Judy Mintz: Cured of the urge
From: Everywhere I Go
August 07, 2012 at 10:00AM
A little while ago, we babysat a puppy, in our home, for four days. You can see by the adorable picture below, taken when he was two months old, why I offered to baby-sit. Now, however, in order to preserve his reputation at doggy daycare (and my friendship with his parents), I’m going to give him a pseudonym, Tybalt. At the end of his stay, the accident count was four pees, five poops, and one vomit.
I don’t blame Tybalt, entirely. He is, after all, a puppy, and at his house there is a fenced-in yard. His family slides open the back door and off he goes, to pee or poop, or run around in circles.
He’s a small dog, the kind some people carry as an accessory; carry being the operative word. When he came to us, he hadn’t yet spent much time on a leash. As a matter of fact, he was delivered to us with a harness that had been purchased that day. The point of a harness is that it allows you to walk a dog without choking it to death. However, it does take a moment to put it on. If I was racing against the call of nature to get him outside, I’d skip the harness, clip the leash to his collar and out we’d go. I made that sound easy. It wasn’t.
Tybalt hadn’t yet had any training per se. The words sit, stay, come and heel all meant let’s play. Each time I wanted to take him out I had to catch him. One day, while indulging him in a game of chase, through the living room with its dark rug, thank goodness, I stepped on one of the five poops. The good news was… who am I kidding? There is no way to put a good spin on stepping on poop.
Things didn’t go too smoothly when I put on the harness to take him for a walk either. Once outside, on the ground, he resisted the suggestion we walk. It didn’t take much pull to inadvertently drag him. That was horrifying for me, and probably humiliating for him, but at least he wasn’t choking. We did meet a neighborhood dog on one of our outings, a nice older guy named Jake, a Pekingese, who tolerated Tybalt’s jumping and sniffing. The fifteen minutes he spent annoying Jake was probably the most exercise he got in the four days he was with us.
But the biggest baby-sitting disconnect was on the subject of Tybalt’s crate. When his family is out of the house, at work, school or camp, he spends hours at a time in his crate. We were told that he liked being in his crate, but somehow I didn’t translate that to, “you should leave him in his crate most of the time.” I naturally assumed that the less time spent in a crate, the better. Apparently I was projecting, because that is how modern-day dog training is done. They spend most of their time in the crate. You take them out when it’s time for them to go to the bathroom, and then you put them back in.
I haven’t had a puppy for forty years, or owned a dog for thirty. I had no idea what I didn’t know. And Tybalt’s family assumed too much about our state of readiness, and failed to provide proper guidance. I love the family. They’re wonderful people, and Tybalt is an adorable dog. When he’s grown up, if he can demonstrate the ability to sit, stay, and most important, come when he’s called, I’ll be happy to have him visit again. Until then, this dog sitting service is closed.