Eating Crow, with a Side of Kibble

Although it’s not the first time this item has been on our menu, my husband and I have recently been feasting on a super-sized portion. We have been eating crow.

After publicly denouncing the merits of dog ownership, and mercilessly harassing (and now profusely apologizing to) friends for failing to resist their kids’ requests for a dog, we have lost a well-fought battle: we are the proud owners of an eight-week-old Australian Shepherd named Dingo.

For as long as I can remember, our kids have been begging and whining for a dog and we have been begging and whining for them to stop. There was absolutely, positively no way a dog would ever become part of our family, we constantly told them and suggested that they move on.  So they did, and depending on the day, fish, gerbils, guinea pigs and hamsters topped their lists of potential must-have pets.  Then, it was horses, cats, reptiles and spiders.

There was even talk of fencing in the wild turkeys and white-tailed deer that were frequent visitors to our back yard during the winter and early spring.

The guilt of denying them a pet began to set in after we babysat a puppy a couple of months ago. The kids were diligent in their dog-related tasks, clearly adored the pup and delighted in the opportunity to care for her.  They rushed to see her when they got up each morning, and fell asleep at night dreamily recounting stories that illustrated how wonderful it was to have a dog.

So, after long discussions, signed agreements and video-taped declarations, we agreed that, at 12 and nine, our kids are old enough, and deserve the opportunity to take on the responsibilities of pet ownership.

Each family member has their own expectations of our new companion.

Twelve year old Nick is teaching her, with surprising success, to retrieve a landed Frisbee. Given how well she is doing with fetching, he jokes about recruiting her for neighborhood road hockey games.  As our chief yard scooper, Nick also hopes that our canine-Einstein will soon be able to take over that task…and perform it quickly in order to return to her hockey position as soon as possible.

Nine-year-old Elena is thrilled to have a live, furry toy and takes every available opportunity to over-cuddle her. She would like nothing more than to snuggle up to her puppy in bed…and she’s not fussy about whose bed.  Dingo seems grateful (and less confused) since the early implementation of the rule that humans are not allowed in her crate.

My husband hopes that Dingo will eventually earn her keep by fetching him a refreshment from the fridge. But right now all he really cares about is the ability of her bladder to get her through the night.

As for me, I frankly, care very little about what Dingo can do, but concern myself, rather, with what she doesn’t do. Relieving herself on the floor, chewing on furniture and stealing our shoes are, at this point, the big three we are trying to avoid.

In addition to information gleaned while raising children – always be consistent, set limits, and provide lots of positive reinforcement – I pulled another tidbit from my dog-specific arsenal. I was certain I held a golden nugget of training information, with which I simply couldn’t fail.  In order to achieve the necessary status of head of the pack, it is important to behave as the alpha dog by grasping the puppy by the scruff of the neck and growling “No!” when she behaves in an undesirable manner.

We start obedience training next week.