Canine Conundrum

“We really don't have time to train a puppy,” my husband Bob said.

- Posted on Jan 14, 2011

“We really don't have time to train a puppy,” my husband Bob was saying into his phone. “Really? She's already housebroken?”

Next thing I knew, we had a puppy. A sweet, 6-month-old female Beagle with silky, floppy ears and one of those heart-melting brown-eyed gazes. Bob's friend had gotten her from a friend, who'd bought her for his dad, who couldn't keep her, and now he was trying to find her a good home. How could we say no?

The little Beagle cowered in the doorway as we petted her and coaxed her into exploring her new surroundings. Surroundings which include our two indoor cats, Pearl and Catillac. All evening, Pearl trailed after the puppy as she sniffed every inch of the house, like she was trying to study this weird creature that looked and smelled so non-feline. Catillac steered totally clear, except when the puppy tried to investigate her—then she let loose with a hiss and bolted from the room.

When we went to sleep, the puppy was napping on the ottoman in front of the fireplace, totally at peace. We had taken her outside, but she wouldn't “go.” Oh well, I figured. She's had a stressful day. She probably didn't eat or drink anyway. She’ll bark at the door if she needs to go out....

In the morning, I flipped on the living room light—to reveal four “piles” and a puddle!

I'd swear Catillac looked positively smug.

All day, I kept taking the dog outside on the leash, standing in the single-digit temperatures with her in the snow, encouraging her to go potty. And every time, five minutes after I'd give up and take her in the house, she'd squat and use the living room rug. So frustrating! We were cat people now, out of practice at training dogs. With cats, all you usually have to do is place a litter box in front of them. Pearl’s first litter box was a shoebox lid filled with cedar shavings, and even at only a few weeks of age, she’d known exactly what to do with it!

Monday came, and Bob and I had to go to work. We couldn't take the dog with us, couldn't leave her alone in the house...so she ended up spending the day in the garage. As soon as we shut the door, she started howling, this high-pitched, screaming howl that was just heartbreaking. That afternoon, we tried again to teach this dog that “inside” was not a toilet. And again, she didn't get it. So much for “already housebroken.”

The cats crouched on the windowsill, ears twitching, listening to the poor puppy howl. Both of them eyed me reproachfully. “You're right,” I told them. “We're failing her.” But if we take her to the shelter and no one wants her, they'll kill her....

But it was clear. Neither of us had time to train this dog properly, and by letting her use the garage floor, we were just confusing her.

We started asking around, and a friend of Bob's knew a lady at church whose puppy gotten sick and died around Christmastime. Her 6-year-old daughter was heartbroken. The timing seemed…well, perfect. When our little Beagle met her new family, it was love at first sight.

That night, as I cuddled Catillac in my lap and Pearl perched on the back of the couch behind me, I felt a twinge of sadness that it wasn’t the right time in our lives for a puppy. Maybe someday. But for now, I’m thankful that cats are such low-maintenance creature—with so much love to give.

—Allison Ruffing

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