Puppy Diary #12: The Highs, Lows and In-Betweens of Sommer’s First Year

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puppy's first birthday

Dear Diary,

Soon we will celebrate Sommer’s first birthday. What a ride this year has been! From the high of picking her up at the trainer’s house and watching her darling littermates tumbling around the pen, to the low of rushing her to the emergency hospital after eating Advil, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for the world (well, maybe I would trade the Advil incident). But, just because Sommer is a year old doesn’t mean we automatically wake up that morning to a full-grown, fully trained dog. No, I expect Sommer to act like a puppy for a long while to come. Even physically, she might continue to change, as she is still lean, and her vet says she might fill out a bit. At nearly a year old, her energy level is high, although less frenetic as when she was tiny. In some ways, now that she is full grown, she needs more outdoor exercise than when she was smaller and could run around the house and tire herself out in the process.

Even as we wrap up the final official month of puppyhood, Sommer requires huge amounts of my attention: She is not an independent type. I’ve been told that this “people person” tendency is a doodle characteristic. I’m not sure if that’s true of every doodle, but I can attest that Sommer wants to be next to me every minute of the day, under any circumstances. If I get up off the couch and move to a chair five feet away, she gets up off the couch and moves to the chair. She’s no dummy. She’s going to stay close to the pack leader!

That leads me to nighttime, which has been one of our biggest challenges this year. She’s doing better at sleeping on her bed on the floor of our bedroom, but she still jumps up on our bed at 5:45 a.m. And that’s not the only habit we have yet to break. She still gets overly excited when visitors come to our house. She still is timid going for walks. She still goes berserk after a bath, zooming around the house and issuing a series of sharp barks that has me covering my ears while she tears around. There are days when she rings the bell to go outside dozens of times a day. I open the door for her, and she stands at the threshold and sniffs the air for the longest time, which drives me batty! Then she looks at me with those big, expressive brown eyes and it feels like a hug. The first year was indeed a journey from puppy to love.

Sommer was born in a litter of four girls and one boy, and from the first time the breeder emailed photos, I knew she was the one for us. Miraculously, even though we were the last family to pick (meaning we didn’t pick, we took the pup who was left after everyone else picked), we got her. That bond has only grown stronger and more sure since the first time I saw her tiny face in the breeder’s photo. We brought her home at ten weeks old. From that day, our lives were never the same. Those initial weeks were not unlike the two times in our lives when we brought home a new baby. Our sleep was definitely challenged. As it turns out, Sommer would tolerate being in her crate at night, until she wouldn’t. When she would wake in the early morning hours, she would decide she needed to be with her pack members and she would bark and whine plaintively. Unlike a baby, there was no “crying it out” method that ever worked for us. Sommer never gave up barking and fell into an exhausted sleep. Instead, she had the willpower and stamina to bark for seemingly hours on end – not that we had the patience to let her bark for that long. Her barking resulted in the entire household being awakened, an equally unappealing prospect when school and work awaited us in the morning. Sommer’s clear preference was to be on the bed with my husband and I. We didn’t prefer that, though, so when she was about 10 months old, we moved her out of her crate and onto a dog bed on the floor of our bedroom, which we thought was a fair compromise. The arrangement works, until she wakes us up early in the morning by jumping on the bed. Sleep, for sure, continues to be our biggest challenge as we complete the first year.

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