Training puppy didn’t go as planned
Leslie Snow, Shopper News
I had such big plans for Buttercup.
I dreamed her into existence when “coronavirus” was just a word I’d heard a few times on the nightly news. She was born before daily case counts scrolled across our TV; before we knew about variants and subvariants, and when a vaccine was a fervent wish instead of something to fear.
But weeks after I brought my Great Dane puppy home, the world shut down. That’s when Buttercup and I became a bonded pair.
We had nowhere to go and nothing to do, so I decided to make training my new dog my singular focus. I pledged to spend my days teaching her basic obedience along with a few crowd-pleasing tricks. I vowed to stick to a daily training schedule that would make her the most well-behaved of all my dogs.
And that’s just how things went. For about a week.
Then my sister got sick, and my world was upended. The time I’d set aside to train my puppy was lost in trips to Ohio and phone calls to doctor’s offices.
I never did train Buttercup properly, but in an odd twist of fate, she decided to train me instead.
Most of Buttercup’s commands are a combination of pitiful whines and nonverbal cues. And as I’m very well trained, I can interpret even the most subtle changes in vocalizations.
When she cries by the bathtub and stares at me intently, she wants a drink from the faucet.
When she whimpers pitifully in the middle of the night, she wants me to cover her with a blanket.
And when she nudges me while I put on my shoes, she wants me to take her for a walk.
Buttercup is a skilled human trainer. She rewards me with a wag and a nuzzle when I follow her instructions; she barks impatiently if I go astray. She’s firm but loving, and most of the time, I earn her approval.
The last couple weeks she’s been trying to teach me a new trick. I’m embarrassed to say it’s taken me a while to learn it.
For this trick, she stands at the top of the walkway that leads down to Fort Loudon Lake and howls. That’s my cue to go to the lake and pick up a raft. Once I’m in my raft, she waits for me at a spot where she can get into the water easily. If I take too long to swim to her, she barks impatiently. Once I’m in position, she gets in the water so we can swim together.
Buttercup thinks it’s the best trick she’s ever taught me. And I agree.
She stays by my raft, swimming around me, nuzzling me with her nose to keep me in line. If I float too far away, she barks until I come closer. I follow her commands because she’s smart and I know she has a lot to teach me.
Over the last two years Buttercup has taught me to be a good listener and to meet each moment with unending exuberance. She’s schooled me on the importance of daily exercise and taught me that treats make every day a little sweeter.
Her zest for living has reminded me to be present and to enjoy all of life’s simple pleasures, from taking a Sunday drive to meeting new friends who smell good.
I’m grateful for my COVID puppy. And even though I pictured our training sessions a little differently in my head, I’m proud to say, I’ve turned out to be a very good girl.
Leslie Snow may be reached at snow firstname.lastname@example.org