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Human/Animal Bond

Pets, Kids: Is there a Difference?
August 24, 2015 (published)

Shiloh enjoys the hose. Photo by Dr. Wendy Smith Wilson
After a year and a half without a dog, I finally got a puppy. This poor little thing was found in a ditch. A friend of mine who is associated with a rescue group contacted me and the puppy has been living here since early June.

I wanted to get a puppy instead of an adult dog because there are four cats in the household: three indoor, one outside. Any dog that lives here has to learn to live peaceably with the cats, and a puppy seemed safest. The indoor cats, ages 9, 11 and 12, have been around dogs all their lives, so they’d know the drill, right?

Are you laughing at me yet? In my defense, I haven't had a puppy in ten years.

A realization that struck me about two weeks in was that I’d never had a puppy without an adult dog on the premises to do some of the heavy lifting. In fact, when I went to vet school, I took a brand new German Shepherd puppy with me. She learned everything just by watching the older Shepherd/Malamute mix. I didn’t have to teach her to sit, stay or heel, she just did it. Easy as pie!

Now I’m older, smarter, I’ve trained dogs before, and I’m getting the hang of this “behavior” thing, so I should be well-equipped to deal with a puppy, even one with some scary life experiences before she came here. Sounds good; let’s do this!

All things considered, it was going pretty well until yesterday when I realized that control truly is an illusion. I was feeling pretty crummy and sick, and the puppy needed to burn off some pent-up energy, so I took her and my laptop outside. Shiloh ran around the yard, dug a little bit in her “I’m going to the center of the earth some day” hole, bounded joyfully up to the barn to say hi to Mikey the horse, chased butterflies and grasshoppers . . . you know, puppy stuff. When she finally wound down and grabbed her big rawhide stick to gnaw on beside me, I decided I was miserable enough to lie down for a nap. I figured she’d settle in for her afternoon snooze and give me a chance to close my eyes. We went back into the house.

Nap indeed.

Upon entry, I was met with that smell that cat owners everywhere know means that something has gone terribly wrong in the litterbox department. A quick body check revealed the the Boulder had experienced some, uh, soft stool, and as a long-haired cat, he had brought it with him into the living room, thankfully onto a chair that I keep covered with an old pillowcase. Thank goodness for small favors.

First things first. I had to head off the puppy, who was following her sniffer toward the scene of the crime. I closed the laundry room door to keep her out of the litterbox and went back to inspect the cat. Yep, gross. He needed a butt bath. I scooped him up and headed back for the laundry room, where there’s a deep sink and a convenient bottle of pet shampoo. I closed the door so the puppy couldn’t interrupt and did a quick washdown on the old guy. Thank goodness he’s not inclined to protest much, other than trying to get out of the sink. Once he was out and towel-dried, I shooed him out of the laundry room so he wouldn’t wander back into the litterbox while wet. It's yucky to get wet clay litter all over the back end of a cat. Not today, thanks very much.

At that point I turned my attention to the litterbox itself. You don’t need the details, but likely you can imagine that cleanup was less than pleasant. That took a few minutes. When I finally exited the laundry room, I discovered that the puppy apparently hadn’t fully emptied her bladder when we were outside and had piddled a little bit on the rug just outside the door. In hindsight, I should have put the little monster in her crate.

Starting to wonder how long the comedy of errors would continue, I hauled the rug outside, hung it over a gate and started hosing it off. Do you know what puppies do when water starts spraying from a hose on a warm summer day? Woo hoo, playtime! So now I was trying to spray off a rug while a wide-awake and excited puppy was busy getting soaked trying to catch the stream of water. Shiloh was pretty disappointed when I turned off the stream and left the rug hanging to dry, but then another butterfly flittered past so off she went. Life is good when you’re a puppy.

We went back inside to find the damp cat sitting on a table in the living room. Normal? Acceptable? Yes, usually. But that particular table has some as-yet-unframed family photographs sitting on it, and a damp cat butt is not really something that photographs tolerate well. I spent the next couple of minutes waving those around, propping them up to dry, then collected the aforementioned pillowcase that Mr. Poopy-Butt had been curled upon to throw it into the washer.

At this point I was starting to feel pretty sorry for my miserable, headachey self. I had a wet cat, a wet rug, a wet puppy, and I just wanted a nap. I tethered the puppy beside the couch, gave her something to chew on, then crashed out. Mr. Wet Butt decided he wanted to lie down on me, so I grabbed a blanket and threw it over my legs for him. At least I knew he was clean.

I finally drifted off to sleep thinking about how this series of events reminded me of tales told by parents with multiple small children. I could almost hear the whimsical soundtrack playing as one misfortune piled upon another in our private comedy skit.

In the end, we all slept peacefully for a solid two hours. THAT was truly a gift.


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