Puppy Wars

Sanity Check

From 2004 through 2009 I wrote a series of columns called "Sanity Check" for Front and Finish, a magazine dedicated to training dogs in obedience and related dog sports. This is one of my last columns for F&F, appearing in the November, 2007 edition.

Puppy Wars : Aeryn Strikes Back

Once I got the bleeding stopped, it really wasn't so bad. And the black eye went away in only a week, although the construction workers renovating my office at school thought the whole story was pretty funny. And now that the swelling has completely gone down, I can look back and... wince. At least I didn't need stitches.

As I've written before, we're in the process of raising Aeryn, our new puppy, who just turned five months old as I write this. She's another Aussie, an energetic little girl from working lines and she really tries to be a good girl. In her fashion... if she has to... I guess. If I can only manage to hold on, I'm sure she'll take me on quite a ride as a performance dog.

Aeryn likes excitement in general, and she certainly got her wish as we were getting ready to go to dog class a few weeks ago. We do both Molly and Riker at 6:00 pm while Aeryn hangs out in her crate until her beginners' class at 7. That means that going to dog class takes a bit of coordinating – we need to get leashes, collars, water bowls, scent articles, treats, three dogs, two humans, and one crate into the car at least somewhat efficiently.

Of course, Aeryn, as the loose cannon, gets put into this mix as late as possible, in the effort to have as few mishaps as possible. A few weeks ago that effort failed. It had been a really hot August day, complete with Hoosier humidity, so the dogs had been inside most of the day, giving Aeryn a chance to build up that extra charge of energy no Aussie puppy really needs.

We were hustling to get out the door, trying to arrive early so we could do scent articles with Molly and Riker before their class started, when things got interesting. Becky had the two big dogs part way out the door and I was trying to put a collar on Aeryn, who had just decided that head flips are great fun. On my fourth attempt to get the collar in the right position, I let my guard down and Aeryn struck.

Seeing an opportunity, she made a break for it – right toward the open door and big dogs just 12 feet away. Determined that she was not going to get away with a move like that, I quickly (well, pretty quickly for an old guy anyway) dove after her.

It was a good plan, and it would have worked, too. The only problem was that I had forgotten that the corner of the kitchen counter was right at my eye level in the direction of my dive. I hit the corner of the counter with my right eyebrow, making one of those resounding thunks you hear in cartoons. (I think my sympathies will now always be with Wile E. Coyote.) Things really heated up after that – the puppy was running around, trying to capitalize on her first clean break away from daddy, my wife was chasing the puppy, Molly was watching with bemused interest, and Riker was stuck out in the garage, gulping with concern as he listened to his entire world explode on the other side of the kitchen door.

And me? With my eyebrow split in two, not only was I bleeding like the proverbial stuck pig, but I was also auditioning for the part of angry longshoreman... or wounded buffalo... or rapper. I'm told that my vocabulary was a little bit limited, but I delivered my words with great emotion and volume. Thank heavens we don't have parrots, or we could never have company over again.

My mother will tell you that as a kid I bled a lot. Other kids broke arms and collarbones, but when I got hurt, I always managed to do something that required stitches. Drawing on that vast experience, I started thinking I might need professional help, so we got in the car and headed to the nearby emergency clinic.

By the time we got there, the bleeding had (mostly) stopped and an inspection in the rearview mirror showed that the wound was nasty, but not nearly as deep as I first thought. And going into the clinic would mean at least an hour of waiting, filling out forms, more waiting, getting examined, etc. It would mean missing dog class.

Now don't get me wrong, proper medical care is important, and the people who staff emergency rooms around the country do a great job, but the more I stared into the rearview mirror, the more I realized that this just wasn't as bad as the wounds that used to send me to old Doc Campbell's office on a regular basis when I was a kid.

So I decided to skip the whole doctor thing. Now do NOT try this at home - I’m a highly trained canine journalist and (according to my wife) a stubborn idiot. (While we’re at it, I would also strongly advise everyone against trying the dive-into-a-kitchen-counter-while-chasing-a-puppy maneuver as well.)

Anyway, after returning home for a fresh shirt, a few band-aids, and to load up the dogs, we made it to dog class with a whole minute to spare. And Aeryn was so well behaved that one older lady even made the comment that she'd love to have a dog like that. Lady, you don't know what you're saying...