Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and Puppy Toddlerhood

After a couple of weeks of job applications, interviews, infections, allergic reactions, and schlepping children off to a college and an internship, I finally have time to post on my blog. It seemed every minute was accounted for by all of the above and taking care of Ginger. Despite her now reaching the ripe old age of 4 months, she is still very needy. In many ways, more so than before. Until recently, she was constantly at my feet. Now, she is a little braver and wanders off in the yard or the house, requiring me to go after her to make sure she hasn’t decided to bother a skunk, chew a hole in my comforter, or wipe her behind across the kitchen floor. (That surface has become her favorite place for after-constitutional cleansing.)

Having a puppy this age reminds me of raising a toddler. The puppy is completely dependent on me. I feed the puppy. I bathe the puppy. I calm the puppy. I play with the puppy. I discipline the puppy. I clean up after the puppy. I try to make up for lost time while the puppy is napping. The difference between now and when I first brought Ginger home is that she is so much more mobile and has so little judgment. Sound familiar, you parents out there?

Of course, there are certain socially, morally, and legally acceptable differences between caring for my puppy versus parenting a toddler. For obvious reasons, the Department of Children and Families in Massachusetts will not investigate me if I:

1. Put Ginger in a crate for two to three hours and leave the house. She cries at first, I walk away, and despite feeling a tad guilty, I am pretty sure that every other puppy owner is doing the same thing.

2. Spray my puppy with a hose if she gets really dirty outside before bringing her back in. She seems to enjoy these impromptu showers, actually. I assure you I wasn’t in the habit of doing this with my children although I will admit to being tempted on several occasions.

3. Encourage my dog to rub her rearend on the grass/walk so that she doesn’t do so on my floors. (What joy is in my heart when I discover such a smudge under my clean socks in the morning.)

4. Growl at my puppy. Lately, I have begun barking and growling at my dog. No, I haven’t suffered a psychotic split or finally revealed my secret alien self to my confused family. It’s just that sometimes the only action that works to break her manic moods is to bark and growl. If I say, “No,” to her, she often just barks right back at me and continues to bite my feet. 

5. Walk her around the neighborhood on a leash. Ginger demonstrates little talent for walking on leash. My husband and I can be seen on occasion pulling her along the street trying to get her to walk cooperatively. She must look quite pathetic while we are doing it. I must confess to having used a wrist lead with my rambunctious daughter on two occasions. She completely outwitted me and escaped, but that is a story for another post.

When my children were toddlers and riding in their car seats in the back, I wouldn’t even step out of the car to cross the sidewalk and return the Lyle, Lyle Crocodile video to the library dropbox. Partly, this irrational fear arose from the fact that the Taunton Police Station was about 40 yards away across the parking lot. I imagined that I might be characterized as an unfit mother if an officer saw me walk the 6 feet to the dropbox without my children in tow.  Partly, I was truly worried about leaving them in the car, if only for 10 seconds. My husband thought I was being quite neurotic; I wasn’t so convinced.

So, I have a question for all of you dog owners out there. How long does toddlerhood last in a dog? For example, when will I be able to leave her for 15 minutes to take a shower or walk around the block and not find my cell phone charger chewed to bits?


Puppy Fears

Last week, my daughter and I decided to conduct an experiment involving Ginger. We put her dog tag with her name and address back on her collar. Earlier in her stay with us, it became clear that the clinking of the tag against the ceramic bowl was scaring her (see “On How Food Bowls Can Be Evil”). We thought that perhaps five weeks later, she might have overcome her dread of jangling noises, but no such luck. Fortunately, as soon as we removed the tag, she resumed eating from the bowl. I was relieved that I didn’t have to spend another five days convincing her that bowl was not the font of all evil.

The things/situations that frighten our puppy are both varied and bizarre. They include:

1. The food bowl when it is at my parents’ house. For some unknowable reason, she would only eat off the floor in their sunroom.

2. Rain. She would rather hold it, than relieve herself in the rain.

3. Cars. Cars are leviathans that drive by our house and might just swallow her if she gets too close. She’s kind of right about that, actually.

4. The front yard. The back yard is a place to romp and be joyful. The front yard is where dangers both apparent and hidden exist. I can’t really put a finger on why the east side of our house has become so foreboding, but I think it has something to do with the contractors who were working across the street and their tools.

5. Any dog that barks within a block of our house.

6. The air conditioning unit. The only time the air conditioning unit is scary for we humans is when it is not working!

7. Our neighbors. Any sudden or unfamiliar noise from their yard is a reason to run for the door to go inside.

8. Weed whackers, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers. I agree; these can be terrifying.

9. The vacuum when it is not running, not when it is on. She will sit quietly and wait just a few feet away when I am using the vacuum, but will avoid walking near it at all costs when it sits idle.

10. Jets that have just taken off from Logan airport and are flying over our house. I think these are frightening because she cannot locate the source of the roar. Her head begins snapping around as she checks in all directions (except up) to locate the source of the sound. She invariably gives up and runs for the door.

11. Wind. I simply have no explanation for this.

Interestingly enough, there are things I would think that she’d be wary of, but isn’t. These include:

1. Bees. She will put her little nose right up to sniff them and even tried to eat one.

2. Raspberry canes in our backyard. I am loath to reach into these to pick raspberries to eat because my arms come back all scratched. She charges through them at full speed and even chews on them. So far she has yet to suffer from thorns in her tongue.

3. The vacuum. See above.

4. Me, even when I am angry with her. I weigh 15 times as much as she does, and she doesn’t seem to be the least bit trepidatious about disobeying me. In fact, if I scold her, she simply barks at me, as if to say, “In your face, lady . . .” Kind of like my daughter did when she was two all of those years ago . . .

Ginger’s Deposits

Poop patrol

There is a new chore in our house. It is called, “poop patrol.” So far I am the only person to have completed this job. Everyone else is simply pretending it doesn’t exist despite my announcing my intentions in a very audible voice when I exit the house to attend to it. Poop patrol consists of going out to the backyard with a corn-based biodegradable bag, and collecting puppy droppings. We don’t want the excrement to accumulate back there, and using one bag to collect many samples keeps our family from contributing too much to the doggy waste bags accumulating in landfills. Alas, on the most distasteful of occasions, this chore even involves the hose.


This job is most unpleasant, so I recognize why my family is turning a deaf ear to my not-so-subtle hints. My intimations notwithstanding, they prefer not to have to perform a disagreeable task that involves feces.


I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised considering that other such distasteful chores are mostly carried out by me. Those include cleaning the toilet, scrubbing the shower, picking hair out of the drain, rescuing earth worms after a rainstorm, waiting for the cable repairman, cleaning the birds’ cage, hosing out the garbage can, and disposing of anything that is rotten in the fridge.


In my children’s defense, I must say that I wasn’t always so willing to perform disgusting jobs. One week many summers ago, I had the responsibility of caring for my neighbors’ pets when they were on vacation. On the third or fourth day, I convinced my sister, who is younger by seven and a half years, to accompany me to their house to feed the hamsters and the cat. She immediately noticed a can of dog food covered with plastic wrap on the counter. Why it had gone overlooked by me on previous visits, I cannot tell you, except that I was a kid. The counter was about eye level for her, so she was more likely to notice the unattended can of canine chow.  (To this day, she is very perceptive and detail-oriented, by the way.)  When my sister and I more closely observed what I presumed was the plastic wrap glistening, something wriggled. In fact, there were many hundreds of maggots writhing inside the transparent film and the can it covered, and they began to drop off as I picked it up. The smell was overwhelmingly that of putrefying waste, and my reaction was to scream and run from the house straight to my mother next door. She came right back over with us, most likely imagining that something really ghastly had happened during my neighbors’ absence, like the roof had leaked, a fire had started, or an animal had gained entrance and was terrorizing us and destroying their belongings.  Maybe all three, given our piteous pleas for her help.


When my mother arrived on the scene, she carefully noted the “carnage,” and said, “You brought me over here for this? You must be kidding me.” But the container was repulsive to the extreme. Surely, she didn’t expect me to handle such a cursed object straight from hell. (My enlightened adolescent self appreciated, at the very least, that I shouldn’t leave it to marinate for three more days for the neighbors to discover.) Despite my explanations of why I didn’t know how to clean it (translation, did not know and didn’t want to find out), a few short minutes later, I was dropping the can and its inhabitants into a paper bag and then wiping up the maggots that had been scattered by my startled initial reaction. My mother returned from our house next door, with some Pine-Sol® and instructed me to disinfect the entire area. Unfairly, in my mind anyway, she did not expect my five-year-old sister to help.


I imagine that my adolescent brain and time have exaggerated how truly revolting that discovery was. Nonetheless, nothing has compared since, not squashed bugs, biological specimens, dirty diapers, or puppy vomit (See “Our Trip to Connecticut and An Evil Fungus”). Compared to that can of Hades-spawned creatures from my youth, picking up after Ginger isn’t really so bad.