After living happily with three huskies and a yellow lab, (consecutively, not all at once!), we have always thought of ourselves as “big dog” people. After our beloved Holly died in March of this year, we were bereft and knew in time we would get another dog. There are those who feel after the loss of a long loved dog, they’ll not get another because they don’t want to go through the grief of losing her again. We have never felt that experiencing grief is a reason to give up ten, twelve ( Yasha and Gaia, two of our huskies lived until 14 ) years of a dog’s precious companionship.
Our adult children, who seem to be more aware of our advancing age than we are, campaigned for a small dog this time, not one that, if excited, could pull us down and drag us untold miles. “You should have a dog that scoopable Eve, our oldest daughter advised. Their family dearly loves Koki, their miniature poodle who we also love. In fact it was our affection for Koki that softened us to the idea of a smaller dog.
And so we got Josie, smaller by far than we had originally planned. And, as testified by these journal entries, she’s totally bewitched us. She weighed a mere 4 lbs. when we brought her home. She’s now doubled that weight and according to Angie and Dennis, will ultimately weight between 12 and 15 lbs. Eminently sccopable! We have been transformed to “small dog” people. “Nothing is constant but change.” And, in our early eighties now, Alexander and I are experiencing the truth of that all too often as we go up to the study to get something and by the time we’re there, we’ve forgotten what it is.
Josie has turned out to be a change we whole-heartedly welcome. Small dogs like Josie have their special attractions. Huskies, by nature, are more independent. Gaia, was our Buddha dog. She was noble, sedate, and wasn’t eager to be hugged or caressed. Huskies love you, but in their own fashion. Yellow labs are their opposites. They want to be with you at all times, and unless you close the bathroom door, they’ll join in there as well. But they’re strong. And heavy. Holly was small for her breed at 67 lbs.. When I stretched out on the couch to read, she jumped up, wriggled in beside me and rested half her furry weight on my chest. I loved it. I would stroke her ears, smooth as rose petals, as I read. But after awhile, her weight becoming too burdensome, I would invite her to extend her affection to Alexander, in the easy chair across the room. That was not as convenient for her because he was sitting, but she managed to drape herself over his knees in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. But she was with him and that’s what counted.
Josie is a whole different story. Of, course, she’s a whole different dog. At eight pounds she cuddles on my chest, then moves up until she’s under my chin. Sighing contently, she goes to sleep. Her fur tickles my nose. But oh, the sweetness of it! I grin at Alexander, put my book down, and take an afternoon nap right along with her. The illicit pleasure of an afternoon nap! Even at our age, brought up with the ethic of work, not play, until you well deserved it, we still feel faintly decadent taking a mid day snooze. But how could I disturb Josie, a mere baby, during her needed sleep?
And it’s wonderful to have her so portable. Like a laptop computer, I just pick her up and off we go to the car, to the neighbor’s, for a walk down the block to Walgreen’s to pick up photos. (She hasn’t yet had all her vaccines so I can’t let her run free anywhere but in our yard). And the big desktop computer, hernia inducing when I have cause to move it, sits stolidly in place.
And of course, she commands attention from literally everyone. “She’s so adorable!” is the usual comment. And I happily tell them how much she weighs and how big she’ll get and they nod companionably and stroke her head and wish me good luck with her. I say thank you and pass on to the next admirer and go through the same exchange. Did I ever tell anyone who might have said my baby daughter was cute how much she weighed? And stand there and smile proudly. I, at least, produced the daughter!
We have not determined whether this dog will sleep with us as Holly had. She still sleeps in her blanket lined crate beside our bed. But growing older, she’s also growing smarter, and has begun to notice how soft our down blanket is compared to her polyester. Yesterday she tried to jump high enough to get onto the bed, her little legs not meeting the challenge. But she’s a feisty one. Who knows what she’ll accomplish by the time she’s 12 lbs.?
We said Holly had her own bed and wouldn’t sleep with us. She had different ideas. With those little button eyes peering at us pleadingly from down below, what are our chances of winning out over this one?
Josie’s Journal 6
I’m adding one more advantage to small dog over big dog – the size of their tongue. Our vet told me some dogs ago, that licking you is the dog’s supreme expression of affection. (Licking your hands after you’ve eaten pizza doesn’t count.) If you can submit to their tongue lathering you make them very happy. I could manage three swipes of Holly’s rather large, wet tongue on my face, but not much more. But little Josie’s tongue, compared to Holly’s, is the difference between being wet by a Lake Michigan wave, and a rain drop. When I’m holding Josie, she’ll reach up and kiss me – I call her expressions of affections kisses, not licks – and I could easily manage 50 of them.
Which brings up a question. She’s about 9 lbs. now and can grow to weigh as much as 12 to 15 lbs. When dogs grow from pups to adult size do their tongues grow with them? A funny thought. Holly’s tongue must have grown as she did. A yellow lab pup couldn’t carry around a tongue the size of an adult’s. With Josie’s there’s no concern. Her small size will insure a small tongue. We can look forward to many years of being kissed instead of licked.
Josie’s Journal #7
It had to happen. Josie and I had a bad day. Well, let’s say I had a bad day. Josie might have a different view of it. She might be thinking, “After I took a nice long nap, did she think I was just going to sit quietly in the car in that old crate their dog Holly had had and not do anything? Just lie down?
Well, I wasn’t about to. So I whined and ran out of that silly three sided crate and tried to climb up the back of the driver’s seat and chew on Barbara’s hair – is that what I should call her? – I haven’t figured that one out. Anyhow, she told me that we were going to Costco – a boring ride from what I could see out of the window when I climbed up to look out which Barbara did not approve of. She didn’t approve of anything I was doing. But I was rightly demonstrating my protest against going to Costco which made a lot of sense because when we got there, Barbara stuck me in one of those silly puppy papooses, and pulled a string so my head would just stick out. I wriggled of course. The indignity of it. Even though I’m young I am a DOG, not one of those pink babies with those plastic things in their mouths.
I managed to get my paws free and by the time Barbara walked into Costco I looked like I was being strangled and the little man who looked at people’s cards to see whether they were paying members said, “Sorry, ‘mam, no dogs allowed in the store.” Barbara wondered why since I was contained – ha!- and wouldn’t be running around but the man said ‘company rules, ‘ and back we were in the car again.
Barbara was frustrated. She thought she’d better give me some exercise before we drove back home, wear me out a little, but where could she take me? The Costco parking lot was not designed as a place to exercise dogs. Especially a 10- week- old puppy like myself who, I don’t mean to brag, is full of energy, and mischievous ideas as to how to disappear from sight and frighten Barbara to death. Well, I must say, she did the best she could and plunked me down in the skinny border of grass and scratchy evergreens that lined the Costco building. I promptly peed which pleased her and for the first time that morning she smiled. But I wanted to investigate what was behind the evergreens and since I’m faster than she is, she had a terrible time running in and out of the trees to keep me in sight. She and I don’t always agree on what’s fun.
She scooped me up and hurried back to the car. She decided that I must need a drink. But forgetful as she is, she didn’t bring water or a dish for me. So she took this bottle of spring water and tried to pour it down my throat. It didn’t work. She poured too fast and I didn’t exactly cooperate by biting the bottle. So the water poured down her pants, drenching her.
She complained that there was no way she could appear in public with a soaking crotch. As if it were my fault.
I detected a slight whine in her voice when she said, Josie, please, please, behave. We have to drive back home without getting killed. She sounded so pitiful, I decided to at least try to stay quiet and not climb up on the driver’s seat and chew her hair and whine and fall from the seat onto the floor and send up wounded cries from down there and cause her to pull to a stop along a dangerous part of the road to rescue me.
We finally did get home, but then she had no food for dinner because she had expected to shop at Costco. I thought I might as well be nice to her. After all, she means well. So I curled up like a good puppy and went to sleep. I have no idea what she did.
I did make sure of one thing though. I’m never going to have to go to Costco again.
Josie’s Journal 8
The book How to Raise A Puppy by the monks of New Skete,who live in a monastery in upper New York State, has proved the most helpful in answering questions that have come up since Josie joined our family. The monks possess the patience, gentleness, intelligence and discipline that it takes to train their dogs of choice, German Shepherds. The methods they’ve developed can be applied to all dogs, perhaps with some variations.
Though living a solitary life in which much of their time is devoted to prayer, they know that puppies are not made out to be canine monks. They recommend the opposite of the life they lead – early socialization. Get the dogs used to all sorts of animals, people, sounds, smells, unexpected movement. and domestic experiences.
Josie was a few days past her 10 week birthday on the day of our annual block party. We decided to heed the monks advice and bring her as the newest resident on the block. Because she had not yet received the required number of vaccines, and won’t until she’s sixteen weeks old, we had to carry her. For Josie being constrained in my arms was not an acceptable way to meet people, especially the little ones called children who were more her size and wanted to pet, cuddle, and play with her.
Alexander and I took turns holding our wriggling, frantic puppy, passing her back and forth like a hot potato. I knew it was a disaster to succumb but the pizza that was being served was made by our favorite pizzeria. While Alexander was holding Josie, I served up a piece on a plate and took a bite. After the second bite, I felt guilty enough to exchange Josie for the pizza – bad idea! We managed to save the pizza from decorating the driveway, but not Josie’s nose.
“Finish it,” I said to Alexander with a generosity that impressed him. I was not being selfless – I just was wearing a new white turtle neck that would not have been improved by an abstract red design.
We excused ourselves after the pizza fiasco and took our little bundle home.
I doubted that the monks had ever taken their German shepherd pups to a pizza party. Alexander and I decided that we had to give a little more thought about what to include in our early socialization program.
Happily, the visit from the black lab, Midnight who lives down the block was a scene of pastoral harmony compared to the ill fated block party. In our own backyard where Josie is free to exercise her puppy energy, she didn’t waste much time in welcoming Midnight. She stared at him, sniffed, walked around him, and satisfied with her exploration, rolled around under his scrutiny, presenting herself, belly up. Then, without considering whether she was being a bit forward with this obviously older, more experienced dog of the opposite gender, she raised herself as high as she could, and licked his face with unrestrained ardor. He remained singularly unmoved. He didn’t return the caresses.
Clearly, she wasn’t able to perform such gymnastics for more than a few seconds, especially with so little reward, so she contented herself with climbing onto Midnight’s back as he stretched out to bask in the sun. She started at his rear and walked him as if he were a mountain trail. When she reached the peak, which was his head, she looked at the view, stepped too close to the edge and fell off. Enough mountain climbing for the day. She settled beside him and joined him in an afternoon siesta.
Then Midnight, a relatively unadventuresome dog, astonished Susan, the woman with whom he lives, by leaping onto our lawn swing and reclined luxuriously, making himself totally comfortable. He looked so relaxed I expected him to call a waiter and ask for a margarita.
Instead of the margarita, he got Josie. She settled next to his rump, probably not as sweet smelling as his head, but it’s obvious there’s still refining work to do on Josie’s socialization.
You must be playing all the time.
I just read an article on the life-giving energy of play and how most people have too little play in their lives. If those people haven’t found a solution I have one to suggest – bring a golden minidoodle into your family.
The article went on to list the requirements an activity must include to be authentic play:
Has no visible goal but the enjoyment of the thing itself
Josie is the very essence of spontaneity. So we think of her as playful.
But so much of her activity is visibly goal oriented that according to the article, it can’t rightly be called play.
We made the terrible mistake of thinking how cute she was when we first brought her home as she grabbed a slipper out of the closet, sticking half her furry body into it so the other half exhibited a happily wagging tail, ejecting herself, then proceeding to attack the slipper, wag it around, somersaulting, landing on her back and holding the slipper up in her paws, seemingly admiring it, only to pounce on it and start the whole process over again.
Short-sighted, we never envisioned trying to teach Josie how to distinguish between a shoe that’s off your foot from one that’s on. If allowed to pounce on the detached one, why not the other? Unfortunately, she enjoys shoes on feet much more than those off – the excitement of a moving target.
Is she playing? She’s certainly not anxious, and I would guess she’s having a good time, but without a goal. No! She’s determined, with all her feisty puppy passion, to chew our shoes off our feet, shred the laces, reduce us to being phobic about leaving a shoe untended, keeping all closets closed. No longer do we dare kick off a shoe with a sigh of pleasure as we collapse on the couch. Josie will appear from nowhere like an avenging munchkin, shoenap it and run off, wagging her tail in our face.
Is she being playful as she grabs the dangling belt from my robe at 6 on a cold morning and runs off with it, burying it in the nest of dry leaves that have fallen from the branches she’s triumphantly carried into the just swept living room?
Is she being playful when she jumps onto the futon where I had hoped to read, stretches her furry length across my torso, and when, unaccountably – I did eat dinner – unseemly growls erupt from my stomach, she holds her head to the side, listens avidly to where the sound is coming from, and then begins digging furiously to get to it with her little piston paws?
I laughed. How could I not? As if on cue, my stomach growled again and Josie dug away even more obsessively. So, digging with visible purpose, Josie was not playing. But was I, her willing terrain? I was laughing, spontaneously, free of worry (I had old garden jeans on so I was in well protected) and with no goal in mind, but to relish the joy of having so – playful, no – purposeful – a puppy.