From the Series: Life on Dog Hill
I don’t know how it happened, but someone snitched and told the newest member of our family, Bonnie Belle, that she is the only one in our clan left unmentioned in my social media world. I can’t imagine why she would care — after all, she’s just a pup. Then again she’s a Westie, and anyone who knows Westies understands my dilemma — they can be demanding. So here I am, spilling the beans to the world about Bonnie Belle, the now eight-month-old addition to Dog Hill. More specifically, to keep the canine art of zen flowing on Dog Hill, I’m explaining why I’ve been resistant to mention her in the first place.
I wasn’t ready for another dog. GASP!
There, I said it.
I am a life-long dog lover, but it is true that I wasn’t ready for another dog. I most certainly wasn’t ready for Bonnie Belle. We lost longtime family member Blizzard just last year, and my number one, Ms. Sandy Belle, not long before that. Anyone who has lost a fur-baby knows how long it takes to heal. Plus, we still have three dogs showering us with love. And finally, I thought Hubby and I had agreed to simplify our life — downsizing comes to mind.
In the ten years we’ve been here, Dog Hill has been home to a constant five-dog pack, most of them rescues. After one would cross over the Rainbow Bridge, we would rescue another. Only two Dog Hill dogs came (directly) from a breeder: our last Westie, Blizzard, and the new Westie, Bonnie Belle (aka BB).
I kept telling Hubby we could get the next Westie through a rescue, but he claimed no one ever gave up a Westie. Not true. People give up all kinds of purebred dogs for all kinds of reasons. I’ve had two rescued purebred Collies, one Samoyed, and one Miniature Pincher. And yes, I’ve seen Westies, too.
Then Hubby claimed he couldn’t wait that long. After Blizzard passed, he thought the house was incomplete without a Westie owning the place (and the pack).
I reminded Hubby that one reason I rescued older dogs is because they are almost always house trained, and training a puppy is a LOT of work. I pleaded for him to wait until Fall. By then I would have most of my big projects behind me; the summer would have come and gone; the kids would be back in school, and a new routine would have been easier to establish.
Hubby didn’t wait… couldn’t wait… and he found 10-week-old Bonnie Belle in Virginia, the last pick of the litter. That, according to Hubby, is exactly what he wanted because Blizzard had been the last pick of the litter, too. That had to be a good sign, right?
We picked up Ms. BB on a warm Saturday in April. Her first trip to the vet a few days later yielded an interesting response, “You should get her into puppy training right away because she is seriously way over the top.” That was euphemistic for “Your dog is frickin’ crazy!”
A follow up puppy visit with a different vet at the same clinic yielded the same recommendation. She even made a referral on the spot.
Needless to say, BB went into Puppy Kindergarten. I insisted Hubby take her since she was “his idea.” He complied, and when I’d ask how class went, he’d smile and say,
— sheila callaham (@SheilaCallaham) October 9, 2014
He said this with a straight face while Bonnie Belle untied his shoestring, yanked it from his shoe, and ran like a bat out of hell into the kitchen, through the dining room, into the living room and around again. And again. I got dizzy just watching.
“You shouldn’t let her get your shoestrings,” I admonished. “That’s not helping.”
“I didn’t notice,” he said, sipping his wine and smiling lovingly at his prize dog.
I wanted her to repeat Puppy Kindergarten since I saw no improvement after eight weeks. Much to my chagrin, Hubby marched proudly in the door after the last class and hung BB’s graduation certificate on the wall over the fireplace. Then he took pictures of it and texted all the kids. You’d think she just pawed a movie deal with plans to be the next Uggie….
“Did you sign her up to repeat?” I asked, looking incredulously at the certificate. “Is that thing even legit?”
“The trainer says Bonnie Belle needs to move on to the next phase,” he told me as he admired the certificate, a wide smile on his face.
“We’ll see about that,” I said, shaking my head and marching straight to my computer to send the trainer a note. I tried to be polite and blame Bonnie Belle’s lack of progress on her handler’s weakness for not enforcing consistent behavior at home. The bottom line, I pounded out on my keyboard, is that in eight weeks she’s learned to sit… sort of… and that’s it.
The next day I received a nice response from the trainer reminding me that BB was still just a puppy and that no puppy ever repeated kindergarten. It would be “boring” for BB, she told me.
*Long, deep sigh.…
Needless to say, I signed BB up for 1-1 training. Once weekly for six weeks.
“She’s easily distracted,” the trainer offered one day when I picked up BB at the end of a session. “And, she peed on my dogs’ bed. I know she did it on purpose because we had just returned from a long walk outside. Does she do that at home?”
I wasn’t sure if she was asking if BB was potty trained or if she peed on her fur-sibling’s beds out of spite. “Um, well, potty-training hasn’t been 100% successful,” I offered, visualizing all the puddles I clean up daily. “But she hasn’t peed on the other dog beds that I’ve noticed.”
Later that evening I shared the story with Hubby, as he tried to distract BB with the squeaky toy in his hand. She preferred pulling on the leg of his pants.
“Don’t let her do that!” I ordered. “That’s not helping!”
“She’s wrestling me,” he said, oohing and aahing over his little precious.
After her six weeks of 1-1 training, she knew how to sit. For real. But that’s it.
We’ve been taking our time with BB. Maybe the pressure of Puppy Kindergarten and intense K9 training was too much for her Westie spirit. According to Hubby, BB is very spiritual.
“How could I fail to notice her spiritual side, given all the time she’s spent digging in the Buddha planter?” I asked.
“She is not digging,” he informed me. “She is meditating on the path to enlightenment. Big difference!”
So, in an offering of Namaste, please allow me to introduce the newest member of our pack (drumroll, please,)… Ms. Bonnie Belle. Here’s to many years of Westie rule and the canine art of zen!