How to Survive, with Equanimity, a Dog’s Puppyhood, by John Bolinger

There comes a time during the first few weeks of having a puppy that the owner may consider calling an exorcist instead of a vet. The energy of the pup seems infinitely wild, and wearing him out in hopes of a quiet nap (mostly for yourself) often seems futile. My West Highland White Terrorist (Oops! Terrier) pup Dudley was eleven weeks old, and my ego sometimes suffered from not always being able to keep one step ahead of him. It hurt to be outsmarted by a puppy, who seemed during his rare quiet moments always to be plotting his next campaign. It was almost as though I could hear the voice in his little head saying, “Well now, I haven’t tried chewing on that leather chair. Nor Have I chewed up any more paperback books since I began teething on John’s copy of GOOD DOG, BAD DOG. Let’s see. How about that feather pillow on the sofa? Yum!”

Of course, terriers (i.e. Westies, Scotties, Cairns, etc.) are generally more highly strung than other dogs, and their “attitude” is something that provides hard work for the owner during training but rewards him later when the dog is more mature. You see, I’ve been through this before, but my memory failed to retain the fact that my last Westie pup experience (with Cody) was in 1995 when I was almost fifteen years younger.

To all those of you who are training a pup, I have some advice. The puppy needs lots of exercise as well as lots of rest, but you can decrease your own part in the exertion of running around the back yard like a chicken with its head cut off. There are two methods, which I discovered by accident only this past week. First, if you have a ceramic, linoleum, or tile floor with lots of space, give your pup an ice cube. He will, with some difficulty, chase it around the room until he or the ice cube simply melts or until the dog is exhausted. Again, this should in no way be considered a dirty trick on your part (well, OK, maybe a little one), but rather a way to conserve your energy while giving your pup his much needed exercise.

The other method of helping your pup to expend more of his own energy instead of the last remnants of yours is to give him a tennis ball. This one seems obvious, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had not even thought of it until Duds was eleven weeks old, when I bought two tennis balls. You veteran dog trainers are probably snickering at my lack of know-how in this area, but I was completely thrilled to see that Duds went crazy with pleasure in chasing the balls around the sun room for almost half an hour. He never figured out that the balls didn’t actually have wills of their own, but the fact the they didn’t stay in place meant that he had to dash around the room trying to out-maneuver them, because they refused to stand still. Was that perfect or WHAT?

All this I observed from the comfort of my favorite chair until, at last, Duds went to his preferred nap spot and used a stack of New York Times crossword books as his pillow. I’ll include a photo of that very pleasant aftermath and remembering those active puppy days, plan a little nap for myself.

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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