Mandi And Ellen At The Mansion
If I were to write another children's book, which is unlikely, I think I would write a story imagining a puppy's first day out in the world. I was thinking about Gus's perspective today, we picked him up from Robin Gibbons, his breeder, at 11 a.m. He is eight weeks old. Up until two or three days ago, he was nursing off of his mother Hannah, who was beginning to resist sharp teeth on her tender nipples.
Some hunters and dog lovers like to get their dogs at seven weeks rather than eight because that is when mothers tend to reject their puppies, and the puppies are looking for some other living thing to connect with. Hunters want dogs to focus on them, like sheep herders.
Until today, Gus was never out of sight of his mother, had only been outdoors a few times in Robin's back yard, had always had his two siblings to play with and sleep with. He had never been alone. We came and took him away from everything he had known – the familiar smells, sounds, companions and transported him to an alien world.
This is an important time for a dog, a critical time. The next month or so is the most intense socialization period for dogs it will largely determine (all things considered) how he or she relates to people, it can cause confidence or timidity, aggression or comfort with people and other animals.
Gus was very calm this morning as we introduced him to all kinds of people and places – the book store, the Round House Cafe, my friend Scott, the Mansion residents, the people in the hardware store. He was probably in shock, but he was too busy and distracted to miss anything.
I saw he is a very, viscerally affectionate dog, easy being handled by people, affectionate with everyone he met.
He is a dog who just loves people, much like Fate and Red. We didn't really see his personality emerge until afternoon, when we sat out on the back lawn near the pasture and he joyously attacked his stuffed octopus (Fate made a grab at it, but wasn't successful). Playing was good for him, as it is for puppies. It instills confidence and teaches the strategies they will need to live in our world.
I was very happy with our visit to the Mansion, the residents loved Gus, and he loved them. That will be an exciting chapter for me and him.
At dinnertime, we took him to Pizza Night at the Round House, we sat outside at a sidewalk table, Gus lay down by my feet and put his head on my shoe and was still all during dinner. This surprised and impressed me. He is nearly leashed trained, he walked alongside us for two or three blocks.
When we got home, we could see he was exhausted, it was around 7 p.m. Maria is into training this dog, she walked him around the yard and we put him in his crate. I could only imagine his bewilderment and confusion at being confronted with so many new things -Fate, Red, all those people, the farm, the animals here, the smells and sights and absence of his mother and siblings.
What a full plate for such a little creature.
Up to now, she hasn't had that kind of confidence with dog training, she often said she wasn't good at it. But she is. Maria is good at anything she decides to do.
I stop all water at 6 p.m. with puppies, and he has eliminated outside several times, for which we praised him extravagantly, like parents whose kids are using the potty.
Then the hard part for him, we put him in his crate, pulled the blankets around it so he can't see much outside and said good night. He is alone for the first time now, he cried pitilessly for about a half an hour, then fell asleep. I know this is difficult for many people, but I believe it is a struggle the human must never lose. Gus must be comfortable in his crate, he will not have the run of the house for weeks, if not months, until he is housebroken and focused on his own things to chew.
That takes some work, and it sets the tone for the rest of our lives with him. As with kids, there are some fights you just can't afford to lose. If he thinks for one second we will let him out he cries, no matter how long or loud, then we are off on the wrong foot, and he will never stop screaming.
He has been asleep for an hour now, and I think that battle has been won, at least the first phase.
He must learn to be alone, and to be comfortable with himself, this may be a hard lesson for him, but not for long. Dogs are the most adaptable animals on the planet, and Gus was loved and fussed over all day long, by us and about 100 other people who wanted to meet him, touch him, hug him.
Gus is a grounded dog, resilient, alert and biddable. He may never have a harder day than today, I hope so.
This is the world he must live in, it is my job to help him make the transition. Monday, he goes to the vet to register there and meet Dr. Suzanne Fariello. Every dog in the litter goes there.
Tomorrow, we are going to spend the day with him. Next week, he will join me and Red and Maria and spend much of several days at the RISSE refugee kids retreat at the Pompanuck Farm Institute. I bought flashlights and tick spray today. Tomorrow night, Maria and I are going to Bennington, Vt., to attend an evening of belly dancing to benefit the Meals On Wheels program at the Bennington Town Hall.
I don't think we will bring Gus to that, but Maria and I are both looking forward to it. Otherwise, the weekend belongs to us and Gus and the animals on the farm. I am very tired, so is Maria. We did well today, and so did our new pup. I think his hardest night is almost over.