, jump and wag your tail
- Appreciate your food; clean your plate (lick it later if no one's looking)
- Naps are good
- So is a nice stretch
- So is cuddling, kissing and belly rubs
- Material possessions are meant to be chewed ... er, I mean, enjoyed

My daughter (and all the other self-absorbed, sometimes sullen, seventeen-year-olds) could probably learn a thing or two about optimism, seizing the moment and savoring it. Of course, she doesn't need any convincing on the nap front. Naps, she would agree, our good.

In the coming weeks, Zydo will learn to "Sit," "Stay," and "Come Here Now." 

But, I hope he'll also — stubbornly — stay as loving and joyful as he's been since the day we brought him home. You see, we can all take a lesson.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at 

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