EXHAUSTION is not the best state in which to greet a new year, which is why people are strongly advised never to get a puppy at Christmas.
As you are well aware, experts say this is the worst possible time to introduce a pet of any sort to your house because there’s too much going on and not enough time to focus on wee Whatzit.
It gets fed inappropriately, walked inconsistently, and is exposed to nasty things like tinsel and turkey carcasses. Give a promissory note for the pet, say the pros, and pick it up in January.
This advice makes perfect sense. I’m the first to look disapprovingly at anybody who says they’re tying a bow around a creature and placing it excitedly under a Christmas tree. And yet -- you guessed it -- we imported a writhing demon into our perpetual chaos just in time for December’s festivities.
Regular readers of this column may recall that our dear old lab-retriever cross, Molly, died last February. We missed her too much to remain dog-free, and when her half-brother sired a new litter, we asked to buy one of the female pups. My husband Stanley and I flew to Alberta to pick her up on Dec. 18th.
Then all hell broke loose. Little Stella is, of course, adorable, cuddly, etcetera. She’s also a stubborn-minded beast with her own dastardly agenda. Her moments of incontinence are nothing compared to her compulsive need to investigate every sound, smell, flavour and texture in her environment, and her dedication to exploring the toothsome qualities of human flesh.
We are all peppered with punctures at this point. Stella’s enthusiastic destructiveness knows no bounds – I’ve had my earrings ripped out of my ear, and she’s even demolished the cover of my current paperback, called I Think I Love You. (I shouted “I think I’ll kill you,” but I was only kidding.) The dog gets some five walks a day and plenty of additional outdoor time, so it’s not a matter of neglect. She’s just a tiny hellion, much like her auntie in her youth.
As a puppy, Molly once stole my brassiere and dashed into the garden with it. I only had two, and trust me, they were not superfluous. I chased Little Ms. Frisky around the garden long enough that she was convinced this was a wonderful game.
At one point I tried to halt her crazed cavorting by distracting her, clumsily throwing whatever was in my left hand in her general direction, thinking that at worst, it would clip her in the rear. It was only as the object sailed through the air that I realized it was my key ring. The dog happened to stop right then, and she got it in the eye. It scratched her cornea and I was most unpopular with the vet, his assistants and our young kids when I confessed. (She healed up fine, and I never threw anything sharp at her again.)
Molly made other enchantingly stupid moves, like eating charcoal and drinking half a vat of used cooking oil left in a friend’s back yard.
Stella, now 10 weeks old, is every inch her aunt Molly’s equal and may well surpass her for naughtiness. On New Year’s Eve she had good company in our son, who came home from a party extremely late, hungry and looped, waking Stella in her doggy crate. She began to yelp. The ravenous Bart then threw a pound of bacon in a pan set on high heat, sending the dog into a new level of howling, which woke Stanley.
Outraged that Bart would leave the dog imprisoned and allow her caterwauling to disturb his sleep, Stanley charged down the stairs just as the smoke alarm went off. While a grumbling Stanley let Stella out of her cage, Bart threw open the kitchen’s sliding doors to let out the smoke and dashed up to the second floor to turn off the alarm, while carrying the panful of hot bacon fat.
As Bart attempted to shut off the alarm, the hot fat spilled all over the carpet. Meanwhile, downstairs, the puppy escaped through the sliding door. Stanley caught her before she went M.I.A., but realized she would have to be walked at 4 a.m. if there was any hope of her going back to sleep in her crate and him going back to sleep in our bed. He put on her leash and began a stolid march up the street to tire her out.
Then a train chugging along the waterfront blew its whistle. Stella did an about-face and flew down the road toward the source of this novel sound, towing her master like an inflatable dinghy behind a speedboat. Luckily, he managed to stop her before she got involved with any oncoming trains.
I only heard the details of this eventful night the next day, by way of a grouchy welcome to 2012 from Stanley: “Happy f****** New Year.” Thus, we kicked off January bruised, bitten and shell-shocked.
Ah, pets. Whatever would we do without them?