Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Praise for Poop!

It has been a great six weeks with Maya. She's undoubtedly the cutest dog I have ever laid my eyes upon. Her black and gold bangs cover her eyes coquettishly, and every time she cocks that little head to the side and looks up at me, I giggle. Her four pound frame fits perfectly into the crook of my elbow, so I carry her around the house like she's a newborn baby. There are some moments when cuddling with her is the only thing that calms my frazzled homeschooling, housekeeping nerves. For me, the woman who promised herself, her husband, and her two children countless times that the only way we would ever own a dog would be if I moved out and found an apartment in Rome, those are momentous words indeed.

Today, however, was not a good day with Maya. Today was a tense, frustrating, agonizing day with Maya. Today was the first day of seriously housetraining Maya. I know that seasoned dog owners are chuckling already, but I am not a seasoned dog owner. This is the first dog I have ever lived with. This is probably the last dog I will ever live with.

Why have we waited so long to begin the serious housetraining? In all honesty, I didn't realize that I wasn't seriously housetraining her until recently. When we brought Maya home at the end of August, we put her in a kennel in our kitchen, an open bottomed pen that a kind and generous neighbor has lent to us. Maya happily trotted into her pen and within three or four days was peeing and pooping on her newspaper in the pen. Very few accidents in other areas of the house gave us the false sense that we were making good progress with her. Perhaps I am being hard on myself; she was doing great. But I quickly grew tired of reaching over the walls of the pen and cleaning up her messes. So I decided to move the entire operation out to the garage. Being a smart and adaptable puppy, Maya figured out that peeing and pooping in the garage seemed to elicit praise and treats, so she adjusted her routine to the pen's new location. Within two weeks, I was tired of cleaning up the messes in the garage as well.

So this morning, I made the decision, after consulting many dog training books, to make yet another change in Maya's elimination situation. The garage pen is gone. There are no newspapers anywhere for her to squat over. We are in Boot Camp. Today she and I spent the day attached at the hip. Literally. Two books refer to this process as "umbilical cord training." She remained attached to her leash all day, and it remained attached to my hand or the chair in which I was sitting. Needless to say, I didn't get much cleaning, cooking, reading, writing, or anything else done.

To her credit, Maya peed outside more often today than any other day of her life as a Belsito. To her discredit, she pooped in her crate twice this morning before the umbilical cord was attached. I walked her half a dozen times. I set up camp in the garage and attached her leash to a stake in the front yard. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, offered bribes, yelled, and breathed heavily caffeinated breath into her terrified face for most of the afternoon. In a moment of unabated frustration, I left her in Kristiana's care soon after dinner, marched up to my room, did a yoga workout, and stepped into the shower at 7:30 this evening. As I toweled off, I looked up and watched a hand tape a sign to the inside of my bathroom door that read, "She pooped. Hip-hip-hooray." In less than ten minutes, my daughter had gotten that dastardly dog to do her business in the great outdoors. We were thrilled. To reinforce my approval, I took Maya outside again, ran around with her for a few minutes on the front lawn, and she peed again. I was ecstatic.

Then it hit me: I was dancing around my kitchen and on my front lawn because of a piece of poop no bigger than my pinky and a puddle of urine that would barely fill an espresso cup. What has my life come to? I thought the potty training days were over when Daniel declared himself diaper-and-pull-up-free over six years ago. Even as I write this, it has occured to me that I should make Kristiana do all the puppy training; she was potty trained in less than a week. When she was done with diapers, she was done. I need to interrogate her tomorrow in order to find out her secret for success.

I would imagine that today was the first of many days when a smelly pile and frothy puddle out on the lawn are reason enough to make me shout for joy. At the moment, though, I can barely muster enough energy to type; I am going to bed. Tomorrow morning at 6 am, we start this demanding dance of defecation all over again; that's when she takes her first walk and then gets tied to my chair for another 16 hours.

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