Sunday, July 31, 2011

The welcome wagon...

At a wedding in cottage country this week, surrounded by screaming children, I asked a friend of mine why he didn't bring his own two wee ones, who would most certainly have fit right into the kid crew. He told me that he and his wife left them at home on purpose - because every now and then, Mom and Dad need adult time...

While I would not dare to suggest - especially to those who have reproduced - that raising a dog and raising a child are the same, I admit that I understand this sentiment. Every now and then, it is nice not to have to wake up and immediately throw on clothes to take the dog out for a run. It is nice not to have to constantly repeat words like "off" or "leave it" each time you turn your back. And it's really nice not to have to hear barking whenever someone approaches the house.

Which is how it felt on Thursday night, when we dropped the Beast off at my brother's in advance of our Friday drive out to cottage country. I went to sleep that night with sweet dreams of sleeping in until... gasp... 7 a.m.!!

Not only did I get to sleep in on Friday - but I did not have to go for my regular 6k run with the Beast. Having a slow moving, exerciseless Friday morning has not been a part of my life since the Beast entered it, and I admit to soaking it all up!

But then, about an hour into my morning, I started to notice his absence. Where was the "scratch scratch" of his nails against the hardwood and ceramic tile floors. What about the soft clang of his dog tags knocking against each other as he walks throughout the house? And why wasn't I having to trip on the Beast as he lay outside of the bathroom while I get ready for work? The house just felt so empty - a sentiment shared by my husband who moped along as though someone had told him that Pearl Jam (one of his favourite bands) was cancelling their upcoming show.

So yes, I missed him within mere hours of him being gone. And while I did not feel at all guilty for leaving him for a weekend (my brother's place is probably like a puppy resort where he gets to play with other dogs and where he definitely gets more treats than he does here), I did spend almot the entire weekend imagining how much fun he would have in cottage country were he with us. In fact, I am quite sure that I repeated the statement "The Beast would love it here" about 63 times on the first day alone. "Look honey, he would love to swim in that lake," or "He would love to walk along this river path with us," or "Look at that beautiful family of loons. If the Beast were here, he would try to herd every last one of them."

I also, much to the chagrin of my brother, sent regular e-mails requesting updates. Admittedly, it was partly because I worried that he would misbehave the entire time that he was there since refining his manners is an ongoing process. It was also partly because I wondered if my brother would enforce all of the rules that we have layed down for the dog. But mostly, I just wanted to hear how he was doing because I missed him. And whether my brother was telling me the truth or not, he sent me back glowing e-mails about how well behaved the dog was being, including statements like, "He is an angel on the leash and showing all the other dogs the proper way to behave on a walk." (I still think he is making this up, but I swelled with pride anyways).

So yes, I missed him, and yes, I couldn't wait to see him. In fact, by the time we made our way to my brother's house, I was a bundle of excited energy - not the right state of mind for greeting the schizophrenic Beast that I am trying to teach to remain calm as a default mode in all circumstances. Vowing with my husband that we would live by the Cesar Millan rule of "no touch, no talk, no eye contact" until the Beast gave us the calm, submissive behaviour we wanted him to give us, I readied myself for the reunion...

As soon as my husband and I came through the door, we were surrounded by dogs. The Beast bowled over all the others to get to us first and to jump up in our faces to greet us. The whole time, his little bum was shaking furiously with utter excitement. I was so very happy that he was so excited to see us, but I stuck to the rule, and just kept walking forward and ignoring him, talking to my brother instead of to the dog the whole time. It... was... so... hard!!!!!! I just wanted to throw my arms around the dog and hug and pet him and play with him and love, love, love him! But darn it if it didn't work! Within about one minute, he was sitting down and looking up at me nicely, so seemingly calm and serene and well-behaved.

I couldn't contain it any longer, and moved toward him. My husband reminded me of our rule, and assessed that the Beast wasn't really all that calm yet - he was simply putting on a show for us to get our attention. But I made the fatal mistake that loving dog owners everywhere make! I gave in. I gave in to his excitement and I gave in to my own. And I went down on my knees and he was all over me, pawing, licking, wagging, and yes, barking.

I know it was the wrong thing to do, and I apologize to Cesar Millan fans everywhere, but darn it, it just felt GOOD!

It felt even better when we turned the corner back to our place, and his little ears perked up and he began to whine and whimper and bark because he recognized his house and clearly wanted to be IN THERE RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!! I tried to enforce the "you-must-sit-like-a-nice-boy-before-I-let-you-out-of-the-car" rule, but only half-heartedly. It felt too good to see him so attached to us and to his new home. So I let him get away with being a big, over-excited, and loud goofball...

I know that consistency is key and there is no day off when training a dog. So I should be a little disappointed with my own lack of discipline. But I am appeased by the simple fact that within 10 minutes of entering his house, and after sniffing around in every corner of every room, the Beast calmed right down, curled up at my feet, and quietly gnawed away on his deer antler until I put him in his crate, where he immediately crashed out.

We'll get back to our more disciplined routine tomorrow, now that we got the hello's out of the way.