The Puppy Rules


When I was in high school, I had relentlessly begged for a puppy. Finally, my dad caved in, but not without a firm list of parameters. I would have to take care of the puppy…feeding, fresh water, walks, cleaning up messes…it was a lot of responsibility. Of course, I promised I would be responsible…just, PLEASE, let me get that puppy!

There was a bit of debate over what type of dog to get. I wanted a beagle, which I would name Bagel, just like Barry Manilow had. But my dad and brother were leaning towards a cocker spaniel, because Dad had had a cocker spaniel named Fella, which was, by all accounts, a wonderful pup. In the end, the cocker spaniel was the winner, and we decided to name him Flaps, because of the floppy ears.

In preparation for Flaps coming home with us, we got a collar, a leash, bowls, food, and piddle pads. We also got a big piece of fiber board to block off the kitchen for potty training nights, and painted his name on it in large, yellow letters, letting him know this was HIS own special door. Of course he would want to spend his nights behind HIS door, right?

Along with all of the responsibilities Dad had imposed, he also talked with us about training the pup. We would have to take him outside for frequent potty breaks, but through the night, he would stay in the kitchen, which didn’t have carpeting, and would be easier to clean up. He explained to us that a puppy would likely cry and whine when left alone in the kitchen all night, missing its mother, no doubt. He cautioned us NOT to go into the kitchen if we heard him crying or barking or whining during the night. We HAD to be strong, and let the puppy learn to be alone. It was very important, Dad went on telling us, NOT to teach the puppy that if he made enough noise, we would come to his rescue.

When we brought little Flapsy home, we were SO in love with him…cuddling all the time, barely leaving him alone to eat, pee or poop. But eventually, night began to fall. So, we got the piddle pads on the floor, put up the board with his name on it, and said our good nights. Dad gave the stern reminder NOT to go to the dog if we heard him during the night, no matter what.

It was a rough night for all of us, Flaps included. He did NOT feel special for having his own, personalized door, keeping him neatly tucked in the kitchen for the night. He wanted to find his new humans, and cuddle up with them. He cried, he whined, he barked that little, high-pitched, yappy bark that pups have. He howled. He scratched at the door we’d so carefully crafted for him. He was NOT a happy camper.

In our rooms, my brother and I tried to be strong…tried to ignore the anguished cries that went on and on. From the sound of the scratching, surely he had tunneled out to China by now. Then, as loud as it had been, it was suddenly quiet in the kitchen. No barking, no crying or whining, no howling, and no scratching to escape.

My brother and I both eventually got up to go see how the puppy was doing, since it seemed he’d suddenly gotten over his angst at being left alone. The vision we were met with was indeed comical. Flaps had not gotten used to his nightly digs. No…my dad was sitting at the kitchen table in his underwear, cradling the wee pup in his arms, talking in sweet baby dog talk to little Flaps, assuring him it was all right. The firm words from Dad were apparently only for my brother and I…Dad was operating under his own set of rules. Neither my brother nor I will ever forget that scene.



One response »

  1. That’s one of the great things about dads; they put on airs of stern authority, but they’re really softies. Mine was like that, too. 🙂

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