Three weeks ago, the balance in our female-dominant household finally shifted with our new addition to the family:
This is Cheerio, our new yellow Labrador retriever puppy. He was born on Dec. 9, 2010, and we were able to take him home when he was 8 weeks old. Little Miss named him when she was 3 years old. My parents had just gotten a chocolate Lab, and one day, Little Miss said, “Someday, I would like a “vanilla” Lab named Cheerio.” We all loved the name then, and it stuck with us ever since. And how perfect of a name not only for a cereal-colored dog, but also because he is an English Labrador, and the Brits say “cheerio” a lot.
We have been dogless for the past three years, since our other dogs, Orion and April, both passed away after 12 and 14 years with us. We had been wanting another, but just like with children, we were waiting for the right time. And just like with children, there never really is a right time so you just jump in and do it. And that’s what we did.
And it really is just like having another baby, but without the stretch marks (new ones, anyway) and the allowance of the “baby weight” excuse. Actually, it’s more like having a 1-year-old running around the house with no diaper on and putting everything in his mouth, and therefore, creating the need to never take your eyes off of him for one second. Once again, my days are structured around a naptime, playtime and mealtime schedule. And for the past three weeks, we have been sleep-deprived from getting up in the night with him and getting up for the day when he does at the crack-of-ridiculous.
But man, is he cute! Like, Cottonelle puppy cute:
So far, he’s so sweet and well-mannered (most of the time), that he let me place him on a package of toilet paper for this photo shoot. (There were treats involved, but still.) We have met and interacted with both of Cheerio’s parents, and we are hoping that he turns out as cool and gentle as they are.
The week before we got him, we were in PetSmart stocking up on all the things he would need. At first, we were overwhelmed by how much the pets market has changed since we were pet owners. Suddenly, we apparently need orthopedic mattresses, car seats, pricey organic food, a $75 Furminator hair brush, two aisles of vitamins and supplements, and the Martha Stewart collection of dog bowls, etc. What happened to good old Pedigree and Milk Bones? But even more overwhelming was the scene at the register:
A 4-month-old yellow Lab, just like the one we were about to get, hopping around like a maniac while his owner was trying to slide her debit card into the machine while attempting to hold his frenetic leash.
“Oh, girls, look!” I said. “Let’s go see him!” All five of us ran over to him and pet him, and he went all Marley on us. He immediately whizzed all over the Mr. and the floor and then rolled in it, knocked over Little Miss, and nearly choked himself to death while his owner was trying to restrain him. After talking with us for a while, she dragged him (no, really, dragged him) out the door, him choking and sputtering and hopping the whole time. When those double doors shut, we just stared at each other, wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
“What. Was. That?” said the Mr.
“What. Are. We. Thinking?” said I.
Then the Mr. put his hands on my shoulders, saying, “Don’t worry, ours isn’t going to be like that, it’s the owner’s fault, look, she couldn’t even hold on to him and he had a harness on. She shouldn’t be using a harness! That just shows that the dog is in control, not the owner!”
Yeah, OK, whatever. All I could see is pee and craziness.
“That was nuts!” continued the Mr., and then began to imitate the dog, whizzing and all. “The dog was all,” he said, breaking into what looked exactly like someone having a grand mal seizure while spraying a fire hose of urine all over the place. The girls were quite amused. The workers who were cleaning up the whiz were not. They just stared at him.
But so far, Cheerio does not seem to be like the crazy PetSmart dog. He’s had his “Marley” moments, like stealing the hair brush and running away with it when I’m trying to do Little Miss’s hair for school and we’re already late. And then there’s yesterday morning, when I was blow-drying my hair and he took a flying leap from the bathtub deck to try to grab the cord.
For the first two weeks, he was having some intestinal issues that had me Googling every parasitic disease a dog can get, and if it can be transferred to humans, etc. I’m pretty sure our vet office now knows me as the psycho who keeps coming in waving her snack-size Ziploc bag full o’ stool stample.
“It’s negative for parasites,” they keep telling me, trying not to roll their eyes.
Apparently, new-mommy panic has hit me once again.
My mother-in-law will love that one. She hates when people personify their pets, and even worse, when they put her in the role of the puppy’s grandma.
“I have never been, nor will I ever be, an animal’s mom or grandma,” I overheard her telling my mom, who was admiring the pictures of Cheerio on my phone, and saying, “Look at your granddog!”
“I never gave birth to a dog, so how could a dog be my grandbaby?” she says.
Of course, this just makes the Mr. and I want to refer to Cheerio as her “grandson” even more, and call her his “Nonna.”
“Hey, it’s probably going to be the only blond grandson you’re going to get, so you might as well enjoy it,” I told her.
And then a few days later, as I was telling her about my crazy busy day, she said, “Do you mean to tell me you left my grandson home alone all that time?”
Ha ha. And she did say he was the cutest puppy she’s ever seen.
Little Miss, on the other hand, has no problem with the personification. She calls him her “baby brother.”
“Finally!” she said, “I’m not the shortest one in the family! I’m taller than my baby brother, right?”
Yeah, for now. But wait until he’s the 90-100 pound dog he’s likely to be.
The Mr. doesn’t love the personification either, but he knows that in a house full of girls, he doesn’t stand a chance. For now, he is letting us carry him around, cradle him like a baby and snuggle with him on the couch. (Right now, his only rule is that I not give the dog more affection than I give him. But come on, how can I not with that cute little puppy face?)
During a recent cold snap, in which freeze warnings were issued, my girlfriend who absolutely loves dogs called and left a message just as the Mr. was leaving for work.
“I was just calling to see how the baby did last night,” she said. “I bet his lil’ body was so cold, poor little baby,” she said, to which a crabby Mr. yelled at the machine: “HE’S NOT COLD! HE’S A DOG! HE’S FROM LABRADOR! HE’S WEARING A FUR COAT, FOR GOD’S SAKE!”
Still, he’s pretty tolerant while we’re in these early training stages. And guess who we hear talking to him like he’s a human baby, and guess who we see carrying him around and wrapping him in his jacket on those cold nights?
But as soon as Cheerio is 4 months old and has all his shots, that’s it. It’s time for him to get to work. The Mr. is training him to be his hunting partner. After all, that is what they are bred for, and partly why we selected the breed we did. And just like he was when the girls were in their baby stages, the Mr. is getting a little impatient for that 4-month mark.
“I don’t see why I can’t take him out in the desert now!” he kept saying, even though the breeder advised us to keep him only in our own back yard, away from any other potential germ-carriers, both wild and domestic. Thankfully, the vet concurred at Cheerio’s last checkup, putting an end to that argument for a while.
That’s why when the Mr. and I took him for a walk the other day, we took turns carrying him through the neighborhood. The Mr. grumbled the whole way: “This is ridiculous! We finally have a dog, and we can’t put him on the ground for a walk? No, because suddenly the neighborhood is teeming with parasites!” he ranted.
“Well, it’s either that or he gets diarrhea again and I freak out and look up all these diseases on the Internet, and then YOU can spoon up the diarrhea into a Ziploc!” I say.
I keep reminding him to stop rushing the puppy stage, just like I reminded him to stop rushing the baby and toddler stages. It’s going to go by so fast. It already is, as can be seen in these photos from when he was first born until now:
He already weighs 14.5 pounds, and should gain about 2 pounds a week. We anticipate he’ll be a big dog.
That’s our boy. Our big blond son.
Finally, people might stop asking us when we’re going to try for a boy.