Dec 21: Niko went to work with Stuart at Castle Mountain Ski Resort for the first time yesterday; he was patient with the throngs who wanted to pet him, and he stepped in front of Stu again to protect him – this time from a guy loaded up with ski equipment. When he came home, Niko nipped at my hand as I reached for him. Stu grabs a tooth or snout when Niko tries this with him; my singsong “No!” and tap under the pup’s chin is usually ignored. Frankly, when I see how adept Stu is at handling Niko, I feel ridiculously incompetent.
Last night I watched “60 Minutes” while Stu and Niko played in the puppy room. They’re in an exclusive club and I haven’t figured out the secret password.
Dec 22: Stuart is Niko’s new littermate. They sleep together and go out and pee together.
Dec 23: At the office, I’m working on inventory, and it occurs to me that a box of files weighs about the same as Niko. The creaking door sounds like a puppy crying.
Dec 24: As we eat dinner, Stuart gets up and leaves every two minutes to check on Niko. The pup has learned to “sit” when Stu directs him; it’s very impressive. I, on the other hand, am the immovable object, the ornery old dog who won’t get off her mat in front of the cozy fire. I’m being foolish and difficult even to myself. Maybe I’m just nervous about Christmas.
From my humble, know-nothing-about-dogs perspective, having a puppy is turning out to be more about changing me than anything else. In blissful ignorance, I thought a puppy would be fun, but his presence has turned every part of my home world on its ear, from straddling the baby gate to get to the basement laundry, to needing to watch the pup constantly in case he a) gets into something he shouldn’t, b) shows signs of wanting out, or c) is peeing on the floor. In a commencement speech, David Foster Wallace said we each believe that we’re the centre of the universe. I feel bumped from the centre of my universe by this little guy. I know it’s not his fault, that he’s just existing, but his existence requires Stu’s and my constant everything.
Christmas Day: I’m excited for Christmas Day. Stuart is finally off for one day.
Boxing Day: Niko was a dream puppy yesterday, with no interest in the presents or gift wrap; when he felt like interacting, he flopped down close to where we were and was sweet with everyone. He did throw-up while we ate Christmas dinner, but no one at the table was offended. Everyone said he looked like a stuffed toy, splayed out on the floor with his hind legs straight out behind him.
When he came in from not peeing moments ago, he was in his rambunctious mood, attacking his toys and my arms. I am bleeding in three places. When, as Stuart suggests, I give him an alternative to my arm to chew on, it only helps for a second. Should I not pet him when he’s so high-spirited?
It’s starting to get light out; it’s wonderful to watch the day begin. I feel hungry and my coffee’s cold, but Niko’s asleep and calm, and it’s a bit of bliss here with just the electric heater rumbling along. I don’t want to disturb the reverie. Niko just stood up, yawned, wobbly-walked about three feet and flopped down on the floor. I said, “Hi, Little,” because I thought he was awake, but he wasn’t.
Dec 27: Niko sniffed around the door, so I let him out and he high-tailed it across the yard, hunkered-down and had a poo. “Good boy!” I called out, and as he turned to start eating it, I ran over and grabbed the flash-freezing poo from the snow with a plastic bag. I turned, with poo in hand, and saw two other piles nearby. “Oh shit,” I muttered automatically, and then I laughed out loud.
My sister gave me the book, Inside of a Dog – What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz for Christmas. I’m reading it like an owner’s manual, taking the approach that maybe I don’t know everything about Niko, but I can learn. It’s a relief to have a reference, rather than feeling like I should just know this stuff instinctively. Horowitz, who teaches psychology, animal behaviour and canine cognition, stresses that a dog is not a human, and that anthropomorphizing dogs’ behaviour so we can understand them isn’t always accurate. Reading about such things as Niko’s exceptional sense of smell and that I’m not the first person to be thrilled with a dog’s eye contact, makes me feel like I am inching closer to understanding.
Dec 30: My alarm was set for six, but I heard Niko crying at five twenty-something and thought maybe he was outside and Stuart was in the shower. Stu and Niko were in the kitchen though; Stu was making Niko’s breakfast, and the pup was crying in anticipation, as I’d heard him do with his brothers and sisters.
Dec 31: I came into the puppy nursery to be with Niko at 5:30, and tried to doze off, but had a vision of being alone in a container and knowing that the only way to my loved ones was to swim up and up through water, hoping my breath would hold. Finally getting to the top of the water, I ran into a cover and couldn’t get through. I had to open my eyes and look at Facebook to distract myself.
Niko and I went for a short walk – should call it a “sniff” – around half the block.
Tonight is New Year’s Eve, and all I know is that time is flying, and that this house is going to get smaller and smaller as Niko gets bigger.
Jan 1: I slept in the puppy room for the first time last night, hanging my hand off the couch to remind Niko that he was not alone. Sometimes he licked at my hand and gently mouthed it; a warm, wet puppy mouth can be a miraculous, gentle place.
This Christmas my daughters came home, and they, as ignorant of puppies as their mother, did their best to help with Niko. I have a video of Madeline running back and forth in the snowy yard, all skinny legs and striped leggings, with Niko holding her fringed poncho in his clamped teeth.
It’s a new day, a new year, and it’s two weeks since we brought Niko home. It feels longer. Every hour, every day an upheaval, a stretch, something new to consider, a new way to do, to be. Davey and Jade watch Niko from high vantage points; they walk cautiously by, and come into the puppy room when Niko is outside. Stuart tells me it’s going to be tough for a while, that Niko will be a teenager, and it could be a year or two of challenges.
Later, I find myself with a sleeping cat obliterating the notebook on my lap desk, and a stuffed-toy puppy snoring softly on the floor. They are content and trusting. Who am I to question their judgment?