A Dog’s Eye View: Puppy Diaries: The road home | SteamboatToday.com

A Dog’s Eye View: Puppy Diaries: The road home

Lisa Mason / For the Steamboat Today

Apparently, the puppies had not had a lot of exposure to the great outdoors because when our new puppy, Willa, reached the exit to the whelping area, she hesitated, bobbing in and out of the doorway like a child testing the cold waters of the ocean for the first time. She was eager to explore but uncertain how. Because the day was blisteringly hot, I simply picked her up, puppy breath and all, and carried her across the threshold, down the driveway and into the world.

Once at our car, I introduced Willa to Zoey, our soon-to-be 15-year-old Labrador retriever. Carefully placing and holding the puppy so she couldn't step too harshly or quickly, I presented her to Zoey. They exchanged sniffs and muzzle licks before Zoey gave a calm but clear "mom" growl, indicating that although she accepted this little being, here and now was not conducive to extensive greeting time. So, assuming the role of dog concierge for the trip home, I wrapped the puppy in a cotton blanket and held her in my lap, leaving Zoey to stretch out in the back. Eventually, I will teach Willa to be comfortable on her own, either in a crate or restrained by a seat belt, but today, the objective was to make her feel secure while having the experience of riding in a car.

We're off, and yet we're not. Nothing happened when we turned the car key. A dead battery; the stress of the air conditioner had done her in. Luckily, the breeder gave us a jump start, and although hot and a little exasperated, we were at least mobile. We swore not to stop until Steamboat, but having dogs — especially a senior and a very young one — it was not to be. A potty break was imminent. But we kept the engine running. All's good. Willa, a little concerned about this new car riding, experienced some motion sickness but discreetly deposited "it" in a fold of the blanket. All still is good.

In town, we needed to make two quick stops. No problem, right? One of us would stay in the car with the dogs, keeping the engine and air conditioning running. Famous last words. At each stop, our brains went on holiday … we turned the engine off — twice — within five minutes. Only because of the kindness and patience of strangers, and their jumper cables, did we make it home that night.

Once home, we escorted Willa on leash to her new potty area, letting her sniff and acclimate. Showing tentative curiosity, she investigated the newness. Taking her inside, we showed her the first level of the house, keeping her on leash and under our supervision. This interior field trip was followed by dinner and her first "chill" period, when I settled her on a little blanket, tethered to the bottom leg of the sofa, and gave her a peanut butter-smeared Kong. Zoey, my husband and I sat quietly, staring, wondering what the days would bring, what new things we'd learn from and about this Willa.

And so it begins …

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Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.

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