A New Puppy in the House

By Anne Garretson

Mikey arrives and I’m filled with the worry-filled excitement of raising a BluePath puppy whose future is immensely important. Every day dawns another chance for him to learn good manners and gain confidence. We have a whole year to do that. Uh-oh, we ONLY have a year. I don’t want to screw it up! I won’t screw it up.

The big dogs cut him some slack because he’s a baby. He jumps on them, bites their ears, pokes his nose in their bowls the second they inhale their last morsels, all tolerated for now. I cut him some slack, too. Mikey’s good manners will come. I tell myself it’s okay these first couple of weeks that he’s behaving in a way we won’t tolerate a couple of months from now. Each of the big dogs started out just like him and they turned out pretty fabulous.

His joy at the discovery of a shoe I didn’t stow out of his reach gets my attention. In a daze I think, wow, he’s pretty coordinated carrying that from the bedroom to the kitchen. No wait, that’s not his! Don’t chase him, entice him to drop it. Mikey’s accidents in the house are just that. I accidently didn’t take him out in time. I hear chewing… What’s in his mouth this time?? Good pup, it’s a toy. Mikey has arrived and I feel like I’m on a boat rocking on the open sea.

We spend our first weeks together confined to one baby-gated area of the house at a time until Mikey can safely be free from my sight. There’s an order to each day. After breakfast we stay in the kitchen where he and the big dogs have room to play tag and wrestle. They gently teach him to play tug with a toy. I toss a tennis ball to the other side of the room and he puts his instincts for retrieving to work. We move to the bedroom so I can get ready for work. The big dogs know the drill and settle themselves. Mikey plays nicely on his own. After awhile he settles down, too, and watches me.

Later in the day we section ourselves off in the living room. At first it’s just Mikey and me so we can rehearse a few simple commands. We incorporate these sits, downs, here and drop throughout the course of these beginning days together. His repertoire will grow as he does. Then the big dogs come join us for quiet playtime and cuddling while I catch the evening news. He is becoming part of a pack that loves to hang out together. I’m getting to know his body language, he’s paying attention to me and everyday he captures another piece of my heart.

This first part isn’t perfect… it never is.  But I feel lucky – again – to be part of another sweet puppy’s journey to become a partner for a kid who needs him.

BluePath Mikey (L) with retired autism service dog, Rumba (R).

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