Back in April, a Labrador retriever puppy named Scout came to live with us. He’s the first dog we’ve had as a pet, after a long line of cats and an even longer line of birds.
I’m a cat person, and so is my sister, which caused quite a bit of consternation and, to be completely honest, a little bit of disappointment for my parents who were both proud dog people. Maybe pet preference is like having twins and it skips a generation?
More than being a cat person, though, I’m an animal person.
It can be difficult when an animal person marries a non-animal person. I know this from experience.
When my husband asked me to marry him, I’m pretty sure he knew what he was getting himself into. It was no secret I loved my cats — the three of them — and that if he wanted to marry me, it was a package deal.
After a few years, the number of people and animals living in our house were starting to add up.
My husband had reached his breaking point and instituted what he thought was a foolproof policy, what he proudly called the mammal reduction plan. No living mammals were to enter the house unless the same number of mammals permanently left. His idea was to gradually decrease the number of pets (not people).
My husband married me for both my beauty and my brains, but this time he got himself outsmarted. A few short weeks after he put the mammal reduction plan into effect, we got another pet, this time it was a bird. You see, birds aren’t mammals. We now have 8.
I have stuck to the mammal reduction plan pretty well overall, and Scout is the first non-human mammal to come into our house in several years.
We got quite excited when my husband gave us the green light to get him. The kids and I read a couple of books about caring for and training dogs and we bought the necessities.
I thought we were well-prepared, but as it turns out, there was a lot to learn those first couple of weeks.
For example, having two or three leashes for a puppy that will be walked by kids is a good idea. There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in a situation where the puppy needs to get outside immediately to relieve himself and you won’t be able to find the leash anywhere.
By the time you find it at the top of the slide on the swing set in the backyard, it will be too late. Having a back-up or two will come in handy.
We learned the hard way not to store stuff on top of his kennel. It seems impossible that a puppy could grasp a treat bag by his teeth and then pull it through a tiny slit in the lid of his cage, but take my word for it, he can.
We should have realized that once he figured that out, nothing should have been left on top of the kennel, but it took a brush, a Barbie and one very expensive harness getting ripped to shreds before we finally learned our lesson.
Scout recently taught us that it was a foolish idea to give a dog a bath in the middle of a dirt patch that’s been seeded with grass seed because you can kill two birds with one stone and wash the dog and water the grass seed at the same time.
I’m sure you experienced dog people are shaking your head at my naivete as you read this, but I was genuinely surprised that after we rinsed Scout with clean water, he immediately jumped out of the bath and rolled in the mud.
Scout didn’t need any help learning how to fetch, and he pretty much figured out how to catch a frisbee all by himself, too. He can sit and lay down on command. He still doesn’t understand that he shouldn’t try to eat bees or poke his head into a snake’s hideout, but those are things I’m sure he’ll learn in time.
He’s a smart one, too. Bruster’s is one of our favorite places to drive through in the summer, and did you know they offer free dog cups for canine companions? Scout will quickly lick up all the vanilla ice cream in his cup, but he leaves the Milk-Bone untouched. I understand. I’d also choose the ice cream over a dog biscuit any day.
Taking care of and training Scout has taken a lot of time and, sometimes, hard work. I can brag that — honestly — I’ve never once had to get up early to take Scout out in the morning. That’s the kids’ job and they’ve delivered on that promise with flying colors.
That brings me to the best part of dog raising. The kids. Their campaign to get a dog included all kinds of promises. Their dad and I want to make sure they remember and keep most of those promises, and in the process learn a lot about responsibility and putting something besides yourself first. I think it’s working.
It warms my heart when I look out the window and see my daughter sitting with Scout in the yard, her arm around his neck, talking to him like he’s her best friend. A girl and her dog. Maybe it does skip a generation after all.
Clean-Up Week event coming to Solomons
Chesapeake Clean-Up Week, Coastal Conservation Association Maryland’s inaugural statewide trash clean-up, wraps up on July 13 with an event at the Solomons Public Boat Ramp, 14195 Solomons Island Road South, Solomons.
The event, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., is part of a statewide effort to empower the youth and engage a new audience and create a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.
Also during the week, participate remotely anywhere in Maryland with iAngler Tournament and enter to win prizes.
CCA Maryland looks to engage with volunteers, bring awareness to single-use plastic consumption and to continue to conserve, promote and enhance Maryland’s marine resources.
For more information, go to www.ianglertournament.com/cca-marylands-chesapeake-clean-week