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WHEN TEENAGE YEARS HIT YOU CAN TRY PUPPY LOVE

My daughter entered high school this fall, and she has started showing signs of independence. Hugs and kisses are few and far between. It's no longer "cool" to be seen in a movie theater with one's parents.

Even shopping in the mall turns ugly. "You can't wear that," she tells me. "It's so '70ish." "Don't greet me next time . . . just wait in the car." "You treat me like a baby." "Don't talk to my friends." "You don't listen." "I know how to iron, I just don't want to."

The dreaded curse is upon me. I am the mother of a teenage daughter. Suddenly, I'm a total embarrassment. In order to feel appreciated and loved once again, I must find a substitute, possibly a pet.

My husband isn't particularly pet friendly and I attribute this to the fact that as a child, he never had a dog. Years ago, when I brought home a parakeet for my daughter, he took one look at the bird and asked, "How long do they live?"

Three days of the cold shoulder routine. That's all it took to convince my husband that we needed a new addition to our family.

Not to show disrespect, I did give him three choices in the decision making process. They were: an affair, a divorce or a pet. Being a wise man, he opted for a dog, and that's how Tanner, a cross between a golden retriever and standard poodle, came into our lives.

What I failed to realize is that raising a puppy is much like raising a child. They come with advantages and disadvantages.

I get barking instead of crying in the middle of the night. Fortunately, the food preparation technique and cleanup time is a lot easier with pets. Food goes from bag to bowl and is devoured in 30 seconds. There aren't any sterility concerns -- no boiling of bottles and nipples, no fixing of formulas. Best of all, breast feeding isn't an option.

Not only does a puppy lick his plate clean, but also the floor. On the contrary, babies, have to be hand fed. They leave morsels of leftovers smeared everywhere, on the high chair, under the high chair, in their hair and in every orifice. And I never have to ask, "Did Tanner eat his squash today?"

Puppies and babies pee and poop quite frequently, like it or not. Potty training Tanner involves taking him out in all sorts of inclement weather.

And there's nothing like a puppy to take my mind off world troubles. I have more pressing issues to contend with, such as, take the puppy out, feed the puppy, get the puppy tired, take the puppy out.

I remember reading books as a child that read, "See Spot run. Go Spot go." Now, when the puppy pees on the carpet, I yell, "Here's a spot, there's a spot, everywhere a spot spot."

The greatest advantage is that Tanner, unlike my daughter, is always happy to see me. I can kiss and pet him all day. He follows me from room to room. He seeks my affection and gives unconditional love.

Will this last forever? To my dismay, I heard that dogs go through a teenage phase themselves. Will he be ashamed to be seen on the other end of a leash with me? Can he get too sexy for his tail? All I know is, my next investment will be a pet rock.

KAREN ADRAGNA WALSH lives in Hamburg with her husband, daughter and newfound love.

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