This little guy was on my flight today. Eight weeks old!
Today, in my month-long nod to inspiration, I share puppies.
Because I love puppies. Who doesn’t?
Exhibit A: this species on Attack of the Cute
When I first sat down tonight to write about puppies I considered it too soft. And possibly inappropriate on a serious, honorable, reverent day like Veteran’s Day.
But then I realized something.
I am able to go gaga over puppies because there are far stronger people in this world who take care of the conflicts I can only imagine in my worst nightmares.
So to them I say thank you for your service.
And, among many other things, thank you for allowing me think about puppies.
Because there is something inspiring about puppies. New life. New legs. Everything new for that matter.
They help us see the world in a new light.
And the many new uses for socks too.
If you are ever feeling blue, I challenge you to do what my friend Courtney taught me… put the search word “puppy” into Pinterest.
Then sit back. Relax. Scroll. And smile.
Thank you for the gift of puppies.
I am now accustomed to my morning wake-up call.
It starts with a cold nose. Then a paw. Then a bell.
Whose brilliant idea was it to bell train the puppy?
I think this to myself as I stumble my half-asleep limbs out of bed at 5AM patting down the dresser for glasses, while sneaking a quick look in the mirror to make sure I have something covering my body — before walking out the door, leash in hand.
It’s my morning routine. Every morning. Same thing. Nose. Paw. Bell. Me, glasses, leash, following after.
Last night was no exception.
Except LAST night there was a skunk who showed up for this 5AM party.
I heard him first. Then I saw something move in the hedge. And, then, just as the little beady eyes glistened in the moonlight and I recognized that distinct white stripe, every fiber of my being froze, my mind screamed, “SKUNK!”
However, there was a problem. Brady doesn’t know what a kitty is, let alone a skunk. The puppy still thinks that bugs crawling on the sidewalk are there for his total and utter enjoyment. Ants are like tiny tennis balls, but even better, they have legs and run away.
I turned and bolted up the steps as fast I could, then whiplashed into a hard stop. Brady stood frozen on the lawn looking at me as I were the crazy one.
“Brady, get up here. Get up here!” I pleaded in the dark, barefoot in my pajamas hanging over the side of the steps, one hand on the leash.
He looked up at me like it was a game. This is fun!
“Brady! C’mon. Come here. Come HERE!”
Whatever made me try to reason with a 5 month old puppy I do not know. But I stood there, on my tip toes, tugging at the leash while trying to explain the dire situation — we have a code BLACK WITH WHITE STRIPES.
Here I am, making so much progress with my fear of creepy, crawly things. I have even been walking barefoot in the yard. BAREFOOT! But my lovemore attitude just has not extended to skunks. Especially not sneak attack skunks in the middle of the wee morning light.
Then Brady saw it too, waddling over the hedge line. I could see the curiosity in his little puppy dog brown eyes. “Don’t go over there, please don’t go over there.”
Then, I pulled out my last resort, cure-all tactic.
“Do you want a treat? C’mon! Come here! I’ll get you a treat!”
I’m pretty certain that dogs speak more English than we give them credit for, and I’m pretty confident mine will do anything for food.
But not in this moment of panic. My offering fell on deaf ears.
Finally, as if the spell was broken, Brady ran up the stairs after me and we both bolted inside the door, like it was a game. Brady still having no idea what happened.
Until we meet again.
Unfortunately, it may be sooner than I hope.
The alarm goes off at 5AM.
I love the word YES.
But, I have become the Queen of No.
We saw some of our favorite people this week. One, was my college roommate, Laura, who conveniently lives right off I-95 in Wilmington, Delaware. We are so lucky to see her every spring and fall on our trek between north and south.
This time, however, I felt like we arrived with the traveling circus in tow. Our dogs. One broke a lawn chair. The other ate all the sticks in her yard.
I suppose if you are a dog person you can easily nod your head in a “been there, done that” sort of fashion. Laura’s family owns a cat, but she seemed to be very understanding of our canine mayhem, just the same.
For the record, we paid her for the broken chair and left with our tails tucked between our legs. Good thing Laura has two children and a really big heart — and has known me for over twenty years!
Our next I-95 stop-over was with our favorite vet, and cousin, Brian.
This was Brady’s first time meeting Brian and he was, of course, on his best puppy behavior, which he proudly displayed by immediately sniffing out rat poison in the yard and gulping it down.
Did I mention Brian is our favorite vet? He took control of the situation immediately with a little peroxide solution. Brady made it through just fine.
And, then, this old dog learned a few new tricks.
Brian explained the subtle nuances of dog training.
And, it’s all about LOVE.
Puppies don’t respond to “no” commands. They respond only to positive ones. (Don’t we all?!)
Brian instructed us to ignore Brady when he cries, makes a fuss, turns into a puppy nightmare — because all he wants is love and attention — even if he has to throw a form of tantrum to get it. (Sounds like all well-meaning two-year-olds to me.)
Which made me realize I have been doing everything ALL WRONG.
I have been the mothership of “NO” — “STOP” — “DON’T DO THAT!” — in hopes of showing Brady the ropes, and laying down the rules.
Turns out, I have been talking HUMAN and Brady only understands DOG. But, there is a language that connects the two, and it’s called…. yep, you guessed it, LOVE.
Some tips from Brian included this: find Brady when he is doing exactly what we want him to do — like, laying down, nice and quiet and relaxed — and reward him with our attention. Approach him with love and praise and say, “Chill Out. Good Dog.” in a happy, loving way.
“No” goes unheard because it is meaningless.
Love is actually training.
So, we have a new rule around here.
No more NO’s.
So, far, it’s working well. For one, I find myself saying much more positive words. I am also wiring myself to be on the lookout for positive behavior. I can’t help but think that I must sound like a drugged out slacker, talking like The Dude from The Big Lebowski all day long with, “Chill out, good chill out!”
The good news?
So far, we have mastered a “SIT” on command without food involved! (Not me, Brady.)
And, I have ordered the book Brian suggested, Good Dog, Great Owner by Brian Kilcommons, in hopes of becoming a better purveyor of puppy love.
Of course, all of this doesn’t take the puppy out of the pup.
He just ate Justin’s ear phones for dinner.
But, I am looking the other way — or at least looking for other positive behavior to reinforce. Like… “Throw up the wiring you just ate! Good doggy.”
I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it sometime soon.
Until then, I am reminded about the power of love.
No matter the question, or behavior, or the relationship, be it between humans or dogs …the answer is always love.
Now, excuse me while I go chill out.
It’s day two with our little Brady.
I swear he gets cuter by the minute!
He is snuggled up next to me now, which is a good thing since I leave on a jet plane at 6:30am tomorrow morning.
I want to get in all the snuggles I can before I go, because I fear that he may not remember that I am his Mommy when I return.
And, that makes me think a lot about Brady’s Dog Mommy, Bailey. We met her briefly yesterday and I wonder if it’s hard for her to let Brady go? I wonder if there is a little aching in her heart?
I suppose that’s the give and take of being family.
Remembering and Letting Go.
Letting Go and Remembering.
Will BRADY remember who I am when I get back? Who knows.
I’m just holding out that Justin will have Brady kennel trained by the time I return.
A Mommy can dream!