Joys of dog ownership outweigh the woes

The first thing that I forgot about puppies is that not all of them are easy to housetrain. The second thing that I forgot about puppies is that they chew everything.

And the third thing?

That I don’t really care about whether they ruin my rugs or chew my shoes, because puppies are totally awesome. And adorable.

Rilian is an especially sweet-looking dog: he’s all black, except for a patch of white on his chest and one foot. He’s got super short, glossy black fur, and a Labrador face, and ears from the ‘mixed’ part of his mixed breed. His face oozes puppy love.

This past week, we saw a new side of Rilian come out. For the first week that we got him, he was petrified of everything, including other dogs. I took him to the Hudson dog park one day, and he refused to even go inside the enclosure. He stood outside the walls, with his tail between his legs. Rilian-the-featherweight ‘fraidy pup.

One short week later, he has become Rilian, the featherweight champion of dog play. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. Lucy and I took him into the park, and once again, his tail went between his legs (I have never seen a tail go that low before Rilian.) Then a couple of friendly older dogs came over, danced the play dance in front of him, started cuffing him around, and he was off. For nearly two hours. Running with the big dogs.

And the small ones.

We took Rilian down to meet his grandmother and his cousins a few days later. We surprised my mother by not telling her about him beforehand and walked him right into her room. And she was absolutely delighted to see him – even when he peed all over the carpet. Mom was thrilled to have a great-grand-dog.

Then we drove to see my niece and her husband and their dog Jack. Jack is a fourteen pound terrier mix (and I mean mix: Rachel is participating in a dog-breed study and Jack appears to be 43 percent terrier – all different kinds of terriers, many of which I had never heard of.) We wanted to see if the dogs would play well before the summer parties begin. Jack was a rescue dog, too, and since he is a small dog, sometimes he is great with other dogs and sometimes he is not.

When they first met, we thought they were leaning towards not liking each other. But Rachel’s husband, Scott, is really good at reading dog behavior signals, and intervened before anything bad happened. Then Scott took Jack into the house to get some water for the dogs, and when Jack came out of the house, it was time to party.

At first, it seemed as if Rilian had the advantage. He is bigger than Jack and can run faster. But what’s that saying? “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance?” Well, Jack is older than Rilian and he was on his home turf.

Jack sprang off the deck like a clown out of a circus cannon. Rilian went after him, but because Jack is so much smaller, he could fit through the bars of the fence surrounding the pool. Rilian would wait, panting, and when Jack came out and restarted the chase, Jack would run right under Rilian and take his legs out from under him.

The best part was that it was clear how much fun they were both having: especially because Rachel and Scott had just assembled a few rectangular raised steel garden beds, and when the dogs really got into it, they started using them like an obstacle course. Jack easily ran between them. Rilian jumped through them, like a horse on a steeplechase course.

So much fun to watch.

And then, after sleeping all the way home, he was still tired.

A tired dog is a happy dog. Seems that the same holds true for dog parents.

Why didn’t we get a puppy sooner?