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And now, for a break from the usual introspective fare, I present a spontaneous moment of cuteness our puppy Molly presented us with last night.  I was standing in the office, folding a load of laundry that I began the night before.  We usually forget a load in the dryer overnight, then do the 20-minute refresh the next day.  It’s a rare and beautiful thing when an entire load goes from hamper to drawers within one day. 

So I’m standing there, folding laundry, while Mr. Apron tap-tap-taps away at the computer, spewing words of wisdom into his blog.  Molly, the smaller, younger, blonder dog, usually prefers to sit in one of the 2 chairs in the office, nestled snugly between our back and the chair back.  With her long torso, she is a very effective bolster/kidney warmer.  Because I was standing up, my back/kidneys were unavailable, and she didn’t want to sit in my chair by herself.  She spied the open Ikea bag of clean (and somewhat warm) laundry, stepped in tentatively, and proceeded to turn a few times to flatten the proverbial prairie grass, before curling up into the her sleeping puppy pose. 

I thought only cats could be this cute.

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Molly the dog is an enigma.  She is almost house-broken, until the weekend comes.  Our routines are not as rigid, our schedules not as predictable, and she gets more freedom.  Today, that meant she pissed on our bed, through the blanket, the sheets, and the mattress pad.  Why?  Well, she was left alone while we were working in the kitchen, hammering in extra nails to fix a bounce in the sub-floor.  The noise drove her upstairs, where we’ve been a little lax in our usual obsessive closing of doors to limit her access.  Is it our fault for not watching her?  Shouldn’t she be trained by now?  We know she can hold her bladder from 7am till 3:30 or 4pm, yet this accident (or, “On purpose” as we’ve been calling them) happened around 10:30am, in my best guess.  Physiologically, she can hold it, but does she choose not to, or have we, the responsible owners/trainers, not reinforced heavily enough, that potty happens outdoors? 

We praise lavishly, we even reward occasionally, the outdoor products.  In general, she stays in her crate while we are not home, and we always take her outside upon releasing her from her confinement, so as to give her a chance to relieve herself, and to relieve us in knowing she is “empty.”  We are never truly relaxed until she is empty. 

Yet the weekend is a slower pace, and that’s almost exclusively when she has her accidents.  In anger, we throw her in the crate, but this act of retribution is not even akin to putting out fires (laundry would seem to be its metaphor); it’s more to let her escape our wrath, the anger we have at ourselves for not prophylactically taking her out at 10am, or 3pm, or 7pm or whatever.  The other dog we adopted at age 4.  He has never had an indoor accident, except for the one time we gave him some high-quality, super-expensive food that made him shit 5 times a day, and he couldn’t hold it in the middle of the night.  I know dog experts say dogs don’t have consciences, that they don’t feel guilt, shame, or remorse, that they’re simply reading our reactions through tone of voice, body language, or actions.  I would argue that Finley does, though.  If he has flipped over a trash can (a habit of his from his youth), the dog gate fell, or he scratched a door out of anxiety from a fly’s presence (he’s a teensy bit neurotic), we will find him cowering, with his head low to the ground, tail down, nose downward. Even if we try to allay his feelings using cheery voices, happy greetings, and jovial head-petting, his tail may wag, but his bodystill  says, “I did something so wrong.  Will you find it in your heart to love me and not kick me out?”  He only requires 3 walks a day.

Why does she need more?  She simply does not understand.  She is too dumb to completely grasp the concept of voiding exclusively outdoors.  I know that, being part-lab, she will always be a few cards short of a full deck, but she has shown the capability to learn.  She has a release command for eating her food.  She will stop jumping if you ignore her and tell her to sit.  She will sit (when she feels like it) on command.  She will lie down (and roll over) when a treat is brought near the floor.  She will go up stairs on the command “up”.  She will stop pulling, briefly, on a walk.  She may not be all there mentally, but she isn’t eating drywall, and she hasn’t destroyed a shoe yet.  But if she is truly too stupid to grasp this concept, I blame myself.  I know she’s too dumb, and I don’t know what to do about it.  Which kind of makes it my fault.

One of the house-breaking books we brought home initially in March, when we brought Molly home, said there isn’t such a term as “almost house-broken” or “mostly potty-trained;” a dog either is, or she isn’t.  Since Molly continues to have accidents on the weekends, regardless of who is at fault, I guess she is as bad as the piddling puppy we brought home 6 months ago. 

Does anyone have any resources they love for “almost-trained” dogs?  Do you have any tricks or techniques to pass along for dumb dogs who don’t have an innate drive to please their owners?  Are we ever going to be able to use the crate as a PoMo coffee table?

Molly has made me cry.  It wasn’t when she ate my watchband.  Afterall, leather is not so different from the rawhide we give her to chew.  It wasn’t when she ate my emery board or a pen; both are shaped like the rawhide sticks.  And it wasn’t when she tore into my popcorn heating pad, as that is easy enough to replace, and did smell like food.  No, she made me cry when she — all 24 pounds of her — yanked me down the street when I was trying to walk her.  I spent the entire afternoon researching how to train her to walk gently on the leash.  I looked at videos, I read blogs, I researched high-priced animal trainers.  And for the rest of the week, I dutifully followed protocol, stopping movement when she pulled, rewarding her for looking at me by doling out treats, and commanding “gentle” (I can’t do “heel”; I feel like a tool).  Yet it was all too slow.  I felt like I was rewarding her for looking at me, not training her to walk without pulling.  Her pulling on the leash is so constant, I doubt I was being consistent enough in my stopping to teach her the right lesson.  But it actually hurt.  Either my arm was being pulled out of its socket, or my fingers were all mashed up from gripping the leash handle.  I cried because she is too stupid to understand that pulling does not move either of us faster on the walk, and I can’t teach her that.  Molly is many things — cute, cuddly, affectionate, destructive — but she is just a dog. 

As in all things, when patience wears thin, we look for the quick fix.  My mother has also been driven to seek out dog trainers as she has 3 rescued dogs who are all, to varying degrees, insane.  There’s dumbshit Annabella, the chocolate lab who eats the bannister and runs into walls, Holly, the amblyopic border collie who has nuclear diarrhea in the car and has anxiety about everything, and Jellybean, the fox terrier I have yet to meet, but who, I’m sure, is insane.  And she has to walk them all.  Holly, for all of her border collie sleekness, pulls so hard on her leash she ends up on her rear legs, hopping like a wall-eyed bunny.  She can’t even stay still long enough to pee; she leaves a little trail as she waddles in the grass.  Annabella is a sweetheart, but she’s 90 lbs of loving.  Jellybean is tiny, but she’s also a terrier, so she’s intense.  Altogether, the dogs weigh more than Mom, so she needs all the help she can get. 

Her trainer recommended the Gentle Leader harness, so all 3 girls now walk wearing them.  Mom dispatched one to us, after I’d slung a tape measure around Molly as if measuring her for her first training bra.  She’s 22 inches around, so Mom bought the Medium.  Small only goes to 20 inches, and they didn’t have the in-between size in the store.  Of course not.  Just because you manufacture 7 sizes doesn’t mean the retailers should carry them all; what sense would that make?

Well, we’ve had the harness scarcely a week, and it works.  When it’s on.  Molly is rather rabbit-shaped.  She has a long, lean torso which she uses to bridge herself between Mr. Apron’s lap and my lap.  She’s also incredibly agile and can jump astonishing heights, such as to clear the dog gate as if in Olympic hurdling.  Her assets are also useful for elongating and jumping clear through the harness.  Usually, though, she just manages to slip one front leg out.  Four times now, she’s lunged forward , slipping through the harness, leaving it to precariously cling to her hind-quarters, stopping her motion only because the bulge of her tail keeps it from slipping off completely. 

After that happened again today, Mr. Apron tackled her like some apt football metaphor, and declared that was it; it was going back to the store for a smaller size.

We had the receipt; I just couldn’t find it.  After 15 minutes of cursing myself for not putting it on the bulletin board or in my purse, or in the box the harness came in, I found the receipt, and we headed to Petco.

Even exchange, right?  Mr. Apron hit the return desk while I pounded the aisles.  I saw nothing in the leash/collar aisle, nothing with the Eagles NFL-license harnesses, nothing in the dog-walking accessory section.  The Gentle Leader harnesses, for some reason, are two aisles over, in their own section.  Because that made sense.  They didn’t have the S/M at our Petco either.  Just S or M.  I sighed, took the Small, and prepared for failure.  I found Mr. Apron, weary as the cashier prepared to issue a merchandise credit because Mom bought the harness with her credit card, and presented the new harness to them.  Wouldn’t you know, the same harness that cost $26.49 in Seekonk, MA, costs $29.99 in our part of the world?  Wouldn’t you know they actually made us pay the difference?  Plus tax.  I wonder if, had we not had the receipt, we would have been able to make the even exchange without money changing hands.  You know, like a merchandise credit when we brought back the Flavia beverage machine someone bought us for our wedding (that we hadn’t registered for and had no use for, hence, we hadn’t registered for it)?  I bet we would have.  Just sayin’. 

And as I’m fond of saying, it’s not the $3.50 +tax; it’s the principle of the thing.  And then not even carrying the right size.  You have to get the thing on the dog in the first place to see if it fits, even if (as we did) you do measure first.  And now we’re stuck in the world of Petco store credit, even if I did order the harness from the manufacturer online. 

We got the fool thing home.  Whereas the Medium was adjusted all the way tight and still too big, the Small is now adjusted all the way loose, and still too snug.  I’m worried about our pretty little girl chafing her beautiful blonde fur.  I’m worried we’re not going to be able to wrastle her into the snug contraption without resorting to etherizing or, Mr. Apron’s prefered method, tasing her first. 

Let’s just hope it works.  While I’m slightly conflicted that this isn’t teaching her not to pull, and that, were we to take it off, we’d be back to ground zero, I’ll settle for a dog who walks gently with some assistive technology.  I long for the obedient, amazing, stunt-performing dog, but I’ll leave that to Cesar Millan and Lassie.  As long as my arm isn’t being wrenched out of its socket, I’ll settle for good enough.

Wednesday afternoons are usually my napping time.  Mr. Apron works late, so I usually come home, let the great grey beast out, and crash on the couch for 45 min to an hour.  Wednesday is also my nap day, because Tuesday night is our TV night.  Rather, we watch “SouthLAnd” on Tuesday nights from 10-11pm, so I’m always tired on Wednesdays.  I think a 10pm show is pushing it for a non-coffee-drinking human who works 8am-4pm, but we watch not only “SouthLAnd” at that timeslot, but also “Project Runway” on Thursday nights.  So my Wednesday and Friday morning kiddos must think the bags under my eyes are just part of the scenery. 

You know that series of Johnson & Johnson commercials where their heart-warming tagline is “having a baby changes everything”?  Well, having an unhouse-broken puppy might, too. 

Today’s affairs consisted of fighting through traffic precipitated by gorgeous weather, which seems to let the whacko drivers out of bumper car driving school early.  I was greeted by a very excited puppy who left marks of “excitement” on my arm with her tiny stabbing claws.  Did I mention she’s learning to sit and not jump?  I outed them both; they both made.  I fed them both; they both ate.  Then I settled down for a nap with the snuggly girl.  Ordinarily she is bar-none as a napping companion.  She usually flips onto her back, wedged into some crevice in the couch, and instantly becomes comatose.  So long as you don’t utter her name (“Molly” means instant and extremely positive verbal praise.  Her reaction: “You love me?  You love me!  I’m a good dog!  You said my name!”), she’ll stay there, warming, snoozing, breathing softly.

Today she might have been a little wound up from being in her crate for 4 hours.  She would have none of the submissive napping posture.  Instead, she wanted nothing more than to lick my face.  My nose, my eyes, my ear.  She nuzzled and licked till I was falling off the couch from trying to escape her tongue’s firing range.  Finally I gave up on the snuggling, and kicked her off.  As I prepared to put myself to sleep sans dog, I noticed a too-familiar wet oval on one of our only good rugs.  This meant, of course, I had to abort the napping plan altogether, spray the spot, leash her up and take her out, and then, failing any poop/pee in the appropriate locations, toss her back in her crate, whee, of course she would cry and whine in misery.

On our dog-training log, I wrote: “Sometime before 6pm — peed on the rug.”  She’s a sneaky little bitch.  I bet she was all kissy because she was trying to distract me long enough so she could get away with peeing on the rug. 

Of course, now she and Finley are passed out on the floor, keeping me company while I keep vigil for any squatting.  Such perfect angels when they sleep.  Just like me.  All I wanted was my nap.  Sigh.  Having a puppy changes naptime.

Well, folks, we’ve done it.  We’ve upended whatever calm was left in our lives (after a week where the car wouldn’t start, the computer came underattack by the new “Virus Protector” virus, and Corey Haim is dead) by adopting a new dog.  She’s an 8 month old cockapoo-lab mix and her name is Molly and she’s gone and stolen our hearts.  She already knows her name (which has been swiftly changed from Miley.  Rawlf.) and comes running whenever we coo at her.  All words aimed at her are perceived as praise, and she loves nothing more than a snuggle session on the couch as she lumps from lap to lap, licking necks and hands, and covering us with blond fur. 

Here’s our pretty girl:

Finley is less than thrilled.  We did bring him down to the shelter on Saturday for the requisite playdate, and they tolerated each other just fine, which was as good as we knew it was going to be with Finley, the dog who doesn’t care a lick about other dogs.  Ever.  Molly was slow to warm up, having been surrendered only on Friday, but she rebonded with us last night as we drove home from the shelter, her seal-shaped head poking out from between the seats as she begged for a ride in the front. 

Once at home, she became almost robotic.  Didn’t eat, didn’t drink, didn’t chew, didn’t pee (indoors or out), didn’t poop (ditto), didn’t bark or whine or howl.  Almost like a Zhu-zhu pet, I remarked.  Then, as we were brushing our teeth, she decided the hallway would be a good bathroom.  As I have been trained to do, I stomped my foot to disrupt her stream, threw a towel over it, and ushered her outdoors, where she spastically sniffed and pounced and prowled around.  And decidedly did not squat. 

And then, a half-hour later, as we sat unwinding with a little Law & Order, she had a repeat performance.  Luckily Mr. Apron saw her intentions before our rug did, and he, too, pushed her outdoors, where she played in the pachysandra. 

She did leave us a pungent present at midnight, which I tried to ignore, but finally succeeded in asking Mr. Apron to clean up, and we managed to spend a few anxious hours asleep, fearing the ginormous puddles that would await us in the morning. 

It only took three trips outdoors this morning for Molly to finally pee on the driveway, outdoors.  And after a carefully choreographed feeding session at 7:45am, she was all set to poop at 8:00am, which she did.  Outdoors.  And there was much rejoicing. 

As I write, Mr. Apron is off to Petco to buy a crate.  I was really hoping to avoid the annoyance and eyesore of crate-training, but I’d also like to be able to sleep at night.  I think 12:45am was my watershed moment.  When something messes with my sleep, I reach my breaking point. 

But instead of turning her in, as her former owners did last week, we’re taking positive steps.  We’re picking up where they left off, and giving her a happy Forever Home with two people who are madly in love with her, and an older dog who really couldn’t care less.  And that’s just the way we planned it.