When you think of puppies, what is the first picture that pops into your mind? Innocent, sweet, new, lovable—adjectives like that, right? Now, when you think of the word toddler, what comes to mind? I picture a brown-haired little boy in striped Oshkosh B’gosh overalls that gives extravagant hugs, has incredible energy, is busy exploring everything, completely unaware of danger—who suddenly discovers the word “no” and is not really into using the toilet consistently.
Guess what? Puppies go through a toddler phase too. When I was puppy-proofing the house—which included making sure cords, cleaning supplies, and a lot of gates were installed—I never considered the backyard. I now know that there are many poisonous plants and one is vinca. Sadie is obsessed with vinca, so it is going. But there are other hazards outside besides plants and predators. (We live in coyote country.) And last week we found one: insects.
I have pulled caterpillars, beetles, and spiders out of the pups’ mouths. (Surely, killing a caterpillar is bad karma.) In spite of trying to be vigilant, Teddy recently had a painful and potentially life-threatening encounter with a bee, as I wrote about last week. This morning Teddy was barking at something on the deck. Since he rarely barks, I decided to investigate. Sure enough there was a bee walking on the deck. I waved it away with a paper napkin and was relieved when it flew off. Teddy is learning, I hope, that not all crawling creatures need to be explored with his mouth.
Another outdoor danger is giardia, a common pathogen carried by some wildlife that can affect puppies. Teddy tested positive for this parasite, so we decided to have the grass in our backyard replaced. A lawn is a good place to incubate giardia. The replacement sod, topsoil, and installation cost around $1,000. The dogs love the grass. When they finally had access to the new lawn, they ran and ran and chased each other around like they were in dog heaven.
You can imagine my dismay when I discovered bite-size clumps of sod under the dining room table. My first thought was, No, they aren’t pulling up the sod! I went to investigate, and there was my precious Sadie, pulling out clumps of new grass where the sod abutted the patio. I used my standard “No, no Sadie,” in a calm voice as I approached my precious girl. She glanced at me and went back to shredding the new grass. I repeated “No, no” several times, noting that the volume and pitch of my voice was rising. Unfortunately, this had no effect on the little vandal, although she did throw a defiant look my way. Finally, I just picked her up and took her inside. Obviously, Sadie had learned her own version of “No.”
I would like to say that was the end of the incident, but that afternoon I caught both of them back at the sod.
That evening, John had a meeting, and like mischievous children the puppies ganged up on me. The yin-yang of having access to toilet with the destruction of the lawn ramped up. The open door to the outside was about six feet away from Teddy when he looked up at me with his sweet face and peed on the kitchen floor. I calmly picked him up and, dripping across the kitchen floor, deposited him outside. It was while I was cleaning up after Teddy and using the neutralizing spray that Sadie appeared with a wad of sod, which she deposited in their bed. She then circled her prize, making many brown rosette footprints on the gray fabric.
I have to say I was very calm. I made sure the pups were safe with all doors closed, and then I went upstairs, closing the gate behind me. Sitting on the side of my bed, I looked out at the hills and had a good think. I may even have shed a tear or two. I definitely said a prayer. After a while, I headed back downstairs.
The delinquents were sitting on the other side of the gate at the base of the stairway. Now, you are going to think I am completely crazy, but after opening the gate, I sat on the second stair and had a heart-to-heart talk with my toddlers. They sat on their bottoms and looked at me intently as I spoke. The conversation over, I slipped down to the first step, and then I was showered with extravagant kisses from my two perfectly angelic canines.
Since our talk, potty training is progressing, and the sod remained intact … until Sadie decided to have another go at it. However, a greater power intervened—the sprinklers. Enough said …