Dog days

Photo: Our wedding day, December 27, 2008

When Dmitri and I decided to adopt Charlotte back in 2007, everyone told us that it was a good idea; after all, parenting a puppy-baby is a great way to practice for a real baby.

Except that we are crazy dog people, and to us, Charlotte was a real baby. The implication that her furriness meant that there was somehow less at stake never really sat well with me, and her arrival triggered all of these super-duper neurotic fears that I didn’t even know were swimming around in my psyche. After nearly losing my childhood pup to parvo, the thought of enduring that again with a puppy of my own was too much to take.

Predictably, I was a total nutjob about protecting Char from anything and everything that could hurt her/scare her/make her sick– and I unintentionally helped foster some really not-so-healthy behaviors (read: our great-around-people pup was pretty insecure and aggressive when she was with other dogs). Dmitri and Charlotte and I spent lots of time working with a wonderful trainer (seriously, Kaleb is great! Visit his site at http://www.allprodogtraining.com.), but she’s never been able to be comfortably part of a non-human pack– and I have always felt really awful that my fears (combined with some before-she-came-to-us trauma) prevented her from having normal dog experiences.

With the help of a few of our wonderful neighbors and their too-cute puppers, however, it looks as if Char might have finally gotten  her chance. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been meeting up for early morning dog-jogs, and Charlotte– who, at four years old, is our group’s designated cougar– is starting to get used to the ear-nipping, butt-sniffing, and occasional bark-snorting that are healthy-doggy mainstays. She jumps in bed with me in the morning if it’s nearing go-time and I’m still snoozing, and she stares sadly out the window when we have to skip an outing. Most importantly, she’s stopped trying to position herself between her human family and other (usually very friendly!) dogs, and it’s clear that she’s beginning to understand that not everyone poses a threat.

Who knows if she’ll ever be ready to run leashless in the dog park or play, unsupervised, with the other neighborhood dogs. The mom in me (of two healthy, beautiful little dark-haired girls, thankyouverymuch :)) couldn’t be prouder of Charlotte– and I couldn’t be more grateful for second chances.

Looks like there’s hope for all of us. Possibly even me :).

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