So about 4 months ago, my 22 year old daughter J called me and told me that she had just adopted a puppy from the local animal shelter in the city where she lives. I have to admit; I thought this was a truly terrible idea.
For starters, (and I know this view will make me SUPER unpopular), when you adopt fa puppy from a shelter, you honestly just never know what kind of dog you’re going to end up with. The staff may tell you that the puppy will be a small dog but he may grow to 80 pounds. The puppy might have been taken from his mother too soon, meaning that he might grow up with socialization and attachment issues. The puppy might have come from two parents with naturally shy or aggressive temperaments meaning that you might end up with a dog with a shy or aggressive temperament. The puppy might have come from one or both parents who had hip dysplasia, meaning that your puppy is likely to develop hip dysplasia as an adult. The puppy might have been mistreated by humans before he came to the shelter so he might grow up wary or even frightened of people. All kinds of potentially troublesome problems can arise when you adopt a puppy from a shelter (none of this is true if you adopt an adult dog from a shelter or a reputable rescue group; then you can get to know the dog and more of his history before adopting him, meaning that you know with pretty good certainty what his size and temperament are going to be.)
But J informed me that the deal was sealed. She had already adopted her tiny puppy; she had named him Oliver, and I could tell that she was already smitten. I asked her what she planned to do with Oliver while she was at work all day. She explained that she planned to crate train him, and that she would come home each day on her lunch break to let him out for a playtime. She also reminded me that she and her housemates have a small but very nice fenced yard. I asked her who would take care of him when she wanted to go straight from work out for drinks or dinner with her co-workers. Simple, she said, she just wouldn’t be doing that until Oliver was grown because he came first. I explained to her how expensive it is to board a dog when you travel, which she really likes to do, and she told me that she would either bring Oliver with her, have her housemates care for him while she was gone, or maybe (she asked this part somewhat tentatively), just maybe I would agree to care for him when she was away.
Now J knows that I’m a sucker for puppies – really for all dogs – so the idea of getting to puppysit sometimes did have its charms, but then I remembered how difficult most puppies are in the first year, what with the chewing on things, the stealing of dirty laundry, the housetraining and the whining while in their crates. I told her that I would probably watch Oliver when she was out of town but I couldn’t promise anything until I met him.
Over the next few weeks, J called me with puppy-related updates and questions so often that I could tell she was already turning into a very responsible puppy-owner. She called from Petsmart to ask what type of crate to get. She called from the car on the way home from the vet to tell me that she’d signed Oliver up for the monthly “puppy plan” with Oliver’s vet that covers most routine care plus pays for your puppy’s monthly heartworm and flea medications. She called me when Oliver was itching to ask whether that was normal. She called to tell me that Oliver had an ear infection but that she had special drops that the vet had given her to clear the infection right up.
And she began texting me photos of baby Oliver and I had to admit that he was a SERIOUSLY cute puppy. They had told her at the shelter that he was a border collie mix but when I saw the photos I told her, “Honey, you have a German Shepherd mix on your hands.” I saw no Border Collie whatsoever in the photos she began sending me.
As soon as his vaccinations were complete, J also signed Oliver up for puppy kindergarten classes and began taking him to the dog park (did you realize that there’s a dog park in Nashville that offers a beer truck on weekend evenings? Neither did I. But the local millenials with dogs all seem to know about this, which is why that particular dog park is so popular on weekends.)
In other words, J was doing everything right with Oliver, and she was DEFINITELY falling in love with him. She even took him to work with her, something her office allows (Her office also has a “hammock room’ so that employees who need a break can temporarily chill out. But I digress)
Before we knew it, Oliver was 5 months old, and J checked around to find the best dog trainer in Nashville. She found one who trains therapy dogs and she took Oliver to the trainer for his “evaluation.” The trainer explained that he uses food-based training and J and the trainer made plans for Oliver to very soon spend an entire week with the trainer, at the trainer’s place, at the end of which J would join them for training sessions so she could learn to work with him in the same way the trainer had taught Oliver (See, I told you that she’s devoted to this dog.)
When Oliver was 5 months old, J asked Jon and me for the first time to puppysit while she went on an out of state trip for over a week. She told me that she totally understood if we didn’t want to do it but that boarding was SO expensive, plus she was afraid that staying at a boarding facility might traumatize poor Oliver.
Although Oliver looked supercute from the photos J had sent us, I’ll admit that I was a little ambivalent about spending 10 days taking care of a puppy. After all, I am now used to my aging Great Pyrenees whose favorite hobbies are sleeping on his bed or snoozing on the porch, but only when it’s not too hot. Then he returns to his bed indoors to sleep some more. The idea of chasing a 5 month old puppy around for 10 days sounded pretty exhausting, but I thought that our other dog, Leo, might like having a friend around to play with. Plus, as I said, I’m a sucker for a cute puppy and I am also a sucker for my daughter, so we made plans for us to puppysit.
We decided to meet J at a truck stop in Crossville for the Sunday afternoon puppy handoff. We brought our station wagon so that Oliver could ride home with us in his crate. J assured us that he would just sack out on the car seat if he went anywhere in the car. Still, with a 5 month old puppy in an unfamiliar car and with unfamiliar people, we were more comfortable bringing him home in his crate.
When we met J at the allotted place and time, and Oliver hopped out of her car on his leash, I could not BELIEVE how cute this puppy was! Imagine a German Shepherd, only slightly smaller than a Border Collie and with one ear sticking up and one flopping over. Plus, he was super friendly. He came right over to say hi to Jon and me, and happily let me take him for a walk around the grass.
That’s when J began unpacking Oliver’s own duffel bag (yes, he came with luggage) and she also started explaining to us how we were to care for him while he stayed with us. For starters, he was to get exactly 1 and 1/2 cups of the food she had brought each morning and evening, preferably at around 6:30 am (!!!) and 6 pm. If he did not finish his bowl of food in approximately seven minutes, he was to have it taken up until the next meal. This, she explained, was what the dog trainer had advised her to do in preparation for the one week of intensive training so that Oliver would begin to understand that food is a privilege. Second, she hauled out a bunch of toys that she said were Oliver’s favorites. They included things like a floppy blue monkey and a stuffed snowman. Then, after we got his crate into our car, she inserted his plush bed that I swear looks more comfortable than my own mattress, and she also handed us towels that she keeps on top of Oliver’s crate at night. She then showed us at length how to close the crate properly because if you don’t, a very clever Oliver has apparently figured out how to unlatch the crate all by himself and let himself out. She also handed Jon a baggie with Oliver’s monthly heartworm and flea medicine and told Jon that she would be texting him on the 12th to be certain Oliver got these meds on exactly that day. She further sent a bag of Oliver’s favorite dog food, his own dog bowls, and even dog shampoo in case we decided he needed a bath while we kept him. Finally, with all of J’s instructions duly noted, we drove away with Oliver in his crate in the back of our car, with J waving goodbye. And she was right, he did just sack out in the car the entire way home.
So here’s the thing, we have now had Oliver for about a week and he is THE BEST PUPPY EVER!!! Not only is he adorable (see photos), he is also wonderfully well behaved, listens when you call him, and is a great combination of totally chill and wonderfully playful. He only weighs about 20-25 pounds, but he still looks like a German Shepherd to me in the face, except for that one floppy ear.
Oliver has tried playing with Leo some but Leo gets tired easily and after a minute or two he tells Oliver to knock it off. The only time that Leo actually becomes unhappy with Oliver is when the puppy tries to climb onto Leo’s bed. That’s a no-no as far as Leo is concerned. But mostly the two dogs get along great.
I have attempted to carefully follow all of J’s instructions, even getting up at 6:30 am to feed Oliver, taking his food away after 7 minutes if he hasn’t eaten all of it. Oliver is very well behaved in the house. Although I watch him like a hawk, he’s clearly already housetrained and the only chew toys he’s interested in are his floppy blue monkey and his snowman. Outdoors, he’s an absolute hoot. He runs around like a madman and then will just flop down in a heap and chill out for a few seconds.
Then he’s off to run around some more. He always comes when I call him except when he’s down by the pond. He looooves the pond. While Leo hasn’t put so much as one foot in the pond as long as we’ve lived here. Oliver loves to take flying leaps off of the small dock into the pond water. After he does this, I always bring him back up to the house to hose him down, and it turns out that he loves playing in the hose (I’ve told J that she MUST get a hose for Oliver to play in). Watching him go crazy in the hose is hilarious.
In short, Oliver is the smartest, best-behaved 5 month old puppy I’ve ever met. I’ve been sending J photos of his visit here and today I sent a pictire that just said, “can’t we keep him?” J would never give him up in a million years (she really misses him) and the last thing we need is two dogs to care for, but if I wanted a second dog, Oliver would be the one.
And now, some Oliver the Wonder Pup photos from his visit with us so far for your entertainment.
Within a half hour of writing this blog post about what an awesome pup Oliver is, I noticed one of my shoes had gone missing. Oliver was the only possible culprit. Jon and I looked high and low and finally found the shoe in Oliver’s crate, along with his floppy blue monkey and his stuffed snowman. He hadn’t chewed the shoe up at all; he just wanted it for his collection. So I guess from now on I’ll have to be more careful about leaving my shoes out.
So as many reservations as I have had about adopting puppies from shelters, Oliver has shattered all my opinions on the matter. He’s one awesome puppy and I really do wish we could keep him.