Raising a puppy is a humbling experience. Parker is a great dog. She gets the mixed message furniture rule—the one that says Dad lets her on the furniture to cuddle and Mom doesn’t. She knows not to beg but understands ice cream bowls are for licking. She takes walks in her harness and doesn’t pull, walks on her leash and tugs like a champion, runs free in our field by the river and comes occasionally.
Yes, I know it’s all on me. We humans are a conflicted lot. I started out as a new puppy owner by the book. Treats in my pocket and excited squeals when Parker did her business outside. I kept every room picked up, with all delectables far from reach. So I know full well whose fault it is when my new sneakers had the laces chewed. I was lucky it was only the laces!
Last week, I nearly lost her. All fall, the Ottaquechee has been a meandering stream. We have spent many beautiful days tossing sticks into the river so Parker would swim, tossing pebbles so she would put her head under, talking thru the shallows, sitting on the rocks and, playing in the water all to accustom Parker to the river. At first she had been nervous, not really scared, but cautious. With persistence and the help of the black lab next door Parker now loves the water.
Last week, we had a big rain storm and over night the river went from a meandering stream to a raging beast. Parker and I took our usual walk down to the field. Today, the river’s roar drowned out even the morning traffic on Route 4. It never occurred to me that the sound wouldn’t terrify Parker. It never occurred to me she might be intrigued instead. Parker rushed straight down to the edge of the rushing water and waded in. I called, “COME,” and she proceeded to run along the edge barking at the debris floating by. Terrified, I panicked and called, “COME,” again and she came. Something in my voice must have alerted her to the fact that I was serious this time.
Now what? I will go back to treats in my pocket and working on “come.” But what about the river? I want her to love to swim. How do I teach her some days not to swim? I knew there would be other days: icy winter days when the ice wasn’t safe, spring run off days when the river was even higher.
Later that afternoon, we went back to the field for a walk—on leash. I went to the edge of the bank. Parker tugged and whined to go closer. “NOT TODAY,” I commanded. We walked along the edge, “NOT TODAY:” Parker looked up at me with those eyes of hers that could melt your soul and seemed to say, “OK, this is another one of those mixed message rules.” I could almost see her shaking her head. Sadly, she turned away from the river to explore the woods at the edge of the field.
Parker is a good dog even though I am a less than perfect owner.