Week 4


The journey from smart, adorable puppy to well-trained adult family member

Well up to now, we’ve talked about bringing Theo, a 9-week-old Shepadoodle (German Shepherd/Poodle mix) home. In our home, we already had a 15 year old Irish Setter, a 15 yr. old longhair Chihuahua, and a 5 yr old Goldendoodle. Don’t judge. I’m a dog person, and my husband is becoming one, thankfully.

I knew that Theo, being a combination of two very intelligent breeds, would be both fun and challenging. I was right, by the way. He is very quick to pick up on commands, and smart enough to know how to ignore them when it suits him. That’s the challenging part.

We brought Theo home June 28, exacty a month ago tomorrow. He was 9 weeks old at the time. In 4 weeks, he’s gotten to know his home (or the areas in which he’s allowed to date). He’s learned “sit,” “lay,” and we’re working on “come” to be consistent. Sometimes he happily bounces to me as soon as I call him, and at others he acts as though he’s stone deaf.

He’s also shown interest in our pool, and that thrills me. None of our dogs swims, if you can believe that. A setter and a doodle? Of course the Chihuahua doesn’t. But those two? I was so hoping Theo would love to swim. He explores the pool’s edge, and last weekend, he climbed in and sat on a raft, floating around the pool. I gently took him off and let him swim to my husband and the steps. He’s a fast swimmer! He doesn’t run away and hide after a swim like that, so that’s a good sign. It’s such great exercise for big dogs, easy on their hips. Plus, it tires him out, Anything that tires Theo is welcome in this house!

One thing I haven’t written about is our assimilation progress. I knew it would be a process, getting a group of three female dogs – two of them very old – to accept him. Boy, was I right. Our setter is now on both Prozac and Xanax. The Chihuahua is on Xanax. Our Goldendoodle has slowly not only accepted him, but she plays with him and teaches him. It’s fun to watch. Still, she’s not a morning person, so he’s learning to steer clear of her until she’s good and awake.

I’ve worried about our two older dogs. I know this is stressful for them. I know we rocked their world when we brought this fur ball with sharp teeth and a strong bark into their quiet, old lady circle. But I’ll tell you something else I’ve seen. First, the Goldendoodle is much more active now that Theo is here. She had gotten to the point that she laid around and slept as much as the old girls did. OF course, we’d take her on walks, but it’s nice to see her zipping around, juking and jiving, and playing with him. It’s good for her, physically and mentally.

Our Chihuahua was scared of Theo when he first arrived, but that’s changed now. He likes to do drive-by boops on her derriere, and run. He thinks it’s funny. She does not. She’s become so aggressive with him, chasing him and snarling if he even looks in her direction (she weighs 5 lbs soaking wet). He still thinks she’s funny, but she’s popped HIM a few times on his rear end – with both of her teeth – so he has a little more respect for the barking funny fur ball that’s just the right size to play with. I hope they reach a grudging peace, and soon.

The Irish Setter, well, that’s another story. She will never, ever play with Theo. She hurts; arthritis has greatly affected her ability to walk. She isn’t in the mood to tolerate a bouncing, toothy, yapping, ball of energy. She has gone after him twice, and that’s all it took to make a believer out of little Theo. He gives her a wide berth, both in the house and outside. This morning, however, when he was still a bit sleepy and in a morning frame of mind, she did allow him to get on her bed and lay down, with their backsides touching. My heart nearly stopped when I saw him get on her bed, but I watched, and she allowed.

Vigilance is the key, even a month after bringing him home. I had always said I’d wait until our old girls left us before bringing in a puppy, but I did it for two reasons. First, I saw him, and immediately, I knew he was mine. Ayone out there who has ever loved a dog knows what I mean. Second, Raleigh (the Goldendoodle) really needs a young dog to help keep her young and fit. Mission accomplished there!

So now we’re all up to date with Theo’s journey. Next week, I’ll fill you all in on how he’s doing with “come,” whether he’s consistent with “lay,” and with a report on our first trip to the lake, boat ride included. They all have life jackets, so I’m excited to see how they do.

Carole Townsend is an author, journalist, and columnist living in metropolitan Atlanta. She and her husband have been married for nearly 20 years, and during that time, they have raised their children and now delight in doting on their granddaughter. Through those 20 years, they have brought 6 dogs into their home and family, and they have loved every one of them well and thoroughly. When she’s not writing, gardening, cooking, or training Theo, Carole travels throughout the southeastern United States, talking to women’s and civic groups about being a woman, loving a family, and writing. Visit her at www.caroletownsend.com, Carole Townsend – Author (Facebook), @caroletownsend (Twitter), and @carole.w.riter (Instagram).