30 December, 2010

The benefit of memory lapses

The human memory is short, particularly when it comes to painful experiences.  That's one of the miracles of human proliferation.  Without the benefit of suppressed memory - let's call it selective amnesia -- few women would endure the pain of childbirth more than once (or so I've heard -- no first-hand experience, myself).  The same can be said for raising more than one puppy.

Clue, my Golden Retriever, is almost 12 years old.  I rescued her from a shelter when she was 10 months old - still a puppy with all the joys and aggravations that brings.  Over the years, the memories of chewed  shoes, chair rungs and rugs, ADHD at obedience classes, and mad escapes from the yard have faded. And, in my blissful state of amnesia -- or maybe it's conscious repression -- I aagreed to foster a puppy.During the holidays! Colour me crazy.

So Henry arrived.  A six-month old border collie mix rescued from a kill shelter in TN, Henry has charm, personality, and energy to burn.  In fact, he could probably power the city of New York all by himself.

Day One suckered me in.  A shy little bundle of fur, he appeared quiet, exhausted from the 24-hour trip and traumatized by all the changes in his short life.  That was the honeymoon... By Sunday morning he had recovered from the journey and was raring to go, full of puppy kisses, curiosity, and -- OMG -- energy.  He's been a whirlwind ever since, settling down for a nap only after meals. A very, short nap.

Everything is new, everything has to be investigated, sniffed, touched and, preferably, tasted.  Chew toys can't compete with the allure of shoes, though human fingers are an acceptable substitute,  and repentance for transgression can be measured in nanoseconds. On the plus side, he's really smart.   In just three days he's learned to sit for his treat - but not for anything else. "Come" means nothing; "No" even less. "Leave it" is beginning to filter through...slowly..but only when he feels like obeying. So far I've removed two pennies, a ballpoint pen, and tree bark pellets - among other things -- from his mouth. Yuck.

I decided not to crate train him.  My bad.  I religiously take him out every two hours and he's really good about doing his business.  No accidents in the house, I'm happy to report.  But bedtime?  SuperNanny couldn't cope with this little scamp.  Night One: 45 minutes of repeatedly putting him on his cushion, saying "bed" with a quick cuddle and a soft toy.  Night Two: 30 minutes, Night Three: 30 minutes.  Night Four: 30 minutes. We seem to be in a holding pattern. If he's not on my bed, he's on Clue's -- anywhere but his own.

The joys of raising a puppy are indescribable.  The small triumph when he learns to walk across the slippery floor, the pride when he returns at the call of his name -- even if it is a fluke.  And then there's the flip side: the discovery of a white Christmas on your bedroom floor when he shreds a queen-size roll of quilt batting or drags a 36" doggie bed through the entire house, knocking over everything in his way.  Did I mention he weighs 12 pounds!

As women we are biologically programmed to bear our children when our bodies are young and strong. Resilience is a prerequisite for motherhood. The same should apply to puppies, particularly since grandparents are far more willing to babysit for their two-legged grandchildren than the four-legged ones.

Soon Henry will go to his "forever" home and only the good memories will remain.  The painful memories will dim, the selective amnesia will cloud my sanity and, yes, I'll foster again.

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