Raising a puppy is like raising kids. You start out stern, large and in charge. You convince yourself that you will be the boss, you will handle the situation and no matter how much the little dear tries your patience, you will maintain the upper hand.
Or so you tell yourself.
When our first son, Vernon, was born I had a real, “No child of mine would ever …” attitude. My child would not stand on the couch, would not be disrespectful and certainly would never eat crayons.
Just to drive the idea home, I added a firm and well meaning, “I forbid it!”
And forbid I did. That child of mine would not embarrass me in public, or never once, ever, gain the upper hand.
One minute our Vernon was a darling bundle of joy and the next he was doing everything I ever forbade him to do.
It took a lot of rearing; I’ll give you that. There were tears, stern talks and an abundance of discipline, but we got through it.
I did the same with sons two, three and four. We weathered the storm and raised them to be fine young men, despite themselves, as well as their inner need to seek out and destroy everything in their paths.
When our puppy, Sadie, joined our family last spring, I took heart. Upon taking her in, I gave her a lot of love, hugs and told her she was going to have a great life here at our loving home.
However, it wasn’t long before little Sadie started to show her dominant side and a tad bit of stubbornness.
Well, I wasn’t putting up with that! Still, the first time I told her “No,” she looked me in the eyes, barked in my face and I promptly gave her the “what for!”
“Listen here, little missy,” I said as I gazed sternly back into her darling eyes. “I raised four stubborn sons and if you keep it up, you’re quickly going to find yourself in the doghouse!”
Although I’m sure that all Sadie heard in her cute little head was, “blah, blah, blah,” she certainly must have picked up on a tone and despite it, promptly barked at me again.
It has been a battle of wills ever since. I’m quite certain, however, that I would have won these battles long ago if it weren’t for those darn sons of ours and their intervening ways.
They didn’t want to discipline her puppy-ness, got a kick out of it when she went into “Sadie mode,” and didn’t make her behave when they were “Sadie sitting.”
When I called them on it, the general response was, “But look how darling she is!”
Sadie’s cute and snuggly ways got her through chewing up remotes, shoes and Dad’s best baseball cap.
What I saw as destruction, our sons saw as adorable.
The worst part of it all was Sadie on the couch. Now I’m here to contend that there is nothing quite as comforting as curling up with a yellow lab puppy. But when that puppy gets big enough to scratch your leather couch … well, it just has to stop.
Sadie and I had a nice little visit about it following Christmas break after our older three sons returned to their campus homes far away from their mother. I was intent to put the kibosh on it.
Although I’m sure that all Sadie heard during my lecture was the aforementioned “blah, blah, blah,” she certainly must have picked up on a tone because she promptly looked me in the eyes and barked at me yet again.
I have many faults, but I tell you this, I can discipline right through any amount of cuteness. In fact, I darned near had Sadie broken of her “couching” when one of our sons came home for a visit last weekend.
“But look how precious she is!” he exclaimed after I caught Sadie standing on the arm of the sofa in a position reminiscent of George Washington crossing the Delaware.
It may have been cute, but for me it was about as darling as what Sadie did to the remote control when my back was turned.
It has become quite obvious that we are going to have to carefully choose those who watch over her in our absence from now on. I hope our sons see the light. Otherwise, they might just find themselves Sadie sitting in the doghouse.
Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.