In January of 2011, we lost our beloved Punkin, but found ourselves with a new dog less than two weeks later. I wasn’t really ready for that, but I thought it would help us heal. We brought Raisin home from the Humane Society after each of us had met her and her siblings.
At that time, I actually thought about bringing home two from the 11-week-old litter. Raisin was the calmest of the lot, but there was another one that I figured we could handle. We finally decided on just the calm one. Then we brought her home and everything changed.
At the Humane Society, her name was something else, but we changed it based on her eyes and her behavior, as I mentioned last month. She was a little holy terror! Raisin was the first puppy I had ever owned, and the first that either of us had really had to take care of. My mother-in-law was home with Punkin while her daughter was in high school, and while she was living with us in 2011, she was not able to be the caretaker that Raisin needed.
Potty training was an adventure, and we found out too late that those “potty pads” are not the way to do it. You’re supposed to lay those on the floor where you want the dog to do its business, but Raisin liked to play with hers, taking them into her kennel and shredding them. She would pee wherever she wanted. For the “other job,” we would take her outside at regular intervals. First every two hours, then three, and increasing the interval with her number of weeks old. It made for a terrific night’s sleep for us at first, but we considered it preparation for a human baby some day.
The funniest part about teaching her the right places to go was that, a week after we got her, we had a blizzard. Our biggest single-day snowfall in years, and it was very windy, so that at the bottom of the driveway we had something like 10 inches of snow in a matter of hours, while at the top of the driveway, in front of the house where the wind broke, there was more like 18 inches. So imagine taking a puppy outside to go in the grass, but you have to find the grass first. I laid a tarp over the area before the snowfall began, and each time I took her out I had to first shovel the snow off the tarp, then move blocks that were holding it down in the wind, and then lift it and let her go. The ground was still very snow-covered under the tarp by the time it was all over. Ironically, after that blizzard we received almost no snow or rain for two years, which meant she was afraid to go out in the rain the first couple of years she experienced any. I think she is finally over that.
One of the happier memories of the stressful time we had in 2011 (due to more than just her) was during that blizzard. The driving wind would kick up tiny snowballs in the yard and blow them away, and she would chase them and bark at them. It made my heart melt (but not, unfortunately, the snow).
One of the less happy memories was the night Raisin decided she just couldn’t be apart from us–and my wife specifically–and barked continuously for most of the night. I had stayed up later than her because she was working in the morning, and she came downstairs at one point in a rage. The kennel wound up in the basement that night, and our bedroom was on the second floor, on the other side of the house, so we were as far away from the noise as possible. Our neighbor probably heard it more than we did. But in the middle of the night I went downstairs to check on Raisin and let her out, only to discover that she didn’t need to go out: Her entire kennel, the blanket inside it, and her body were covered in poo. Fun, fun times. We almost disowned her that night.
If you haven’t seen the movie (or read the book),and you aren’t afraid to cry, you should, so that you will appreciate a crazy dog. When I think about that story, I tell myself that if they could do it, so can we. Raisin is definitely a handful sometimes, but she is getting better, and we both love her. The biggest problem is the contrast between her and Punkin, who was so gentle and low-maintenance that Raisin could never compare, no matter how calm she might have been. As much as we spoiled Punkin, she, I think, spoiled us even more.
We signed Raisin up for some behavior training classes at PetSmart, and she was the ADH kid who disrupted the class and wouldn’t pay attention, but she still somehow learned, and graduated. The command I have found most handy from her class is, “Leave it,” which I use a lot on our walks. She insists today, when she spots another dog being walked, on going into a crouch on the ground like she is stalking. She is only playing, but her aggressive play tends to get the other dog riled up more than the owner cares for, and I have to pull her away. But if I keep her on the other side of the street, keep her moving, and tell her to “leave it” when she is looking at another dog, it helps.
Punkin liked to walk in a zig-zag when she was on the leash. From the grass on one side of the sidewalk to the grass on the other side, and back again. She went back and forth so much it made me dizzy, and I insisted that my next dog would learn the command “heel,” which is supposed to bring them to your feet at your side, keeping them on that side. But guess what. I gave up on that with Raisin without even trying. My wife has been a better teacher of walking behavior than I have, although she doesn’t use that command either. She will say, “Wait,” if Raisin starts pulling too hard, and now she will stop and sit and wait without us having to say anything at all, usually, if we just stop walking ourselves. But to help her expel her energy, I have allowed Raisin more freedom on our walks, buying a long retractable leash. That way, she can zig and zag when she wants to, stop and sniff, or stop and mark, and I can generally keep walking at a normal pace. If I get ahead of her by the length of the leash, it lets her run a little, until she is in front of me by the same length.
We also trained her quickly how to be a lap dog, which is not something we intended. But how do you cuddle a puppy in your arms and resist that cute face when she continues to want to do it as she gets older and larger? She is not huge today, just 50 pounds and smaller than your average Lab, but now she just climbs on us and sits on us when she wants, unless we can stop her first.
About the only positive thing we have successfully done with Raisin is to keep her away from our food and table scraps. Punkin would happily receive our pizza and bread crusts, and an occasional morsel here or there off our plates. She would clean our plates when we were finished. We have, for the most part, not allowed that with Raisin. The alternative, however, is that we gave Raisin a treat at our dinnertime to keep her busy as a puppy, and now, of course, it is an expectation. At least we have been able to reduce the size (and cost!) of the treat, because now she goes through it in a few seconds no matter how big it is.
I guess the moral of the story is to take the time to train your dog in every detail from the beginning. Or, just resist getting a puppy. Yes, they are cute, but they take a ridiculous amount of work. And they don’t learn like human baby eventually does, which can make the efforts seem a bit futile.If I had to do it again? I would not get a puppy. At least until I had kids who were old enough to raise it. I am still frustrated by Raisin sometimes and wonder what I have done. The underlying problem remains, though, that she will never be Punkin. No dog ever could.