A Pen is Not for Play

CHEWY: I didn’t know what all the fuss was about until it was too late. I love it when I hear a truck stop in front of our house and footsteps coming closer tell me a package is arriving. This time it was a big box. Probably too big for treats, but I can hope. I tried to help her get into it, without success. In a few minutes she had this thing with wheels put together. It sat in the living room for a few days and then, she opened the front door and took it outside. Wait! What about me, your little buddy? Sure enough, she picked me up and put me into the thing she calls a stroller. Then she wheeled me down the sidewalk for a weird walk. Hey, when do I get to pee? That was a short walk, but I had no idea what was coming next.

The stroller sat there for days. Then another box arrived. I greeted the man on the other side of the door with a rousing bark. The box was tall and skinny. And maybe heavy, because she dragged it into the house. She opened it immediately and dumped a long skinny cloth bag onto the floor. Then she opened the bag and dumped out a contraption with legs and a couple of wheels. She struggled with that for a while until suddenly there was this boxy thing standing on the floor. And she put me into it! Huh? 

I like to explore boxes, but I had no idea what was coming.  She took me out of the playpen left it next to the stroller. Next thing I knew, she was feeling sad and we were driving to the vet. He’s a nice man who sits on the floor with me once in a while, in between poking and prodding. The ladies in the hospital put me in a kennel and gave me shots and cut off some of my fur and stuck things into me. I don’t know exactly what happened, but the next thing I knew I was kind of awake and wanting to throw up and I couldn’t feel one of my legs. 

Hours and hours went by. They talked to me and petted me and took me out once in a while but I just wanted to go home. Soon it was night and I couldn’t believe I was stuck in this awful place. They offered food, but that was not what I wanted. HOME! Please?

In the morning, still groggy, I was awake enough to tell them to get me out of there. So I barked. And barked some more. Next thing I knew, they stuck a pill down my throat and I drifted off to sleep. It was a long, sad day. I cried for my human mom. Am I ever going to see her again? 

They got me out of that infernal cage, at last, and took me outside and there she was in our car, as if none of this awful stuff had happened to me! She took me home, and what do you know, she put me down in that playpen. And I’m stuck there all day! No play going on here, folks! I’m tired and hungry and shaking and my leg is back, but it hurts and I can’t move it. Going out in the stroller is the only way I’m getting a walk, and being carried to the yard to pee is just not my idea of what a tough guy like me should be doing!

Learning to Walk


I have been to enough dog training classes to know that, if there is a problem, it’s mine–not the dog’s. I’ve had Chewy for almost 4 years now and I recall our early times as pleasant. A rescue, he was needy for attention and I gave it to him. His is a loving little guy, but also demanding in the true terrier fashion. Or . . . have I brought that out in him?

Not long ago I would take Chewy on my three mile power walks. He’d stop once in a while to sniff and mark the grass or a pole, but would get into a groove, and since he’s faster than I am, his presence helped me to keep up a good pace.

During these COVID times, things have changed. I no longer take Chewy on my long walks. On the short walks around the neighborhood, I have grown increasingly irritated with his constant stopping to sniff and pee. I want to enjoy my walks, mind wandering as I listen to birds twittering. I want to look not at the dog, but at blossoming trees. Now Chewy increasingly stops and walks as slow as possible, nose in the grass. Or, catching a sound or whiff of something fascinating, tries to double back the way we came.

“Leave it!” “Chewy, what are you doing?” “Come on!” “Let’s go!” My words are increasingly agitated and I know he can feel the tension pouring off me. I know I could drag his 8 pounds down the sidewalk, but that would be cruel and someone might report me to the Humane Society. I was beginning to feel that he was doing these things to annoy me. Sounds like a cranky mom. Time to go back to doggie school–that is, time for me to get back to training.

I started back with my usual commands, “with me” and “release.” They say it doesn’t matter which commands you use, as long as you are consistent. I hold the leash handle in my right hand and my left gives him just a couple of feet to play with. Whenever I spy his cute little nose moving to the side, drawn by some irresistible scent, I give a quick tug. It’s interesting how training a dog to walk on leash is like using the reins on a horse. I often say “uh-uh” at the same time. He knows what that means.

I am constantly amazed by the dog’s intelligence. He gets it. For a while I was saying too much–praising him when he did it right, adding “go, go, go” in a high-pitched, excited voice, still saying “let’s go.” I finally realized those other vocalizations are confusing. If I praise him while he is walking properly, he thinks it is a “release” and heads right for the nearest tree. So now it is just the two commands. I only praise him when he’s already been released. I give him plenty of release time. I even pick out his favorite trees and bushes on our usual walks. In time, I should be able to decrease the breaks in the walking, as he doesn’t need to check all the spots another dog has marked.

I still yearn for a leisurely stroll with my mind drifting up into the clouds, but I’ll have to take those walks without Chewy.


CHEWY 2020

Seriously, I thought I was a pretty good leader to Chewy before this Coronavirus craziness had us both cooped up in the house for days. I’d get up in the morning, feed him and throw the ball once or twice. Then I’d go out and do errands or see people. On every return, he’d greet me with great excitement and bring me the ball to throw again. We had our evening cuddles on the couch with dinner. My food first, because he won’t eat kibble until he knows he’s not getting any of mine. And at dark, he’d go to sleep away from the TV, in the other room, until I prepared for bed myself and brought him into the bedroom. Then he’d obediently settle down in his little bed while I read and finally turned out the light.

All of that was great, but now he is my constant companion. I make sure to take him out every afternoon for a walk. But he seems to increasingly need to stop and sniff every plant and tree and fire hydrant. I flip between letting him do what he wants and going into my training routine: “With me,” and “release”. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but training mode spoils the walk for me. I’d rather let my mind open to the sounds and smells around me and just enjoy it.

I talk to Chewy more than usual. Often I demand, with irritation, “What?” when he barks or growls at me. Most times, I can’t figure out what he wants, unless it’s food. He goes out through his doggie door, but instead of coming back in unannounced, he stands on the deck and barks until I come into the room. He thinks he’s going to get a treat when he comes back in. This has happened thousands of times and continues, even though I NEVER give him a treat just for coming into the house after barking.

I’ve had to get out the citronella no-bark collar. He still quiets down when I show it to him, but the citronella insertion point seems to be plugged up because it no longer works when we’re out walking.

I think Chewy’s problem is he thinks whoever happens to be in the house has the job of entertaining him. And now I’m here all day long. He’s either bringing me the ball, demanding to get up on my lap while I’m at the computer, or barking at the front door, where there is nobody. Then there’s Zoom. Hard to have a meeting with a growling, barking dog underfoot. I’m somewhat anxious and depressed. Maybe he is too? Perhaps I should get out the Thunder Vest. Or the anti-anxiety meds I got him for the drive to Montana. Or maybe I’m the one who should be taking something to perk up!




Chewy on Drugs

Chewy on drugs (1 of 1)

Today was our dry run for the long drive to Montana. Can’t have a wiggly whining doggie for hours in the car, so I tried half of one of the pills the vet recommended. Poor little boy–slightly nervous but VERY sleepy. He managed to stay awake, just barely,  and spent a couple of hours in the car while I ran errands. Very sweet, but not my usual perky guy!

I have visions of Chewy as an old man doggie, cuddled in my lap with no energy.  Nice, but now I’m waiting for him to start barking at lawnmowers, demanding I try to get the ball away from him, and standing by the treat drawer with that look of royalty in his eyes.