puppy sitting: first time parenting for non-parents

As I recently mentioned, Paul and I were house/puppy-sitting for my cousin while she was in Spain for a holiday with her partner and kids. Given that we were effectively homeless due to the never-ending renovation saga at home, and newly returned from our stint in Killarney, this seemed a most fortuitous arrangement. Not least of all because I love dogs and have sorely missed having one. Our family dog (who lives in Melbourne with my mum and sister) is pretty much better than any human I know, and infinitely cuter. I mean really, look at that face!

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If I looked that adorable when asleep, I’d be delighted. Sadly, I’m more of a mouth-open-and-praying-to-god-I’m-not-drooling kind of sleeper, but that’s getting onto a tangent. The point is that after a year in Dublin away from my furry-four-legged friend, I’ve been quite clucky about dogs (I’ve never been clucky about the other things… the two-legged ones), to the point that Paul frequently comes home to find me whimpering and gushy at the sight of anything that calls itself a canine (and if it’s a pug, well then it’s full blown waterworks). “Bu-but look at his little ears/nose/paws/eyes/chin!!” to which he now just rolls his eyes. Paul is a dog person, and still mourns the loss of Pongo is childhood companion, but he’s more inclined to get emotional about Fantasy Football than he is about a sausage dog trying to climb stairs.

Suffice to say that upon hearing that my cousin could offer both a house to stay in and a chance to puppy sit, I was delighted. Shep, the Border collie cross something unknown, had grown somewhat in the six weeks since I’d last seen him.

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Baby Shep: the innocent little munchkin

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Shep now a lot bigger and eating everyone everything

He is so named because my four year old cousin wisely proclaimed that he was a shepherd dog, and that was the end of that. I prefer to call him the Shep Monster, Master of Destruction – if we’re using the full title.

Let’s not forget that he is only six months old, a baby really. Only he’s a baby with the ability to reach my shoulders, if so inclined, and prone to jumping on the dining table, and/or kitchen benches in search of something to eat. Such examples of this include leftover pizza (3 slices)/a box of wedges/shoes/newspaper/blinds/dishcloths. But he’s also quite partial to socks and kitchen chairs.

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Beyond the fact that he eats everything, and is able to vault over the gate at the bottom of the stairs – which was theoretically meant to prevent him from running upstairs and peeing on the carpet (or eating a loofah in the bathroom), he is hyperactive beyond all belief. This was a point that several people made when my cousin’s partner first arrived home with the teeny tiny fluff ball that was Shep. He wouldn’t always be teeny tiny, and very soon the decent sized backyard they have would not be sufficient space for him.

To combat his excess of energy, Paul and I walked him three times a day, battling with his fear of other dogs (of any size) and his incessant desire to chase cars. After a decent walk he was tired and ready to curl up next to us (or on top of us – though I’ve no idea why he thought collarbones and heads to be so comfortable) on the couch. This ten minute period of relaxation was like the Holy Grail. Unfortunately if either of us moved for a toilet break or a glass of water that signalled the end of nap time, and Shep was bouncing around again. Often, come ten at night, I could be seen standing in the garden as he ran loops around me at the speed of light, silently praying that if I stood there for half an hour in the cold, he might just wear himself out. A foolish hope as it turned out.

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Being a puppy, he was often prone to bad behaviour such as digging on the leather couch and nibbling at our ankles, and would have to be put in the naughty corner (outside or if it was raining… as was constant… in the kitchen). Of course, he knew how to play us perfectly, because after five minutes locked in the kitchen he would make his displeasure known. Upon hearing disconcerting sounds, Paul and I many times entered to discover he had ripped down and eaten another blind, over turned the bin and was standing on the dining table proudly looking about his work like Simba gazing out over his pride.

Suffice to say that when it finally came to his bed time, after a few whimpers, Paul and I collapsed on the couch, a vision of first time parents not coping with the stress and exhaustion. While I will miss Shep – he is such a cutie and gives rather excellent cuddles – I won’t miss the early mornings, the terror at what opening the kitchen door might entail, or the fact that Paul couldn’t give me so much as a morning goodbye kiss without Shep jumping between us. I suppose I’ve a new found sympathy for the anguish of those fictional families in the movies Beethoven and Marley and Me.

In any case, we did all survive the two week stint (well all of us except for one of the goldfish that is) and we are now happily ensconced in our apartment once more. It’s not a total dream as yet, given there are still builders wandering about fixing things, but at least a good night’s sleep isn’t entirely unachievable.

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