The Dog Days of Summer

As you may or may not have noticed, today is in fact, June 21st, the first official day of summer and the longest "day" of the year. And as it happens, I have just the thing for the occassion....

Meet Juliet. Oh, but fear not, gentle reader, this cocker spaniel puppy that looks for all the world like a black lab is not a new addition to my household. I am merely "puppysitting" for a week while my aunt and her family are on a cruise.

I have never before had a dog. Sure, when I was a kid we "had dogs", but they were always outside and I never had to feed them or anything. They were more like mobile garden gnomes. Also, I've never considered myself to be a "dog person". There are a lot of things I don't like about dogs. They slobber. They get in your face. They eat poop (and then get in your face). All this and more made me a confirmed "cat person".

Then, I met a precious few well-trained dogs, and I realized that "dog" does not equal "slobbery, barking, hyper, jumping-up monster that pees on the floor constantly and walks around with its nose in your crotch". I became intrigued with the idea of having an animal that was trainable, and would do tricks and come when called. (My cats usually come when called, but sometimes they just sit and stare at me like I've clearly gone insane.) Having a puppy for a week seemed like an excellent way to test-drive the dog ownership idea.

I've learned so much, and I've only had her for a few days. One, dogs are a lot of work. Not an unreasonable amount of work, but they're not cats. Also, I would never want to have my own dog without also having a yard. Since this puppy is not completely housetrained, if I need to go somewhere, I either have to take her with me or put her in her crate. I hate leaving her in the crate during the day, so I usually just take her with me, but there are some places she can't go (like, yoga class, for example). It'd be much easier if I could stick her in the backyard and feel confident that she's enjoying her little doggie self and not leaving a mess on my rug.

Also, cocker spaniels are not the brightest breed of dogs. And Juliet is not the brightest cocker I've encountered... She's incredibly friendly and would be worthless as a guard dog. She loves everyone, all the time. But, well.... I have french doors leading out onto my balcony. I put her out on my balcony for a second so one of my cats could make a dash to the safety of the "no dog zone". When the cat was secure, I opened the door to let Juliet back in. But since she could still see me through the glass, she was totally confused and just kept pawing at the glass on the (open) door. I had to actually step outside and get her to follow me through the doorway into the house. Einstein, she is not.

I've also dicovered that Juliet is a very inconvenient name for a dog. I end up calling her "puppy" most of the time. Interestingly, she has a schedule, sort of. I let her out of the crate in the mornings and we usually make it outside before having a bathroom accident. When she comes back inside, she's hungry and hyper. She eats some breakfast and then runs around like she's on fire for about an hour and a half. Since a dog's mouth is like it's hands, she likes to bite things a lot. I also think she's in the puppy "chewing stage". I don't like to be bitten, but telling her not to bite is like telling me not to breathe. So I try to redirect the biting to something appropriate, like a toy. This has been largely successful, and I'm always suprised at how well it works. She entertains herself, mostly by running around and chewing on things. Then it's another bathroom trip, after which she naps off and on for the rest of the day! She gets up and follows me around the house (I can't leave a room without her coming with me), and she'll wake up and chew on more things sometimes, but mostly she just sleeps until mid-afternoon. When Max gets home from work, she gets very excited again. In the evenings, we like to take her to the doggie play area in our apartment complex, where she can run around without a leash and be a WonderMutt. Then it's puppy bedtime and the cycle starts all over again.

My cats are terrified of her. She's pretty scared of them, too. But slowly, some of them have started to investigate. Odin, our big orange cat (he's my profile picture) is also the head honcho, and he's made several expeditions. He usually waits until she's asleep and then sneaks up on her to do some recon. Yesterday, he got close enough to touch her head with his nose. She was asleep, of course. Even after she woke up, though, he didn't rush back into the "no dog zone". He just sat there, sizing her up silently. It's very difficult for Juliet not to run up to him and sniff all over him, but she reads his body language I guess and just lays down, figeting and trying to inch closer without getting too close. This "showdown at the OK Corral" has happened several times. Maybe they'll be friends by the end of the week, but I'll be happy if I can just get my cats to forgive me! I'm pretty sure Dante and Cleo have voted me off the island.