I’ve decided the only thing an adult dog and a puppy have in common is that they are both carbon-based life forms.
For five years, we had Lola, an angel in the form of an Australian shepherd. She came to us as a mature dog. She was housebroken, well-trained, sweet and obedient. We had five years with Lola, and when she died in September, we mourned the loss of a dear friend.
I wasn’t particularly excited at the prospect of getting a new dog. I didn’t want another dog if I couldn’t have Lola. I can see why people with obscene amounts of money pay fortunes to have their dogs cloned. Had I won the lottery, my first check would have gone to the cloning lab.
My husband and younger daughter wore me down. The trick, they said, is to get a dog who is totally different from Lola. A male, maybe a puppy. Yeah, that’s it. A puppy would be perfect.
Like we knew anything about puppies. We’ve raised kittens. We’ve hand-fed baby birds. But a puppy? We didn’t have a clue.
My husband approached finding a puppy the same way he approaches any problem — with lots of online research. He was up late night after night, scrolling through Petfinder descriptions of Labrador retrievers in South Carolina and Irish setters in Alabama. The printer ran on and on, grinding out descriptions of adorable pups in shelters and rescue foster homes as far away as Tennessee.
Ultimately, we found our new pet much closer to home. Arthur and Rachel ventured out to the Hall County Animal Shelter on Barber Road. They were immediately taken with an adorable little fur ball with a black mask and spotted coat ending in a white tail that seemed to be in perpetual motion.
They sent a cell phone picture to me at work. All I could make out was a pair of shiny eyes in a tilted head that seemed to beg to be taken home. Which is precisely what happened.
Pet naming is always a serious undertaking at our house. Animals are given two names, one Hebrew and one secular. Thus, the dog who by all rights should have been named Bandit became Yaakov to God and Jake to the rest of us.
Housebreaking a dog is a lot like potty training a toddler. Everyone from my best friend to the clerk at the post office had suggestions on how to do it but nothing seemed to work very well. We tried lining the bathroom with newspaper each night in hopes that he’d eventually settle on one spot. The only result was that circulation of The Times probably spiked.
Then we decided to try crate training. He’d sleep in a crate (actually more like a roomy doggy condo) where he’d learn elimination control, since dogs are reluctant to mess where they sleep. That part worked like a charm.
The second part of the plan is to take him outside every hour on the hour and praise him to the skies whenever he uses the bathroom. Supposedly, he will eventually make the connection and ask to be let out. I’ll let you know when that happens.
Jake currently sees his world as one gigantic chew toy. He’s gnawed his way through any number of computer cords, a TIVO remote, a Dana Buchman shoe, countless socks, a book of stamps and the corner of a kitchen cabinet. The only things left untouched are — you guessed it — his chew toys.
My husband has become a devotee of dog behavior guru, Cesar Milan. He’s forever lecturing me about the need to approach Jake using "calm assertive energy."
Yeah, right. I’m usually shrieking, "No, Jake! Stop, Jake! Not on the rug, Jake!" And of course what he hears is (to paraphrase an old "Far Side" cartoon), "Blah, blah, blah, Jake! Blah, blah, blah, Jake! Blah, blah, blah, Jake!"
As challenging as Jake can be, his heartfelt joy at the sight of us, whether we’re returning from work or simply walking back into the room, does a lot to redeem him.
He’s a quick study when he wants to be. He’s already learned "sit" and "stay." Despite all my grumbling, I’ve found myself baking homemade dog treats and hoping that he’ll come cuddle when I settle in to watch "The Dog Whisperer." OK, I admit it. It took a while but I’m hooked.
Jake’s showing a lot of promise, both as a family member and as the subject of columns in 2010 and beyond. The way things are going he’ll have us trained in no time.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears regularly on Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.