“As wonderful as those moments are when you feel all warm and happy inside watching your puppy chew her toy, slide across the kitchen floor, and pounce on your shoelaces, there are the other times…” --The Puppy Whisperer, pg 4
Within days we taught Jimmer to “sit,” “lay down” and “go to your crate.” He was smart as a whip. Every 2-3 hours I put on his leash and ran him out to the predesignated potty area we prepared for him in the back yard. At night Scott and I took shifts taking Jimmer out to his “spot,” even in the pouring rain. This was quite miraculous since Scott seldom got up with our own babies. One day I came home to witness yet another miracle: Scott bathing Jimmer.
It was around this time--week two--that my relationship with Jimmer began to change. Perhaps it started with the article I found on the internet titled DO NOT BUY AN AUSTRIALIAN SHEPHERD or it could have been the teeth marks on the special stool my father had made for me before he died. But my opinion of Jimmer really started spiral downward when he started nipping.
He nipped a lot. Jimmer pulled on my pant legs and the girls’ dresses, sometimes ripping them. He even caught a hold of my seven-year-old’s arm and wouldn’t let go and drew blood. When I confronted Scott about it he said Jimmer just made an honest mistake and thought she was a chew toy. A chew toy?? Sophie was upset at first but proudly showed her battle wounds to her 2nd grade class the next day.
(Here is a photo of my kids and the neighbor's kids with Jimmer. The neighbors kids are smart; they wear helmets around dogs.)
I knew that nipping was a normal part of a puppy’s development, but watching my children getting bit made me feel uneasy. Granted, he didn’t seem to be intentionally hurting the kids; it was all in play. But every time he nipped for a piece of food in the girls’ hands and bit their little fingers or jumped up on them with his mouth open towards their face my apprehension grew.
The dog is teething, said the vet.
It is normal, said my friends.
He’ll grow out of it, say the books.
Yes, yes, I reassured myself. Nipping is just an instinct. But you know what? I have an instinct, too. It is called a maternal instinct. And every time he made one of my kids cry, a strange, hot feeling started to bubble up inside my chest like a volcano.
At first, the awareness of this primal urge thrilled me. I had often wondered how far I would go to protect my children from harm, and now I knew I really could throw myself in front of the gaping jaws of animal to save them. I really could! This was quite a rush. I got another rush thinking of my children’s superiority to this animal. That dog was nothing compared to them. His life meant nothing to me compared to there’s. If he harmed them he might as well go find a farm and walk right into a moving combine because once I got a hold of him I would rip him to pieces with my teeth like a grizzly bear until there was nothing left but little bits of silky fur and his multicolor eyes, rolling around like two cheap marbles.
My resentment for Jimmer grew. Daily. Hourly. Minutely. I didn’t enjoy having violent feelings of aggression on a day-to-day basis. I had worked very hard my entire life to be a very mellow and composed person. But just the thought of that dog made me sprout horns and fangs and flames started shooting from my ears. I said things to that dog I would never say to any other living thing, in a tone I would only use for rapists and murders.
The fact that Jimmer was going to be a part of my future was sinking in. A future with Jimmer meant a future of having the smell of dog food constantly permeating throughout my kitchen. A future of trying to juggle four little kids along with a four-legged animal. A future of ripped hems and muddy foot prints and dog hairs on my black pants and greasy jerky treats in my pocket. Not to mention a future of having to regulate my maternal instinct which went nuclear every time Jimmer got close enough to sniff baby Danny. This already was quite exhausting.
And then there are the trips to the vet….
For all you non-dog owners (bless you….may you remain as you are), puppies require a series of vaccines and boosters, just like people. Then you also have to get them spayed/neutered. All of this means that I had to take Jimmer (along with my preschooler and my one-year-old) to the vet almost every month in the first six months. Not only that, but each visit costs an average of $100.00. That is a lot of money. Money that could be used for a lot of other important things. Like shoes.
About the third time we were at the vet, he asked if I wanted him to implant a microchip in Jimmer just in case he was ever lost. I said no. If Jimmer gets lost I want him to stay lost.
What about a tag for his collar? They asked me. I thought I probably ought to do that, I reasoned. If he does get lost it will be good for his new owner to know Jimmer’s name. They asked me for my phone number to put on the reverse side of the tag. I gave it to them, but changed one digit.
That night I talked to Scott.
Me: I’m not so sure Jimmer is right for our family. He's a lot of work. Plus he jumps on the girls a lot and he's nipping all the time--I don’t even dare put the baby near him.
Scott: Oh, he’ll grow out of it. Remember, he’s just a puppy.
Me: True. But what if this continues, and instead of being a puppy jumping up and biting our kids, he’s a big dog jumping up and biting our kids?
Scott: Jimmer is too smart for that.
Jimmer’s too smart for that. Words that would later haunt me.
TO BE CONTINUED....Click here for Part 3