Title: Tale Waggers - Rites of Passage  Image: Emma learning how to come down stairs.









Last night was Duncan's first full night on the "people bed".

He'd been treated to a few "let's sleep another hour" weekend lay-abouts, but never the entire night. When he realized that the door to his crate was left open, he scrambled up on the bed and nailed his little body there with great hopes. He was rewarded. In the morning, he woke, looked around and realized he was right in my face. He began to vibrate with joy. I swear he smiled - right before he stuck his grateful little doggie tongue in my eye.

He's a big boy now.

Puppy lives are full of these milestones - rites of passage into the land of the "big dogs".

First full night's sleep
This milestone is for our benefit - puppy does not care one bit.

First unaccompanied "potty party" in the dark
Terrifying puppy-eating monsters are vanquished at last - now the beastie will not come in when you call.

First time upstairs alone
You hear the confusion in the wails - "I'm alone! I'm up high! How'd I get here?? HELP ME!"

First time down the steps without wailing on each stair.
Now nothing upstairs is safe. Puppy has forged a trail to a new frontier.

First evening spent watching TV on the couch with the people.
They lie very still for as long as they can, just savoring the forbidden territory.

First "rawhide festival"
With multiple dogs, the game becomes how to KEEP your first rawhide.

First snowfall
"Do I walk in it, eat it, roll in it - WHAT?"

First game of "snowball fetch"
Doggie torture for our amusement.

First road trip to exotic places
New butts to sniff, trails to follow, REST AREAS!

First "big dog" bark
No more tin horn - "I mean BUSINESS"!

First squirrel chase
Right into the fence or tree - head-on.

First cat encounter
The poor cats in the vet's office. They must dread hearing "say hi to the nice kitty".

First meal of "big dog" food
Eaten with gusto as you weep with pride at having survived another puppyhood.

First discovery of that unexplored wonderland - the basement
A cobweb-coated head is the giveaway they always miss.

First true devotion to a special toy
Puppy love which often blossoms into a lifelong commitment.

First attack of "the energies"
That high speed, energy to spare, circular puppy drag race which usually results in a total makeover of the yard or living room or a head-on collision with some immovable object.

Most of these milestones pass nearly unnoticed. It's a shame, really. Their frequency decreases rapidly as puppies grow. One day you're coaching them as they creep down the steps, fearful and whining - the next thing you know, they're running down the stairs at full speed (missing the last few and crashing into the wall, but nobody's perfect). One minute they're screaming at the bathroom door because you've abandoned them - the next you're wondering where they've wandered off to.

Duncan's rites of passage were complicated by the other pack members - mainly Emma. The boss-dog has been known to misuse her status on occasion. I remember well the first time he stood on his hind legs and charged her with real anger after a bit of rough treatment. I can still see the look of grim determination on his face the day he decided he would KEEP his toy and not surrender it on demand. Until that day, Emma could open his jaws with just a look. Each day, he attempts to reposition his role in the pack ever so slightly. Some days are more successful than others. To our surprise, Emma has been a (mostly) benevolent leader, still treating him like a puppy, despite the fact that he now outweighs her.

Not every advance is greeted with favor. One day Duncan attempted to mount Emma. He'd tried everything else - why not go for the gold? Emma fired a warning glance over her shoulder. "Happy Boy" was too busy to notice. Next thing he knew, he was pinned to the floor and screaming. A few weeks later, his hormones got the better of him and he forgot his lesson. This time, apparently clueless as to the purpose behind actions, he attached himself to her head. She and I exchanged a knowing glance as she peered from between his legs. I knew what was about to happen…. Sure enough, she nipped at the first thing handy and Duncan learned his most important lesson yet -- Sometimes growing up can be painful.


Copyright 1998 Elizabeth Cusulas
Tale Waggers - Stories for Dog People
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction without written permission is expressly forbidden