Puppy Love

Oh, Bella…

O, the joys of parenting puppyhood!  Cute as she is, she is still a baby and needs lots of love and attention.  Messes are mandatory.  Middle of the night nature calls are, too.

Last night was a milestone for us, though, in that she lasted six HOURS in her crate! I would have done the happy dance outside when she did her tinkle thing, but I was distracted by a rustling in the flower beds.  Something got spooked by our 6am intrusion.  Let’s hope it was a benign something and not a scary something like a coyote, bobcat, or giant black widow spider.  We always have black widow spiders…but they haven’t yet grown large enough to trample.  I hope!  Whatever IT was crashing through the bushes, Bella caught its scent in the air.  She didn’t seem upset…just curious.  Brave woman that I am, I picked up all 25 pounds of Bella and skeedattled back inside the house. I am woman.  Hear me roar. From behind the door, that is.

It’s been several years since I crate trained a dog.  My little one never did learn using the crate method – she was so tiny as a puppy that we couldn’t get the crate small enough to work.  We stuffed pillows in the back to try to block the crate…and she promptly peed in the front and then crawled on top of the pillows. So we switched to the “umbilical cord” method where I literally tied her around my waist.  I had to watch her constantly, and the moment I saw her sniffing around, out the door we flew.

Bella, on the other hand, seems to have a belly I could set my watch to. It took me a few days to realize her internal schedule, but now I *think* I’m getting the hang of her habits so I take her out at the right times.  There’s nothing more motivating than finding dog poop on the living room floor!

Labs are often smart, and Bella is no exception.  She has taken to obedience training so quickly that I suspect she’d be a terrific agility dog.  She’s eager to please and has learned to heel, sit, stay, down, and come. Bella is the third doggy I’ve owned and the first one who actually heels.  I can take her on walks without her yanking my arm out of its socket.  I highly recommend K-9 University for obedience training.  They do not train using treats but instead use hand signals, vocal cues, and a collar that makes a soft “click” noise for correction.  They also use this product:

to help curtail bad habits, such as jumping. I carry my bottle everywhere and hardly ever have to spray it anymore.  Just the visual of the bottle is enough to let Bella know that she really doesn’t want to risk having another taste of bitter apple.  It works so well that I may use it with my other doggy Lacee.  Too bad they don’t make bitter apple spray for people.  It would be very handy in the mall, correcting all sorts of bad habits.  Someone’s using foul language?  SQUIRT.  Pants around the ankles?  SQUIRT. Annoying salesperson who texts on her phone and ignores customers?  SQUIRT!


Like our old doggy Shiner Boy, Bella loves tennis balls: chasing them, pouncing on them, carrying them in her mouth, chewing them.  She’s just a lump of clumsy puppy, with her feet too big for her body and her ears flopping all over the place. She often overshoots the ball and ends up rolling and crashing past it before picking it up and bringing it back to us.

Bella’s delight with tennis balls extends to toys of all shapes, sizes and textures.  If there aren’t any toys around, she’s not particular.  Grass, sticks, leaves, rocks, shoes, and socks are equally exciting.  The best time to love on her is when she’s busy chewing on a toy — her ears are like velvet, and my fingers love the little ridge that juts down her snout.  For now she’s little enough for me to pick up, but that kind of hugging will be short-lived.  I’ll enjoy it while I can!

Just look at those chocolate eyes.  Such intelligence and gentleness.  I can see what kind of dog she will grow into — when she stays still long enough for me to see into her eyes, that is!  A little part of my heart feels complete again.  Three years ago Shiner left us.  Bella will never be Shiner, but she is her own kind of “big dog” and shares some of his same habits: dangerously swishing tail, slopping water all over the floor after drinking, chasing the ball. The other day when she was quietly chewing on her bone, I rested my head on her side for just a moment, remembering what it felt like to be loved by a dog with such a big heart.

When she licked my cheek, I melted.  There’s no doubt about it: puppy love strikes again!

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