So we got a dog. A puppy in fact. A rough collie puppy to be specific. And I knew the instant we brought him home at 9:17 p.m. on June 7th that our lives would never be the same.
In the weeks leading up to Cousteau’s arrival, I was frantically preparing myself by watching every Cesar Millan episode I could find, reading (and re-reading) The Bible (a.k.a., The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete), and googling pictures and videos of collie puppies at different ages. (Pathetic, I know.) And really, this was a strange time for me, since I think I’m usually a fairly chill individual. Luckily, this onset of OCDness was firmly balanced by Wilf’s nonchalant and, at times, indifference to the whole process. His underlying outlook of, ‘don’t worry, we’ll figure it out when he’s here’, didn’t sit well with me on matters such as vaccinations, obedience, and exercise requirements. Why couldn’t we figure it out now? Why couldn’t we be prepared?
But of course we weren’t prepared. Not even close. Sure, we had all the stuff. In fact, we had enough stuff to adequately feed, house, and entertain a whole litter. But mentally, there was no amount of reading or YouTubing that could have prepared us for the night Cousteau came home. I will never forget the look of sheer panic on Wilf’s face when we finally got back to our apartment and he sat on the floor and looked at this little ball of fluff that was running around, whining. Only then do I think he fully comprehended the life choice he had made.
Somehow though, we held our own. Sure, there were sleepless nights in the beginning and more than one, “what do the Monks say?” a day, but eventually we fell into a rhythm. And, despite Wilf’s initial fears that my views on obedience and proper dog manners would suck the soul out of our poor pup, I think he quickly recognized that he had no reason to worry. (This realization probably occurred when he learned I had taught Cous both “shake a paw” and “high five” before I taught him “stay”…) Even though I still refuse to follow the lead of every other dog-owner in the city and dress like a lululemon mannequin whenever we go for a walk, I’d say we’re doing a pretty decent job. Sure, our vet thinks I’m a hypochondriac, but when there’s blood coming up from the inside, I like the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach. (Turns out it was only a swallowed tooth…)
That said, of course we have had much to learn. For example, we have learned that the opportune moment for Cousteau to go outside to pee coincides exactly with the start of penalties during World Cup games. We have also learned that Cous and strawberry plants are mutually exclusive, and that a thesis tastes best right before it is needed for a defense. We have observed that the optimum position in which to sleep is on one’s back, wedged tightly between the coffee table and couch if possible. (This space will now forever be known as the GoC, or ‘Gap of Cous’.) We now know that the best time of day for Cous to inhale his dinner is at 2:30 in the morning, and that waking his humans up while he eats is a price he’ll happily pay. And, speaking of time, we will never again require an alarm clock thanks to Cousteau’s bladder, which reaches burst capacity between 6-6:30 a.m., seven days a week. (To this, let me also say that nothing brings out the true character of one’s partner like the sleepy conversation in which it is decided who is responsible for taking the dog out.) We are now aware that some collars allow for maximum escape potential, and that Cousteau will pay little attention to oncoming traffic (or street lights) as he bolts unbridled toward the pet store (a.k.a., Disneyland). We have also come to realize that while many dogs enjoy swimming, Cousteau appears to be more the wading while barking type. Except when he thinks lily pads are actually grass patches and leaps with sheer joy toward dry land before sinking into the blue abyss that is actually Killarney Lake on Bowen Island. (From this experience we did observe that he can indeed swim if he believes himself to be in mortal peril.) We now know that the best toys are hands down the loudest ones; and, of course, that every stick—no matter how big or cumbersome— needs a home. Luckily, the one thing we did know before all of this started was that collies are herders. And the fact that Cousteau won’t let us out of his sight when we let him loose in Pacific Spirit Park is a testament to his breed and innate understanding of his role in our family. If dogs have mantras, I know his would be ‘Unity in Pack: keep it strong, keep it safe.’ Unfortunately, Cous feels that this ideology applies to all situations in which the pack is together—including the more intimate ones. Nothing says ‘romance’ quite like rolling over to see your dog staring at you with a toy hedgehog in his mouth.
We are lucky that the Fisheries Centre is dog-friendly so whenever I can’t be home during the day, Wilf can take him to campus. (We are good about giving him enough alone time too though, to ensure he learns that it is OK if the pack separates.) Mostly though we are very fortunate because we live in a neighbourhood full of parks, dogs, and dog-loving people. So much so that he was actually recruited by one of our neighbours (a realtor) for her annual, ‘Dogs of Arbutus Walk’ calendar. But unfortunately, although showbiz does run in the fam, Cous showed zero signs of taking after his great-grandfather, Mason (a.k.a. Lassie v. 3.0), and it took two 45-minute photo sessions to finally got a shot in which he wasn’t moving and looked attentive. Also near Arbutus Walk live Cousteau’s two best friends: a Bernese named Ruby (born two days before he was) and a black lab named Lola (she’s about a month older). Watching the three of them grow up together has been so much fun and few things bring a bigger smile to my face than seeing them roll around in one big ball of puppy. The longest two weeks of Cousteau’s life were when he couldn’t play with Lola because she needed time to recover after being spayed.
And still, despite all of our highs and lows over the summer, our first real test is quickly approaching. We are taking Cousteau up to Adams Lake for the sockeye run. And, since we’ll be camping overnight, we’ve been practicing dry runs of this adventure with the tent in our apartment. Most recently, we survived until 3:15 a.m. before he became too restless and had to be let out to get a drink. Odds are it’ll be much colder at the lake and we won’t all be sweating like pigs for the real thing. I will write a full report of the trip once (if?) we come back…