Until recently, we were a cat family. There were occasional deviations, most notably ‘Cutlets’, the abandoned lamb Kenn raised to be an interim lawn mower when we lived in Wagga Wagga, but otherwise only cats with personality have shared their lives and antics with us. Secretly though, I think that Kenn has always had a soft spot for puppies demonstrated by his determination to teach our kittens ‘doggie’ tricks. For example, Muffin, a white Persian kitten, learnt to play fetch and would stay and sit on command, often on Kenn’s desk as he started and completed 3000 word essays the night before they were due. Nym, a lovely gentle Himalayan, learnt to beg for treats and snuggle close while watching TV, while our latest kitten, Callie, races puppylike down the hallway to the front door when she hears his car pull up outside. Who needs a puppy when they can have a kitten, I thought. But I now realise that these tricks are pale imitations of the ‘joys’ of ‘real’ puppies.
My first close encounter of the puppy kind came with Moet. Friends, Helen and Phil, (longtime dog gurus) welcomed an adorable, golden retriever puppy into their home. Moet was lovely: not too yappy, not too boisterous, definitely not bitey and best of all, sensitive to the needs of her human friends. She was, and is, content to sit and wait quietly while we humans chat over a coffee or tea, sip a champagne while nibbling some cheese or indulge in a late breakfast. My puppy prejudices were fading away….
Then Melissa and Ben returned from their honeymoon and blithely let us know that we were going to grandparents – to a red and white border collie, named Ninja. What fun, I thought. I can play with a cute bundle of fluff until Ninja is suitably tired and cross and then hand her back to her parents. Isn’t that what grandparents do? Have all the fun and none of the fuss?
Alas, no-one told me anything about toilet training and puppies before I volunteered to puppy sit. Ninja was so loving that she greeted us and anyone who visited with a liquid gift. Consequently, I found myself hosing down the back patio – a lot. And I squishily learnt that the ability to hold one’s breath for at least a minute was essential while mastering the ins and outs of plastic poo bags. Luckily, knots mastered at Girl Guides, so long ago, actually did work.
And while I knew that puppies and dogs love bones, I was unaware that many puppies share with Imelda Marcos, a fetish for shoes. Unbeknownst to us, her minders, Ninja collected and cherished seven pairs of shoes from our next door neighbour, Bob. Ninja didn’t understand what all the fuss was about as she left one shoe of each pair for its human owner. What could be fairer than that?
But it’s easy to ignore these puppy peccadilloes because most of the time she is so much fun and like all babies takes so much enjoyment in the simple things in life like a walk on the beach. As we walk along the bush path to Tallows Beach, it’s easy to see who’s in charge on these excursions.
Exiting the path, we all have to cross the road. This has been a small problem, as true to her breeding, Ninja wants to round up every car she meets (they’re just big noisy sheep) but she is slowly learning to look to the right and look to the left before crossing the road.
At last we are on the beach and Ninja is off the lead and running. Faster than a speeding bullet, she finds her friends and the fun begins.
She is learning the finer points of surfing and loves to jump the waves.
Then there’s all the interesting stuff to sniff and eat. A bit of seaweed, a shell, a bit of crusty coral, a rotting crab…
But all too soon, it’s time to go home to Mum, where all tuckered out she sneaks a rest in the bedroom.
Watching Ninja and all the other dogs enjoying the sun, sea and sand has been a great way to spend an hour or two. All fun and no fuss. My type of puppy chore. She is also eager to follow her father’s exploits on the soccer field, casting a discerning eye over the action.
Festive celebrations take on another dimension when a puppy is involved. Ninja shared a wonderful Christmas treat with Moet, who has been key in teaching Ninja doggie etiquette.
But Ninja hasn’t sailed through puppy hood unscathed. Far too soon, she had to visit the Vet for a procedure on her leg and she was a very sad puppy for a couple of weeks.
My third close encounter of the puppy kind came not long after Ninja entered our lives. In Darwin, my other daughter, Lyndsay, and her partner, Reece, became lucky parents of a Siberian Husky puppy who they named Hannibal. We haven’t met him face to face yet, but modern technology has allowed us to watch his antics from afar.
He too is adorable … when asleep.
And like Ninja and Moet, he loves a run on the beach and a dip in the ocean. Lyndsay and Reece, assure me that they keep a careful watch for watery reptiles.
Though Hannibal loves the sea, the pool is also a lovely place to cool down in the tropical heat.
And he is always pleased to see you.
And that about sums it up. Puppies are always so glad to see you, be with you, share with you that puppy love that just creeps up on you. I’m now very content to be part of a puppy extended family, but I’m not sending Callie to the animal shelter anytime soon!