Friday, November 9, 2007

The Couch Incident

Lesson Number Three: Don’t Start Something You Don’t Want To Finish, part 2

Puppies are funny creatures. They are furry and floppy and clumsy and depend completely on their master to teach them the ways of the world. Their cuteness can often make them difficult to train in a consistent manner, and their mischievous ways can, if you’re not careful, bloom into big trouble.

Almost everyone who ever got to know Bijoux would testify that we couldn’t have trained her any better than we did. I divide the credit between our diligence and consistency and the fact that Bijoux was an awesome animal that accepted lessons easily. There were, however, some mistakes along the way.

At the store on Bijoux’s first night in our home, I purchased some squeaky toys. Every puppy has to have squeaky toys. Not only is the soft plastic fun for them to chew, but also they love the power that comes with learning how to make the toy sound off! We played with those squeaky toys until they couldn’t squeak anymore, literally. Even after I got up off of the floor and walked away, Bijoux would continue to chew on them. Eventually she would get the squeaker out, and it appeared that she was wondering to herself why the toy “didn’t work” anymore. Rather than encourage play with a variety of toys, we kept buying new squeaky ones for her. And she kept ruining them. Finally, the only toys other than knotted up socks—which she loved—that she could play with, without our being worried about her choking, were the hard rubber bones and other shapes that the manufacturer claimed were “indestructible”.

We had to find something new to play. One day I discovered her “digging” in the sheets on the bed. It was adorable: her paws dug rapidly while her eyes didn’t move from whatever she was intent to find, all the while her floppy ears shook with the motions of her body. Common sense left me when I found this captivating sight, and I began to encourage her. There we would spend playtime, alternating between tug-of-war with the socks and both of us digging on the bed. She never actually tore sheets with her nails; it was just harmless digging. Or so I thought.

Then, the Couch Incident happened. I returned home from school one day to find something terrible. Bijoux had apparently been bored and in need of some playtime. Our couch, her perch from which she kept an eye on the neighborhood and from which she would look for me coming up the walk at the end of the day, had a hole in it. It was a small hole, but a hole nonetheless. I brought her to it and reprimanded her, even though I was pretty certain she wouldn’t take me seriously, since I didn’t catch her in the act. I hoped that she understood that this was a no-no.

The next day before I left for school, I put a folded blanket on top of the hole, not realizing whom I was dealing with. When I came home, not only was the hole a little bit bigger, but also the blanket was all bunched up in the middle of the couch. “Ah-ha!” I thought, “She was nesting in the blanket!” When I left the next day, I bunched the blanket up for her and put it on top of the hole. Arriving home, I was dismayed, but not surprised, to find a bigger hole and the blanket in the middle of the couch again.

I made a trip to the pet store (with Bijoux in tow) to get a product called Grannick’s Bitter Apple. The horrible taste of it was supposed to deter dogs from destroying things. I thought my problems were over when I left the next day, having sprayed the entire hole and surrounding area on the couch with Bitter Apple. I was wrong again; not only was the hole now the size of a dinner plate, but also Bijoux seemed to enjoy the Bitter Apple taste! I was at my wit’s end and struggled to think of another solution. I tried pepper. I tried chili powder. With all of the spices I was sprinkling on it, our couch must have been the best tasting couch ever, and nothing stopped her. (It didn't occur to me at the time that she was not touching the surface with her mouth--only her paws--but I didn't have an alternate plan.) Eventually I would stack about twenty pounds of books on top of the hole before I left each morning, and Bijoux lost interest. When we bought a new couch six months later, it never became an issue again. It was an expensive lesson for all of us.