Mika, owning my couch

It's been 26 years, and I forgot everything about puppy training

If ever I wanted to be brought up short about shortcomings, here's how to do it: get a four-month-old rescue puppy and bring it into my life right when things are BUSY ENOUGH, and assume that I know what I'm doing.

OMG what a joke. A week later, plenty of accidents and lots of freedoms needing to be revoked, I am seriously humbled. Dog training is for owners, and clearly I need potty training.

But there are larger issues afoot here.

In my 2010 book Wordfood, I developed the idea of "diets" based on how we speak to each other. The first one I outlined, and I'll bet you can relate, was The Starvation Diet.

Here's an example. Your partner/lover/friend does something that incenses you. Just infuriates you.

Then you embark on the silent treatment. You don't talk, you don't say why you're mad, you somehow expect them to figure it out by osmosis. Done that, been there, had it done to me. It sucks, because silence sucks the life out of us.

"They should KNOW what they did wrong," we argue to ourselves and others. As if, right?

Here's how the silent treatment is wielded as abuse:

What Couples Need to Know About the Silent Treatment
Using the silent treatment in a relationship is an ineffective way to communicate. It differs from healthy silence in that it’s controlling and sometimes even abusive.

I'm going to take this in a different direction for this article.

For years since the death of my last dog in 2006 from a broken back, I haven't owned another pupper. I tried a couple of corgis but that was a disaster. I sent them back to their puppy mill right away. Hard lesson learned.

That said, since then, I've devoted my time to loving other folks' pups, many animals around the world. Learned to massage them. I got my furry goodies mostly overseas and with some pretty amazing animals and want to do much more.

Meanwhile, I was starving myself of the affection and companionship of a dog.

I had all kinds of excuses. Well, adventure travel. Well, this. Well, that. I had a person in my life, sporadically, who had a bulldog, so I got very rare moments with a most affectionate bully.

I'm a dog person through and through. Grew up with them, adore them, and need one of my own. Have needed for years.

My friend Melissa just had to put down her beloved dog Karl. This dedicated cat lady ended up with a dog she got for her partner. They divorced and Melissa got the dog. Melissa's a cat person FOREVER AND NO DOGS.

She said that the greatest lesson she learned from Karl was that she didn't know what she had when she had all that love, all the time, no matter what. Karl's greatest gift to her was his undying devotion, which she never had from her cats. Not like Karl's at least.

Melissa and I regularly talk about those things we have a hard time doing for ourselves because of some idiot belief that we're not worthy. Right now, Melissa is looking for a long-haired collie type very much like Karl. I know the feeling.

I wanted to replicate my excellent good luck with Blueys. The Universe has always got a different idea, no matter how wise we think we are.

On and off for months now, I've been perusing the adoption sites. Drove far and wide to meet puppers who appealed for various reasons, usually returning to what I've known and loved, like Australian Cattle dogs. Even my mouse pad features an Aussie Blue Heeler.

When I was at the adoption event and visiting other doggos at the Humane Society, I sought out Heelers. Really wanted another Heeler. However...those of you who know dogs also know the demands herding dogs place on you for exercise and work.

You also know that without early socialization and training working dogs can be aggressive and protective, and not friendly with other dogs. That means no play dates, no dog parks and no dog walks with friends, all of which I want with my companion. `

With one foot still in a boot for a few more days (and I'm cheating, but without consequences so far), that's the wrong animal for right now. It's also not the right breed for me as I age, and as I continue to negotiate a changing body which I've yet to sort out for future adventures.

To that.

I've used adventure travel as an excuse not to have a dog for years. In the interim, solo life, one without a furball, is lonely. The whipsaw of set up/sell off/change direction and stay/ then the surgeries and all the work on the house since would have been hard on a rescue, so there's that. But a well-trained, well-adjusted dog would have weathered that just fine.

So one hard question I've had to answer is how much longer was I going to use the excuse of adventure travel, which has had to slow down for a hundred reasons, as an excuse to not get a dog? The cost of boarding and sitting are part of a trip. You plan for it. If that shortens a trip, so be it.

The price is worth it.

I get to come home to a creature who loves me abundantly. Been way too long. I've got a lot of love to give. While writing allows me one way to express it, lavishing in on a saved life from euthanasia is another whole level. I'm tired of being starved of what I really need: endless affection and funny company.

After deciding to get a smaller dog, I ended up with Mika, who is a cross between a Border Collie and a Dane. Small, not so much. But she is chill, sweet, eager to please, a swift learner and has a PhD in cuddle. Like all Borders she learns things so fast it makes your head spin. But the Dane in her gives her the ability to chill for hours in the crate when I have chores to run.

Mika found me. I chose her nature, not her breed. I don't care about her breed; I care about how sweet she is, and the way she melts into me when I come home.

Mika zonked out on one of her many beds

And this costs. Now I have to organize my entire life around her comfort and safety and the limits of her bladder. I have to attend to things like a new collar and a vet and pet insurance and all those things, including where to put her when I travel. To that, travel takes on a very different tenor; I can't be gone as long especially in her first several years. No more one-month or six-week trips.

Lots and LOTS of personal changes in order to have a well-trained, well-adjusted animal, and to have all that love.

It's worth it. I'm committing to myself as much as I'm committing to her.

Those are the same choices all of us make to be in relationship. To have love. We forfeit some measure of freedom for a great deal of love and learning. That's the price, whether it's having a child or having a lover or having anything else worth having. There is always a price.

The only question is whether or not you and are willing to make the commitment to ourselves first and foremost.

I was thinking about that as I was out buying doggie beds, treats and goodies for Mika. About how long it's been since something warm, happy, enthusiastic and full of love has been in my life.

If I want X, I have to give up A B and C. Nothing comes to us for free.

I've been starving myself of such love for a long time. My last dog passed in 2006. The corgis lasted barely two months. Since then, it's been very exciting, and very lonely.

As I write, she is snockered after a run around the house. The house is messier, natch. She brings in pine needles and the soft black dirt from outside. Her paws smell like garden, until she steps in something I couldn't find under all those rhodie blossoms. Life with animals.

I give up a clean house for a happy one. I gave up endless freedom for company. I gave up some options so that I could take proper care of a new puppy.

A very small price to pay.

Mika on her way home from the adoption center

Thank you for reading. These days I am also posting on Substack, a newletter called Too Old for This Sh*t. Feel free to head over and look around. Heartfelt thanks to all my supporters and for reading.