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Adventures with Roger Dodger

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POSTED: November 22, 2011 2:51 p.m.
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Nov. 22, 2011: Roger gets a buzz cut

Roger sheds — a lot. We knew to expect that when we decided to get a yellow lab. But I never imagined just how much hair would accumulate all over the apartment on a daily basis.

I could clean the place all day long, but it seems the surfaces just collect more hair within five minutes of the cleaning spree.

My boyfriend met a nice little yellow lab puppy recently, and the dog’s owners told my boyfriend all about their puppy-grooming schedule. Apparently, they take the dog for a haircut every few months to cut down on shedding.

We pondered the idea for a few weeks, then called a couple grooming places to find out what kinds of services they offer. PetSmart and a local non-chain grooming place both offer grooming services for about $50, give or take a few bucks.

Both places said the haircut costs $50, and the extra services — a bath, ear cleaning and nail clipping — are complimentary. “Give me a break,” I said. “There’s no way a puppy haircut is worth $50.”

I figured they market it that way to make pet owners feel like they’re getting a break, when really they charge smaller fees for each service to come up with the $50 amount. Because, I thought again, there’s no way a puppy haircut is worth $50 — or so I thought.

My boyfriend took a trip to Walmart recently and asked if I wanted anything. He mentioned that he was going to pick up a few things. He didn’t mention anything out of the ordinary. 

When I got home from work late that night, I was greeted by a sleepy boyfriend and a half-shaven puppy. What I later found out was that the trip to Walmart included the purchase of some puppy-hair shears, aka human-hair clippers.

The grooming adventures apparently were more difficult than expected, thus the half-shaven puppy. After 40 minutes of trying to hold the puppy still in the bathtub, my boyfriend said, he decided three things:

1. Roger’s appearance would make me laugh when I got home.

2. We will be using a groomer from here on out.

3. He most likely won’t be giving any haircuts to future puppies or future kids.

He was definitely correct about the first assumption. He’s probably right about the other two things, too. We learned that paying $50 to have a dog get his coat trimmed, is, in fact, a fantastic deal, and it’s something we’ll pursue regardless of whether the extra services are “complimentary” or part of the cost.

As an added bonus, my boyfriend left the hair in the tub — in the guest bathroom, not ours — for me to check out. Just as I had suspected, it sure was a sight to see. Hopefully we’ll be able to scoop it all up without too many problems, I thought. If not, some water and a few gallons of Drano should do the trick.

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Oct. 27, 2011: Roger’s stuffing — and not the turkey kind

Ever since Roger was a little baby puppy, he has slept on a pile of towels inside his crate. We’ve gone through several cycles of towels in the past nine months because Roger tends to ruin every one of them either by tearing them to shreds or mistaking them for a litter box.

The puppy definitely hasn’t proven himself responsible enough to maintain his bedding, and yet for some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to upgrade his living quarters. Roger has developed calluses on his elbows, which we were told was caused from the way he lifts himself up from hard surfaces. We figured we should soften the floor of his crate, so we put his living room pillow, which we call “bed,” inside his crate. That gave him something nice and soft to lie on during the day and at night.

A few days later, Roger went into spastic puppy mode and started racing around the house. He eventually ran himself right into his crate, then proceeded to do his business right on his bed, the pillow absorbing every drop.

So, I took the wound-up puppy outside for a walk while my boyfriend threw the pillow cover in the washer and cleaned up the crate area.

That night, we went to bed before the pillow cover was done drying. Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend put the coverless pillow back into Roger’s crate so the puppy could still have something soft to lie on. Well, that turned out to be a bad idea.

Within 30 minutes, we heard a commotion in the living room, so my boyfriend went to investigate. Then I heard the vacuum cleaner. At that point, I knew something was up.

Don’t get me wrong, he does more than his fair share of vacuuming at home, but not right before we go to bed.

(Vacuuming is quite entertaining for us because we like to see how much dog hair we can collect in a single round of vacuuming. I’m amazed every time. It's almost as satisfying as cleaning a huge sheet of lint from the lint screen in the dryer.)

Anyway, several minutes later, my boyfriend returned to tell me that Roger had torn up his coverless bed. Apparently the outside layer is somewhat thin and easily rippable because it’s supposed to be used with the cover. He said there were wood chips and pieces of stuffing everywhere.

The next morning I found remnants of the mess all over the floor. “I heard you were a bad puppy last night,” I said to Roger. He didn’t say anything back. I guess he knows when to keep his mouth shut.

Then, during the next few evenings, I kept noticing a faint smell of woodchips. The smell was just strong enough to drive me nuts, but not strong enough to motivate me to go hunt for the pillow-stuffing remnants and toss them in the circular file.

Well, Roger provided me with that motivation this morning. Last night, apparently, Roger had had enough of his nice, newly cleaned puppy bed. He attacked the pillow cover, tore it open, then devoured the inside. I don’t know if it was the smell of stuffing and woodchips that drove him over the edge, but he definitely ruined his puppy bed and created quite the mess for me to come home to tonight. Before I left for work this morning, there were balls of stuffing in the crate, outside the crate, along the perimeter of the crate, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if balls of stuffing suddenly appear in the kitchen or hallway.

The only bright side is that I’m now motivated to clean up the whole mess. But that will require me to spend quite a bit of time cleaning, so really, how much of a bright side is that?

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Oct. 19, 2011: Roger the watchdog

Our little puppy Roger is turning into quite the watchdog.

It started with a usual occurrence you’d expect from a dog: Roger goes crazy when the pizza delivery man comes to the door.

Then we realized he goes crazy when we knock on the wall, pretending there’s someone at the door.

Lately, we’ve started to notice that Roger takes his role as the watchdog more personally and more seriously now. Whenever he thinks he hears something that needs to be investigated, he barks like crazy and leads us to the “problem area” — usually a random spot in the apartment or at a window — and he won’t stop until my boyfriend “investigates” the area and decides everything is safe and OK.

I told my boyfriend that we needed to continue to humor Roger when it comes to his “investigations,” because if we don’t, he might lose faith and not fully warn us if something serious ever does happen. We don’t want Roger to turn into the dog who cried wolf, after all.

Then, earlier this week, Roger one-upped himself. My boyfriend and I were sitting at the dining room table, talking and drinking liquid caffeine (Coke) before work. The table faces three giant windows, which face the picturesque lake outside of our apartment building.

One of Roger’s recent favorite activities has been staring out the window like an old, reminiscing man, and he was at it again that morning. Only this time, there was something to look at.

Roger had spotted an older gentleman sitting outside on a bucket at the edge of the lake. The guy was fishing in our fishless lake, and Roger took issue with that.

Resting his chin on the windowsill of the far right window, Roger began growling at the man. It wasn’t just one quick growl, though — it was a minutes-long growl session.

When he got bored with that angle, he trotted over to the far left window, nosed his way through the curtains until he found an opening, then continued his growling at the poor, fishless fisherman.

A few minutes passed, then the puppy returned to his first lookout point with Fish in his mouth.

Sidenote: Fish is Roger’s third green toy fish. I get quite a bit of amusement out of using proper nouns to name Roger’s toys. Fish’s two relatives, also named Fish, had to be retired after Roger shredded them to pieces.

So there was Roger, perched at the window with his chin and Fish resting on the windowsill, the puppy still growling at his new nemesis down by the lake.

He didn’t let up for at least 15 or 20 minutes. I’m not exaggerating. He probably would’ve lasted longer but I had to leave for work before I could find out.

I still don’t know why he was so angry at the fishless fisherman, especially because Roger’s not much of a growler. To the puppy’s credit, we’ve never seen the guy at our apartment complex before. But the dude certainly didn’t look threatening or suspicious.

It was funny, though, that Roger stared down the guy with Fish hanging from his mouth. Maybe it was his way of rubbing it in the guy’s face. The fisherman spent a good half hour at the lake and caught nothing; Roger landed Fish without leaving the confines of his own home.

Either way, I think Roger has proven himself as a worthy guardpuppy.

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Oct. 5, 2011: Brush burns and Moose Dog

Roger was a bit of a handful Monday afternoon. It was the second-worst experience I’ve had near our mailbox in the past couple weeks.

(Sometime in September, I got distracted and tripped over my own two feet on my way to the mailbox. I missed the end of the curb and fell onto the parking lot, rolling my ankle and scratching up my legs in the process. I walked back to the apartment with a slight limp while blood dripped down my legs. That was the worst experience I’ve had recently near our mailbox.)

Anyway, I took Roger for a walk Monday afternoon. On the way, we stopped at the centrally located mailbox area at our apartment complex.

Roger is a maniac when I get the mail, so I keep him on a short leash to minimize disasters. After I managed to unlock and relock the mailbox, I realized that the short leash was doing more harm than good, so I gave Roger some slack. Otherwise, we weren’t going to make it very far.

I stopped at the doggy-bag station right next to the mailbox to pick up a new bag to tie to the leash handle.

At the same time, a woman and her child walked past us on the sidewalk. Roger sensed their presence and leapt after them.

I didn’t have my finger on the leash lock/trigger, so he had full range to do as he pleased. I knew that yelling, “Roger, come!” would do nothing but waste a breath and three second of my life, so I didn’t even think to do that. Instead, I grabbed the thin leash fabric with my free hand and tried to pull him in.

Unfortunately, the 70-pound puppy beat me. He kept on pulling, causing the leash fabric to rip through my tight grip. I still have the brush burns and blisters to prove it.

Roger didn’t do much to the lady and her child other than attempt to pounce on them, but the lady looked at me like I was nuts and had no control over my dog. I suppose it was partially true, because at that particular moment, I didn’t really have any control over the spastic puppy.

Once the problem-causing duo was out of sight, Roger and I headed away from the mailbox/doggy-bag area.

At that point, I thought all my troubles were over. Nope — not even close.

As soon as we got a few feet away from the mailbox area, a dude and his giant dog came bounding toward us. I knew we were in trouble when I realized that the owner — a pretty big guy by my standards — barely had any control over his dog. The dog was launching himself and his owner closer and closer to us, and we couldn’t get away fast enough. 

The guy looked at me and said something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, he’s just not used to seeing dogs his own size.”

Meanwhile, his dog was at least three times bigger than Roger. Plus, his dog looked more like a moose than a dog. He wasn’t making any sense.

I continued pulling Roger away despite the guy’s comment. I figured he wouldn’t think anything of it. And then…

Big dude: “What’s the matter? You don’t want to meet my dog?”
Me: “I think he’s a little big for my puppy. Maybe in a few months.”

The dude sounded like he was insulted that I didn’t want my little puppy to meet his enormous moose of a canine.

On a side note, the antagonistic Moose Dog looked kind of like Ugly Dog, which I wrote about on April 5 in a post called “David vs. Goliath / Roger loses his lunch money.” But the owners didn’t look too similar, so I don’t think it was the same dog.

At any rate, I was happy and relieved when we lost sight of Moose Dog and his owner. I think Moose Dog may have been big enough to eat Roger in one bite. I’d hate to see what he could do to me.

Thankfully, Roger and I made it back to our apartment safely with each of us still in one piece. 

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September 21, 2011: Toys, toys, toys 

My parents were in town this past weekend to visit. They hadn’t seen Roger in person since March, so obviously they were amazed at how much bigger their grandpuppy has gotten.

Last time they were here, Roger had his most explosive digestive problem to date. Thankfully, we didn’t have any such mishaps this time around.

My parents got the opportunity to watch Roger the Sock Bandit in action. They thought it was funny that he really does go after our clothing every time we leave the bedroom door open, just like I explained in my last blog post.

My mom made Roger a stuffed sock toy like the one I made him last week. Unfortunately, the puppy tore it up within minutes and we suddenly had socks all over the place.

She also brought Roger — she likes to call him her puppy — a couple of new plastic chew toys.
The toy donut looked scrumptious and made me crave donuts every time I glanced at it. Click here for a picture of it.

The yummy donut only lasted a few days. Roger tore out the side of the donut, which turned out to be hollow inside. I suggested we fill it with peanut butter and give it back to Roger, but the rest of the house voted against that.

The other toy, a squishy toy barbell type of thing — click here for a picture — has stood up to the test of Roger — so far.

It seems like no matter what we buy the puppy, Kong-brand toys are the only ones that last more than a couple weeks.

Do any of you have any suggestions for indestructible dog toys?

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September 14, 2011: The Sock Bandit 

As I’ve said in previous posts, Roger seems to like homemade toys more than expensive, store-bought toys. When given a choice, he prefers Powerade bottles and various articles of clothing to colorful, stuffed chew toys.

Using Roger’s affinity for clothing to my advantage, I took a bunch of old socks last week and balled them into another sock. The toy ended up looking like a slobbery foot, but sure enough, he loved it.

One of Roger’s most amusing habits is trotting to the bedroom every time we leave the door open. He goes inside and heads straight to the pile of clothes that inevitably appears on the floor within a day of me doing laundry.

Eyeing the pile, Roger picks out the most scrumptious article he can find. His go-to choices vary between socks, underwear and T-shirts, but I think he likes socks the best.

He grabs at least one item — sometimes two items, depending on how brave he’s feeling — then trots out to the living room to showcase his prize.

I know he’s only a dog, but we seriously can see a look of pride on his face when he comes out of the bedroom with our laundry in his mouth while his tail wags like windshield wipers during a downpour.

In fact, it never gets old for him. Every single time, he trots around all proud of himself that he “outsmarted us” long enough to steal our clothes.

After he does his victory lap around the living room, he takes the article of clothing and lies down on his pillow bed. He chews on the sock or T-shirt for a few minutes, then often goes back to the laundry pile for Round 2.

It’s making me laugh as I sit here and type this. Roger does this sock banditry without fail every single time we leave the door open. We often can’t get him to be quiet while we watch TV or get him to lie down when he’s outside playing like the rambunctious puppy that he is, but it’s a sure bet that he’ll steal our clothing and transport it to the living room.

Roger also likes to help my boyfriend clean out his gym bag. When my boyfriend is getting ready for work in the morning, Roger allegedly likes to trot to the open gym bag and take out all of the clothes — one article at a time, of course. I say “allegedly” because I’m never awake early enough to confirm that this actually happens.

Now, if you think like I do, you’re wondering if we can use Roger’s thievery to our advantage. For example, if we can teach him to carry the clothes to the laundry room. Or at the very least, if we can get him to drop the clothes into a shallow laundry basket instead of his pillow bed.

If we can get him to do either of those, I’d say we have the world’s smartest puppy. But alas, we have yet to master those tricks.

I’m going to give it a shot, though. Maybe after we’re done with that, we can teach him to load the dishwasher, too.

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September 1, 2011: Peanut butter cereal

My boyfriend and I have a sick puppy on our hands — a puking puppy, to be more exact.

At first, we thought we were supposed to give Roger one pill every 12 hours. For a few days, everything was fine. Then we more carefully examined the prescription label and realized he’s supposed to get two pills every 12 hours.

That’s when things got more complicated. And by complicated, I mean we began our new positions with the local puke patrol.

On Monday morning, Roger ate his breakfast and took his pills with no problem. That evening, Roger ate his dinner like a good little puppy, then took his pills before bed.

A little while later, we heard an awful noise coming from the living room. Apparently Roger had thrown up his dinner and antibiotics. My boyfriend, thinking like the disaster-ready guy that he is, grabbed a garbage bag and tried to get Roger to finish up in the bag.

Unfortunately, the noise from the bag opening scared him, so he ran away and finished vomiting elsewhere.

Because I was on puke-patrol duty the last two times this happened, I told my boyfriend this one was his turn, and he bravely accepted his mission.

Fortunately, our crazy-colored carpet didn’t stain, and Roger was bouncing around like his old self shortly after the incident.

On Tuesday morning, Roger ate his breakfast and took his pills with no problem. That evening, he ate his dinner like a champ. A little while later, he took his pills, seemingly with no problem.

A little while later while my boyfriend and I were watching TV in the living room, we heard an unmistakable noise coming from Roger’s crate. Yes, the puppy did it again.

We didn’t realize until afterward that Roger had been way too calm right before it happened and was quietly playing in his crate while we watched TV. We should’ve known right then and there that something was up. That dog is almost never calm and quiet at the same time.

At first I couldn’t see the mess, but I knew it had to be there somewhere. After I turned on another light, we found Roger’s nightly contribution. He has such an odd way of thanking us for feeding him and caring for him.

I volunteered to clean up this round. But unfortunately, the mess was in the far corner of the crate. I was going to slide the plastic floor out until I could reach the chunky mess, but my boyfriend went with another plan of attack instead. He dove right in, got on his hands and knees, and cleaned out the crate from inside of it.

I made the mistake of telling him it was the perfect photo opportunity for my blog, but unfortunately, he dismissed that idea the moment I suggested it. So, you’ll have to settle for my words today.

Anyway, the chunky mess inside the crate was so disgusting that I decided to distract myself with something funny.

You should remember that last time we dealt with a disaster of this magnitude inside Roger’s crate, I referred to the mess as chocolate brownie mix.

Well, this time around, I decided upon peanut butter cereal. Specifically, I was thinking about Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch (Click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about), but that was too wordy for the “peanut butter cereal” song I kept repeating aloud while my boyfriend scooped up Roger’s mess.

After the puke-patrol mission was complete, Roger — once again — pranced around like nothing had happened.

That brings us to Wednesday. In the morning, Roger took his pills like a champ. I’m not sure how much breakfast he ate, if any, but I know there weren’t any messes to clean up when I woke up a few hours later.

On Wednesday night, we tried a different plan of attack. Giving Roger his pills after eating a meal didn’t seem to be working, so this time we gave him his pills on an empty stomach. Worst-case scenario, we figured there wouldn’t be anything for him to throw up.

Oh how wrong we were.

We ate our dinner while Roger circled the dining room table, begging each of us for food. We gave him a couple noodles to chew on. Maybe that’s all it took or maybe it was a coincidence, but a few minutes later, we saw Roger calmly and quietly trot off to his crate.

My boyfriend knew what was happening as soon as Roger left the table. Sure enough, we heard the all-too-familiar splashing sound, followed by more gross noises.

Roger was in his crate, throwing up in the same far corner. My boyfriend, thinking quickly once again, called Roger’s name to get him to turn his head away from that far corner. Roger’s mess was dangerously close to overflowing onto the carpet, but my boyfriend averted that disaster just in time.

Two observations here:

1. It’s interesting that Roger has gone to his crate two of the three times he’s gotten sick this week. I think he knows he’s about to make a mess and thinks he’ll get in less trouble if he makes a mess in his own crate rather than on the floor. Obviously, he’ll never get in trouble for being sick, but he probably doesn’t know any better.

2. Instead of peanut butter cereal, this mess looked like chicken soup. It was comprised of water, some kind of gooey slime, and those two noodles that came back to haunt us.

Fortunately, the chicken soup was much easier to clean up than previous messes of brownie mix, peanut butter cereal, etc.

My boyfriend and I are getting to the point where Roger’s messes don’t even really surprise us anymore. We just accept what happens and immediately go into cleaning mode. At first it was shocking every time Roger did something crazy, but I think now we’re getting used to it.

I keep telling myself that this is just good preparation for having a kid someday.

Speaking of kids — during the first or second night of puke-patrol duty, I took a timeout to send my mom a text message, apologizing for all the times I ever made ridiculous messes as a kid.

Taking care of this crazy puppy is starting to make me realize just how much puppies and kids are dependent on their owners/parents and how much my parents sacrificed to raise two good kids.

So, Mom and Dad — I’m starting to know how it feels to clean up after a little monster. Thanks for all that you do :-)

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Aug. 17, 2011: Another visitor, another mishap

 We had another visitor this weekend, and again Roger caused a commotion.

My boyfriend’s aunt from Pittsburgh stayed with us for the weekend. After an entire afternoon’s worth of flight delays, she finally arrived in Savannah late Thursday night. We picked her up from the airport and went to Applebee’s for a late dinner.

By the time we got home, we had been out for at least a few hours. This was the first time his aunt was meeting Roger, so we were eager to see their reactions.

She and I stood in the entryway while my boyfriend went to retrieve Roger from his crate. Roger came running at us, his tail wagging from side to side.

What happened next was sort of a blur, but I remember the jumpy puppy kept going back and forth between the three of us. The next thing I knew, my foot was wet.

I don’t know why, but it didn’t hit me right away. It wasn’t until I saw the wet wall that I put it all together.

Because we had been out for a while, apparently Roger had to go to the bathroom really badly by the time we got home. That, combined with the excitement of meeting a new human, got him too wound up for his own good.

In the midst of his jumping around in the entryway, he managed to tinkle on my foot, then somehow — I still don’t understand how — tinkle a foot or two up the wall.

I started making a fuss when I realized what happened, but my boyfriend didn’t believe me until he saw the wet, streaky wall. I guess he thought I was making it up or that I just got hit with some puppy drool. But no, I had not been mistaken. I’ve learned the difference quite well, being that this was about the fifth time or so that Roger has mistaken my sandaled foot for a litter box.

Nothing like a nice housewarming gift for our new visitor, huh.

After I scrubbed and sanitized my feet and sandals, I couldn’t help but laugh about the fact that Roger is 2 for 2 in recent greetings gone bad. A couple weeks ago, greeting my boyfriend’s sister and dad when I got home from work distracted me and resulted in me leaving my purse where Roger could mistake it for the best snack he ever had. (For more on that debacle, see my post on Aug. 8 called “My dog ate my homework.”

I’d like to conclude that breaking out of our usual daily routine is what causes Roger to act up, but I think we all know that that’s just not true. I’m pretty sure the puppy would be a troublemaker no matter how well we follow our routine. I need to remind myself, though, that he is just that — a puppy — and we can’t expect like him to act like a well-behaved adult every second of the day. After all, he is only 8 months old.

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Aug. 8, 2011: My dog ate my homework

One of my former softball coaches liked to talk about how players would make errors as soon as they received compliments.

Apparently the complimentary tone toward Roger in my last blog post, combined with kind words I said about him in the meantime, caused my puppy to make an error. But this wasn’t the kind of error that could be salvaged with a double play during the next at-bat.

I’m usually pretty good about not leaving anything on the living room floor where Roger can get to it. One day last week, though, I made an error of my own.

My boyfriend’s dad and sister were in town last week. When I came home from work on the day they arrived, I put my unzipped purse on the floor. Distracted by greetings, I left it there. Assuming it would be a convenient place to pick it up the next morning before I left for work, I decided not to bring my purse into my bedroom like I almost always do.

In fact, I think this was the first time I’ve ever left my purse on the living room floor since the puppy first arrived. I had gotten too comfortable with my surroundings.

People often say something to the effect of, “Errors are more likely when people get too comfortable with their surroundings.” I say, “Touché.”

Anyway, the next morning brought an unexpected surprise. I walked into the living room and saw something weird at the foot of the couch. It looked like a wallet, but for some reason, I thought it was my boyfriend’s dad’s wallet. I thought maybe Roger took it from him during the night and decided to chew it.

Then I looked on the floor to the left of the couch. I was greeted by a sea of leather and plastic. Half-chewed credit cards and remnants of leather were everywhere.

Then, as Rascal Flatts put it, “like a ton of bricks, it hit me...” The pile of leather on the couch was my own.

The plastic cards on the floor had become Roger’s new chew toys. He had gotten into my unzipped purse during the night, emptied the contents onto the floor, then decided that my leather wallet and plastic cards tasted the best.

He totally destroyed half of my wallet. He chewed on my driver’s license, an insurance card, my Parker’s gas card and a few gift cards, leaving plenty of holes and teeth marks in each one.

Except for one of the gift cards, I think everything is salvageable until I can get replacements. But at the time, judging by the huge pile of debris on the floor, it felt like there were 10-15 ruined cards on the floor. (Later that day, I took pictures of the aftermath. Then I realized I probably shouldn’t post pictures online of my important card numbers and information. Whoops.)

Roger also got to a $20 bill. Fortunately, he doesn’t like the taste of money. The bill was slobbery wet but its condition was just fine.

It seemed that Roger tried to chew everything he could get his paws on that night. He probably would’ve eaten my homework, too, if I had any.

The wallet debacle was extremely frustrating to me. At the time, I would’ve gladly cleaned up more “brownie mix” from Roger’s cage in exchange for not having my wallet’s contents chewed to shreds. And we all know how much I hate cleaning up brownie mix. (For more on the brownie-mix disaster of June 2011, see my June 2 post called “Puppy relapse” and my June 15 post called “Groundhog Day.”)

I am, however, thankful that mostly everything Roger chewed is replaceable, though it will take some time to replace everything.

But as with any adversity that I face, I learned my lessons.

1. I’ll make sure Roger doesn’t have access to any of my important stuff. He can’t be trusted.

2. People do, in fact, make errors after they’ve been complimented. I didn’t make many errors on the softball field, but Roger and I sure erred last week. As always, my coach was right.

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July 27, 2011: Abandonment issues and separation anxiety

The evening before my boyfriend and I were set to drive to Florida for a trip to Disney World and Universal Studios, he dropped off Roger at a local animal hospital/kennel. I wasn’t able to accompany him, but I imagine the way he felt was akin to dropping off a firstborn child for his/her first day of preschool.

While planning for our trip, I was excited about having a weeklong break from something that’s a constant source of stress for me. I love Roger, but the potty training, disciplining, vacuuming and worrying can be a bit overwhelming at times.

During our trip, however, I noticed that my thoughts begin to focus more and more on how Roger was doing.

Before we left, the vet advised us that puppies often become depressed when they’re dropped off at a kennel because they don’t realize their owners eventually will come back to pick them up. The vet said the depression sometimes causes dogs not to eat as much or as often. She said she’d call if that happened, but fortunately, we never received that call.

The vet’s words kept running through my mind at random times. I thought of Roger sitting there in a crate by himself, wondering if we’d ever come back to pick him up. I’ve been told that dogs have a warped concept of time, so when their owners are gone for a day, it can seem like much longer than that.

I don’t know how much dogs actually understand as far as their existence and their relationship to their owners, but it made me sad to think that Roger might be thinking we were never coming back.

My boyfriend, only half-jokingly, wondered aloud if Roger would remember us. I assured him that our puppy would not forget us.

Our vacation was over before we knew it. We picked up Roger as early as we could — much earlier than they were expecting us. I figured Roger would playfully attack us when he got to the waiting room. Instead, he scampered around the perimeter of the room, investigating all the bags of dog food for sale. After he was satisfied with his product-sniffing, he finally came over and greeted us.

One of the workers had just finished giving Roger a bath, so of course she didn’t have time to dry him. Awesome. There’s nothing like having an excitable, wet, shedding puppy getting his wet dog hair all over my six-month-old car, which up until that point was pretty clean.

It’s OK, though. We finally were reunited with our puppy, and as happy as we were to see Roger, I think the dog was even happier to see us.

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June 23, 2011: Remote-controlled Roger

A couple weekends ago while browsing the toy aisles at Walmart, my boyfriend decided it would be fun to buy a remote-controlled car. I voted for the yellow Corvette (my favorite car ever), but my boyfriend must have two votes because the red Mustang convertible won instead.

Without even talking about it, I knew he wanted it to mess with Roger. Don’t get me wrong — we’d both have plenty of fun playing with a remote-controlled car by ourselves. But adding Roger to the mix brings the fun to a whole different level.

Previously, I had seen people use red laser pointers on floors and walls to make dogs and cats chase the lasers. If you think that’s fun, buy a remote-controlled car. It’s way better.

When we got home, our fun was delayed because we forgot to buy the six AA batteries required to operate the car. You can tell we’re not parents — I’m pretty sure most parents would think about batteries before leaving the store with a toy. On top of that, they probably keep an ample supply of batteries on hand at all times.

We unleashed the fun a few days later once the battery purchase was complete

You’d think Roger would have loved the remote-controlled car. Normally he acts like a tough guy and doesn’t stand down in the presence of bigger dogs.

For whatever reason, though, the car scared the heck out of him. He bolted in the opposite direction the first time he saw the car move. He continued to run away every time the car got close to him.

At one point, he tried to make a run for it, traveling in a very roundabout route in order to avoid the car. He may be a bit of a wimpy puppy when it comes to motorized toys, but at least he’s smart about it.

Another time, he hid underneath the dining room table, which is his favorite hiding spot. That’s where he usually goes when we turn on the vacuum.

Later, the car chased him into the kitchen, where he intelligently used the cabinet under the sink, the garbage can and my legs to box himself in.

We tried to bait him by putting a milk-bone treat in the backseat of the convertible. Conveniently, the treat fit perfectly. It’s like it was designed for this very purpose.

To our disappointment, however, even his favorite treat couldn’t convince him to get anywhere near the car.

Eventually, my boyfriend calmed down Roger enough to convince him to investigate the car a bit. Roger finally approached the backseat treat. But like the smart puppy that he is, he knocked the treat out of the car and carried it away so he could eat it in peace without being threatened by the car.

Initially, I thought Roger would destroy the car within days, just like he does with most of his chew toys. After seeing his reaction, though, I’m convinced that it will take a while before he gets brave enough to take on the Mustang.

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June 15, 2011: 'Groundhog Day'

Want to know what’s worse than Roger’s brownie-mix puppy relapse that I described June 2?

Having to clean up the same mess all over again last week after getting home late from work late one evening.

Want to know what’s even worse than that?

Having to do it two nights in a row. Such is life when you have a rambunctious puppy running around.

Last Tuesday night, I came home from work to find Roger had had another accident in his crate. This mess looked more like wet brownie mix. We followed the same sequence of events as we had the previous week, only the mode of transportation to the bathtub was different.

Roger wouldn’t stand still long enough for my boyfriend to pick him up in a towel magic-carpet style. Instead, he bit the bullet and picked up the messy dog with his bare hands.

The disgusted look on his face said, “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.” He held Roger away from his body the way someone who’s not used to being around kids would hold with outstretched arms a dirty-diapered baby.

After that, it was the same cleanup routine as the week before.

The following evening, I got home from work thinking someone forgot to inform me that I was in the movie “Groundhog Day.” It was the same smell, the same gross mess. Same old story.

On the third night, it happened again.

Just kidding. Not even Roger is that mischievous.

We realized soon afterward that his digestive problems probably could be blamed on the slight change in dog food we had been feeding him that week. The only reason it happened was because the store we went to was out of his usual kind, so we had so buy a slightly different kind of the same brand.

On the second night that disaster struck, my boyfriend went out and bought the right kind of dog food, and we didn’t have any more problems after that. Problem solved. Crisis averted. Lesson learned.

Stay tuned for my next blog on Roger’s first meeting with a remote-controlled car.

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June 2, 2011: Puppy relapse

Before I get to my post, I’d like to share a comment I received from Amy F. on May 27: “Why haven't we heard about Roger lately? I hope he isn't serving a long sentence in puppy prison! I miss reading about Roger's antics!”

Amy, thanks for your comment. To answer your question, Roger’s demeanor had been pretty calm for a couple weeks. He hadn’t been entertaining us with his antics as much as he usually does. Then, as if he read your mind and mine, he decided to revert to his newborn puppy stage over Memorial Day weekend.

He threw so much at us that I’m beginning to forget the order in which he performed all of his antics, but I’ll do my best.

• After my boyfriend and I had spent a few hours shopping and eating lunch, we returned home to find quite a surprise. As I opened the front door, I paused, sniffed and immediately declared, “Roger went to the bathroom in his cage.” Unfortunately, I was right. If only I had known how bad it was going to be.

Picture a cookie sheet filled with semi-dry brownie mix. Now pretend the pan is Roger’s crate, and the “brownie mix” is spread out all over the floor. That’s the lasting mental image I have of the situation. It was dry and stuck to the hard-plastic floor of the crate.

As grossed out as I was, my boyfriend and I immediately went into action mode. He plopped Roger onto a towel, grabbed the four corners and carried the dog to the entryway magic-carpet style. Click here for a visual.

While they went outside to take care of business, I wandered the apartment to gather cleaning supplies and figure out how to suppress the overwhelming smell. The Febreze and other air-freshener spray didn’t work too well. It was like hoping a dash of salt would fix a nasty meal of peas and carrots.

I filled up the bathtub in the guest bathroom, knowing the boys would be returning shortly. I hate the idea of dog hair and dog stink getting all over the Steelers-covered bathroom, but I suppose that’s a better alternative than letting Roger bathe in the master bathroom.

Then I began my plan of attack. I slid out the removable floor of the dog crate, careful not to let any of the brownie mix spill out over the edges. A sweep of a paper towel revealed that the brownie mix had hardened and was stuck to the plastic floor. Great.

I realized I would need more supplies. Conveniently, I found some extra doggy-poo bags on the entryway table. My habit of not putting things away where they belong paid off for once. (Keeping disposable gloves around would make too much sense.) With a poo bag on each hand, I attacked my cleaning duties. Now I was ready.

This is going to sound gross, but I figured out that a spoon would be the best way to scrape up the brownie mix that was stuck to the crate floor. The spoon worked well. Who knew? Yes, I promise I threw it away immediately afterward.

Next, I sprayed some scrubbing bubbles bathroom cleaner all over the plastic floor. It made the remaining brownie mix kind of muddy, but at least it helped me clean up the remaining residue.

I’d like to take this time to remind you that the stench still was overwhelming at this point. I kept telling myself that the mess really was brownie mix to distract myself from how disgusting the whole ordeal was, but it wasn't really an effective plan. I had a runny nose at the time, but I was afraid to sniffle for fear of inhaling the seemingly toxic fumes.

Eventually, the boys emerged from the bathroom looking clean and smelling fresh. We temporarily locked Roger inside puppy prison to keep him away from my cleaning zone. After a few more rounds of Febreze, scrubbing bubbles, dog-stain remover and air-freshener spray, the air was back to neutral and the plastic floor was the cleanest it had been since we bought the crate.

After rearranging the crate, we learned just how much dog hair accumulates on the carpet on either side of the crate. Gross.

Later that weekend:

• Roger mistook my sandaled feet for a litter box and gave me a warm surprise. Keep in mind, I was wearing the sandals that I bought to replace the ones he chewed to pieces. I ran to the bathroom and immediately took an antibacterial shower.

• Roger mistook the front of the couch for a litter box and gave the couch and floor a warm surprise.

• Roger mistook the towel in his crate for a litter box and gave it a warm surprise.

He didn’t bark ahead of time to warn us like he usually does. He just did it unannounced. Maybe he did it for fun. Maybe he did it because he can. Or maybe he did it because we didn’t take him out enough.

Needless to say, Roger acted like an undisciplined newborn puppy all weekend while we practiced our cleaning skills and tested our patience. At the very least, the mutt is doing a good job preparing me for the prospect of parenthood someday. Thanks, Rog.

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May 10, 2011: Puppy prison

Sometimes when Roger is bad, we have to lay down the law.

After much debate, we finally decided to leave his crate in the living room. This gives us easy access to him, and he gets to feel social when my boyfriend and I are in the living room or kitchen/dining room.

The only problem is that when crated Roger barks when we’re in the living room, the noise is piercing and makes it difficult to watch our shows on TV.

At some point, we came up with the idea of puppy prison, i.e., the laundry room. When Roger is being bad (incessant barking, biting, etc.), he gets dropped off in puppy prison for a few minutes.

At first, he’d howl and bark the whole time. Eventually, he learned the game – once he’s quiet for a few minutes, we let him out.

My favorite situation occurs after we’ve already taken Roger to puppy prison a few times in one evening. My boyfriend will stand in front of the crate to get Roger, and Roger will back up and try to hide in the back of the crate. Once he’s been retrieved, he’ll put on the brakes and refuse to walk to the entrance of puppy prison. Picture a person trying to pull a dog on skates, only the dog is using the skate brakes and won’t let up.  

Now that I think about it, putting a dog on roller skates would be awesome. Imagine the possibilities.

Anyway, one of the problems with puppy prison is that we always have to make sure the laundry room floor is dog-proofed. I have an overwhelming paranoia that Roger is going to leave us a present on the floor or under the dryer and that we’re not going to find it until weeks later.

Per the trainer’s recommendation, we’ve also tried spraying Roger with water when he’s bad. The only problem is, I think he likes it. It sure doesn’t act as a deterrent. Plus, it just creates more work for us because we either have to deal with the smell of wet dog or take him out and dry him off when the spray-bottle game is over.

Do any of you have any solutions for puppy timeout? Email me at cschroeder@coastalcourier.com and I’ll publish your comments in my next post.

P.S. — If you didn't click on the link four paragraphs above, do so now. It'll be worth it.

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May 3, 2011: Upchuck 

Everything with Roger had been smooth sailing for a few days. I should have known something was up.

My boyfriend had to work late last night, so I was in charge of feeding Roger. He never seems to finish his food if someone doesn’t stand there watching him, so I filled up his food bowl in the kitchen, let him out of his crate and loaded the dishwasher while he ate. He began to scarf down the food and water rather quickly — too quickly, as it turns out.

After he finished about 75 percent of his dinner, he suddenly stopped, moved his head next to the food bowl, and the next thing I knew, I heard doggie burping sounds and there was a mix of food and drool splattered all over the kitchen floor.

I said his name the same way I do when he does something mischievous like stealing a sock from the laundry pile. It must have scared him though, because he went running to the living room, then proceeded to finish throwing up his dinner on the living-room carpet. Nice.

Now, unlike when Roger had his digestive problems and was leaving us messes of a different color, I didn’t go into full-blown panic mode this time. I didn’t have my boyfriend there for backup, so I guess I knew I had to step up, take one for the team and deal with the mess without making too big of a fuss.

I put Roger in his crate to 1.) prevent him from interfering with my cleaning, and 2.) to contain any potential future episodes inside his crate.

A half a roll of paper towels and a few grossed-out faces later, the mess was cleaned up to the best of my ability. It would’ve been much worse if Roger actually had digested the food before he threw it up. Instead, it came up almost as soon as it went down. As a result, I only had to deal with what looked like soggy dog food mixed with saliva, rather than, well, you can imagine.

After I cleaned up the disaster site, Roger and I went outside for a walk. I half expected him to throw up some more, but for some reason he acted like nothing even happened. He ran around like crazy in super-spastic puppy mode. With his leash in hand, I stood in one place and spun as he raced around me in circles.

Fortunately, he was fine for the rest of the evening and seemed fine this morning as well. Hopefully we won’t have any more incidents like this for a while.

However, the timing was a bit humorous to me because one of my friends in Pittsburgh, Amy, had a similar experience last week while dog sitting. At least I’m not the only one dealing with these misadventures.

Do any of you readers out there experience any of this on a regular or not-so-regular basis? I’m curious to hear your stories. Click on the “comment” button at the top of this page, send me an email and I’ll publish your comments in my next post.

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April 25, 2011: Roger graduates from doggie college — Part II

After the graduation-cap ordeal (see my previous post), the trainer handed out our certificates of participation. He gave out envelopes “for those who weren’t going to frame them.” It took me a few minutes, but then it dawned on me – why would anyone frame their puppy-level certificate? It’s kind of like building a trophy case just to show off the participation trophies we used to get for playing T-ball when we were 5 years old. Anyway, my boyfriend joked that we could hang the certificate right between my college diploma and his. Right.

The trainer also handed out treat bags “from Uncle Bob” for each of the matriculated puppies. Roger’s bag included a canvas fish toy connected to a rope loop. It quickly has become one of his favorite toys. I’ll write more about that in a later post.

After class, I took Roger outside to go to the bathroom so he wouldn’t make a mess while we shopped at PetSmart. Of course, Roger wouldn’t do anything once we got outside. Yet within five minutes of returning to PetSmart, Roger decided to leave a huge puddle in the middle of the aisle. That’s no way to treat the person who was about to buy him a bunch of toys. But as Rodney Dangerfield said, “I don’t get no respect” sometimes.

We finally made it out the door of PetSmart, Roger took a nice long bathroom break, and then we were on our way. Bribed with more treats and toys, he did OK on the way home. It was funny though — he was crazy until we were about 10 minutes from home. Then he suddenly calmed down, lay down on the seat and didn’t make a sound. To top it all off, he refused to get out of the car when we got home. I had to pick him up and drag him out of there. Why why why? His behavior seems backward sometimes.

The fiasco continued later into the evening after a nice, long play session outside. Roger, of course, was thirsty and proceeded to drink a bowl and a half of water. I thought it was funny at the time. Later, it became the source of my problem when Roger had an accident in his cage shortly after I took him outside for a break.

Again, I had taken for granted how much easier it is to look after a dog when there are two people around. Trying to dry and clean a liquid-filled crate with a puppy trying to get in the way is not as easy as you might think. I’d throw a toy across the room to get Roger away from my work area, but he’d return before I had time to accomplish anything. Carrying the wet towels by their edges, I struggled to make it to the laundry room because Roger interpreted it as a game. No, Roger, me holding your wet towels in the air is not a game and does not give you permission to grab ahold of them.

After I finally got the crate dry and sanitized, I put Roger inside with the last clean towel. Within a half hour, Roger had another accident. No more clean towels. The washer cycle with the other towels wasn’t even done yet. Read the paragraph above for a description of Cleaning the Crate, Round 2, because it went the same exact way as Round 1.

Thankfully, Day 2 of taking care of Roger by myself went much better than Day 1. I’m also thankful that my Sundays no longer will be taken up by hauling Roger to the training classes, although I will admit they did help us quite a bit in learning how to train the puppy.

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April 20, 2011: Roger graduates from doggie college — Part I

This past Sunday was graduation day for Roger. We completed his last puppy-training class at PetSmart. I had been fretting all week because my boyfriend had staff duty Sunday, which meant I’d have to take Roger to class by myself.

I was afraid he’d go crazy in my car with no one to hold him. I was afraid he’d use my perfectly clean passenger seat as a litter box. I was afraid he would climb on me while I was driving and prevent me from getting there safely. And, quite frankly, I’m not a big fan of dog hair and puppy drool all over the interior of my new car. Somehow, I got over all of those fears and made it to class safely and with plenty of time to spare. Three towels, a rawhide bone and a handful of milk bones seemed to save the day.

When we got to class, Roger acted like a typical puppy and wouldn’t sit still. I made the mistake of not tiring him out earlier in the day. I had taken for granted the pre-class play sessions that my boyfriend and Roger would have that practically would put Roger to sleep during every class.

The first order of business was for each person to go to the front of the room and review a trick for the class. It felt like we were back in elementary school – the trainer asked for a volunteer to go first, and everyone just sat there silently, avoiding eye contact with him.

Rocky’s owner volunteered to go first, using the easy “sit” trick as a copout. I followed her lead and demonstrated the next-easiest trick – lay down. I introduced us: “Hi, I’m Christie. This is Roger, and he’s a bit spastic today.” After untangling the leash, the clicker and the handful of treats, I finally got Roger to lay down on the third try. Normally he does it right away on the first try, but he was too much of a maniac at that point to pay attention to me.

The next order of business was a surprise game of “musical sit” that the trainer sprang on us. He said it was a test of our ability to handle our dogs. We each had to walk our dogs in an oval around a line of chairs. As soon as the music stopped, the last person to get her dog to sit was out.

Even after being bribed with bologna (puppy crack, as the trainer calls it), Roger refused to sit when the music stopped, so the trainer declared that we were out. I felt like I was back in elementary school again, only this time it felt like I was the first one out in a game of dodge ball or something. (Let’s be serious though, that rarely happened. I was pretty good at dodge ball.) Rocky, whose owner was the first to volunteer for the trick demonstrations, was the last dog remaining in “musical sit.”

The last order of business was graduation time. The trainer had joked the previous week that if we can get our dogs to sit still and pose with the graduation caps on them, we deserve to graduate. Well, according to that logic, I probably still don’t deserve to graduate because Roger had one heck of a time as a puppy graduate.

He went nuts as soon as I put on his cap. It had a strap to go under his mouth, but that didn’t help much. Every time he’d sit still, his cap would fall off or cover his eyes. Every time we got his cap positioned correctly, he’d retreat under the chair or refuse to sit still. The trainer took a bunch of blurry photos during the first few attempts of the photoshoot. Eventually, he got kind of frustrated and told me to take the pictures while he handled the dog. We got a few pictures out of the ordeal, but they all look a bit forced. Of course, the rest of the dogs acted like they wear caps all the time and that it was no big deal, making Roger’s behavior look even worse and making me look like I can't control my dog. 

Stay tuned for "Roger graduates from doggie college — Part II."

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April 12, 2011: The little puppy isn’t so little anymore

Our little puppy is growing up so quickly. He can climb onto the couch unassisted, he can bite my hand hard enough to actually make it hurt, and he can consistently use my sandals as a litter box.

Roger first discovered his ability to scale the furniture about a week ago. I was sitting on the couch at the time, talking to my mom on the phone. Roger was a few feet away from me in the living room. He took off in a trot, took a bit of a leap, and then managed to get even his back legs up onto the couch. Previously, he only could get his front two paws onto the couch.

I’m surprised I didn’t drop the phone when Roger did his first couch jump. I halted my phone conversation midsentence, exclaiming that Roger made it onto the couch. You would’ve thought it was a baby taking his first steps. My boyfriend came running as if Roger had just spoken his first words.

So now instead of just getting my feet licked when Roger plants himself on the floor in front of the couch, he now can climb onto the couch and attempt to eat the dinner right off of my plate.

When we first brought Roger home, we didn’t think he understood the concept of biting or chewing. Awesome, I thought. If only he could keep that up. We slowly introduced him to new chew toys, each one improving his ability to bite and chew. Now he bites everything, myself included.

After a particularly exciting walk back from the dumpster (or not exciting at all, depending on whether you ask me or the dog), Roger was jumping around spastically, being the puppy that he is, when he used his teeth to grab ahold of my hand and clamped down pretty hard. The bite didn’t draw blood. It didn’t even hurt that bad (I’ve dealt with much worse pain in my lifetime, as most people have), but I was frustrated by the principle of it. Aren’t dogs supposed to be loyal? Here was Roger, literally biting the hand that feeds him. Come on now. I know, I know, he just got excited, and he’s a puppy and doesn’t know any better. I’m actually surprised it took him this long to get in a good bite, but at the same time, I thought he’d be over the biting-his-owner stage of the game by now.

And, as promised: Yes, Roger used my sandals as a litter box — again.  I have several theories on why this keeps happening while we’re sitting on the couch watching TV.

1.    1. Roger keeps returning to the faint scent (undetectable by humans) in the carpet.

2.    2. Roger thinks he can do it there while sniper-crawling without us noticing.

3.    3. Roger doesn’t like our TV shows, and this act of defiance is his way of rebelling.

4.    4. Roger gets excited when I make a big fuss that he’s in my way, and all the excitement is too much for him to handle.

5.    5. Roger gets trapped in the corner between two perpendicular couches and a coffee table, and he has nowhere else to go.


 6. Last but not least, maybe Roger doesn’t like me (or my sandals), and this is his way of telling me.

Actually, the main reason is probably that we still don’t take him outside often enough when he’s not in his crate. I guess training ourselves to be consistent is just as important as training the dog.

In other news, Roger graduates from his PetSmart puppy-training class on Sunday. That ought to be interesting.  

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April 5, 2011: David vs. Goliath / Roger loses his lunch money

At 7 a.m. on my day off, Roger decided he didn’t want me to sleep any longer, so he barked until I paid attention to him. Off we went for a bathroom break and a play date outside.

After a few minutes of walking around in circles on the lawn, we saw a man and his dog approach. I’m not sure what kind of dog it was, I just know it was an ugly one. The guy said hi and we exchanged pleasantries while our dogs sized each other up.

Roger wanted to play; Ugly Dog stood there stone-faced and stoic. The guy asked Ugly if he was going to be good. I should’ve taken that as a sign and hightailed it out of there. Instead, I thought nothing of it and let this little bout play out.

After a few more seconds of Roger pawing the other dog, trying to get him to reciprocate, Ugly decided he had enough and snapped. In this classic battle of David vs. Goliath, the underdog lost this time — big time. Ugly barked, got right up in Roger’s face and spooked him. Roger squealed and went nuts. I failed to be a proper pack leader by not stepping in front of Roger right away, but I did my best to get him turned around in the other direction, away from the big, scary monster.

Now that I’m thinking about it, Ugly looked kind of like The Beast, the 300-pound English mastiff from “The Sandlot.” Click here for a picture of what I’m talking about.

Anyway, Roger and I bolted and went back inside. Ugly’s owner apologized while they sulked away, and I could tell he felt bad. I thought that would be the end of it, though.

This morning, Roger and I were out for his usual pre-work bathroom break outside. I saw a dog in the distance, and again, I thought nothing of it. Roger kept looking at him and getting distracted.

Later, I turned around and the dog and its owner were a few feet away from us. The owner and I froze, realizing after a few seconds that we were each other’s adversary from the day before. The dogs were pulling toward each other, but like a good pack leader, this time I stepped in front of Roger to protect him, delivering a bold sign that was supposed to say, “I got your back, pups.” That’s what the trainer from PetSmart told us, anyway.

Before anything was said, Ugly’s owner and I both turned and walked away before another paw fight began. Hopefully that will be the last we see of them.

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March 30, 2011: Marking his toe-ritory

I am told that puppies have accidents in the house when they are not fully potty-trained, when they get a little too excited and when they want to mark their territory. I’m also told that they often become repeat offenders in certain areas of the house, especially if the puddles aren’t cleaned up sufficiently enough, because they’ll return to the scent. I think my boyfriend does a pretty good job of cleaning up the messes (I’m a baby about it and have trouble facing the accidents without making a big fuss every time), but apparently Roger’s sense of smell and/or awareness is better than ours.

Roger has accidents in the apartment at least a few times every week, and last night was no exception. First, let me back up to a few nights ago, when I was making dinner and Roger was lazily playing in the living room. My boyfriend caught Roger in the act of stealthily marking his territory right in front of the couch where my feet usually go. At the time, I was thankful that I hadn’t been sitting there when it happened. I should’ve known better — foreshadowing at its finest.

Last night, I was sitting in “my spot” on the couch. Like Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory,” I have a preferred spot on the couch. I was using my laptop to find the menu and location of Papa Murphy’s so I could use my Coastal Courier Daily Deals coupon soon. No, no one paid me to say that. That’s actually what I was doing.

Anyway, in the midst of reading all about take ‘n’ bake pizzas, I felt a warm sensation on my left foot. I knew Roger had been playing at my feet in between the couch and the coffee table, but I was so deeply immersed in my pizza research that it took me a few seconds to make the connection. I freaked out probably more than I should have when I realized what happened. I made my boyfriend take off my wet sock, then, despite my hysterical state, read a little bit more about Papa Murphy’s pizzas before running off to anti-bacterialize myself. I spent the rest of the evening clunking around in my Roger-proof clodhopper camping boots.

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March 29, 2011: Dog vs. tissue

Remember when I mentioned in a previous post that Roger likes to pick up anything and everything he finds on the ground? Usually the less edible something is, the more likely he is to find it and eat it. A few days ago, I lost a battle to Roger over a tissue.

After we raced to the bottom of the steps to go outside, Roger began his mischief. With his nose to the ground, he found a tissue on the sidewalk before I could get his collar on him. And by “found,” I mean he grabbed it with his mouth and clamped down on it with his tightly clenched teeth. Moments later, he and I both noticed at the same time a dog wandering around outside the adjacent building. The dog spooked Roger, who inadvertently dropped the tissue on the ground. I was distracted by thoughts/fears of Roger racing after the stray dog, so I missed my opportunity to pick up the tissue. Roger and I regrouped at about the same time. I managed to get the collar around Roger’s neck, and he managed to pick up the tissue before I could get to it. That puppy is relentless.

Now it was time for Round 2 — wrestling Roger for the tissue before he swallowed it. Now that I have firsthand experience with things outside making Roger sick, i.e., the bacteria-infested puddle water, I was bound and determined not to let it happen again. I positioned Roger in between my legs, using my legs to hold him in place as much as I could. I grabbed the loose edges of the tissue and pulled as hard as I could. Since Roger’s grip obviously is more durable than the strength of a single tissue, he still had the bulk of it in his mouth.

At that point, I needed a break. We went for a walk, following the path of the sidewalk. For some unknown reason, Roger suddenly stopped in his tracks and spit out the remaining clump of tissue. Such a simple act filled my mind with such relief. After Roger’s bathroom break, we took a roundabout route back to the stairwell to avoid a possible rematch with the tissue.

Being a responsible dog owner, I knew I should’ve picked up the pieces of tissue to help out my neighbors who were sure to go through the same exact thing when they walked their dogs later in the morning. However, I was too frustrated to do so, so I went back inside knowing the tissue remnants would provide a treasure map to document my early-morning struggle. I came home from work that evening to find that some kind soul had picked up the tissue trail and disposed of it properly. Either that, or some other dog followed in Roger’s footsteps later that morning but wasn’t as forgiving when it came time to relinquish the terrible tissue.

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March 22, 2011: Puppy training 101

Being first-time dog owners, my boyfriend and I decided to sign up Roger for puppy classes at PetSmart. We completed the first class (March 13) surprisingly easily. That was the weekend Roger had his, uh, digestive problems. All we wanted was for him not to make a mess in the middle of the training area in front of all the other spastic puppies and their overbearing owners, so we considered the first class a success.

At that class, we learned how to use the clicker to “mark” good behavior before we hand out treats. We also practiced cues for “look at me” and “sit.” Roger was on the ball that day. Even though he rarely sat for us in previous attempts, he was a “goody four paws” and showed off for the trainer.

We attended our second class March 20. There were two no-shows, including Creeper, who took cell-phone pictures of Roger in the middle of the last class while we were supposed to be working with our dogs.

The trainer went around the room and practiced the cues we had been working on. It was obvious which owners practiced with their dogs during the week and which owners forgot they even had dogs during the week. The trainer commended Roger (and his trainers!) for catching on quickly and getting plenty of practice.

Roger made us look good, which was not the case for the family across the room from us. Their dog, Tiberius, decided to mark his territory during class. The dad doesn’t seem to speak English too well, so the trainer pointed the young son in the direction of the cleaning station. “I’m here to help you train your dog, not clean up after him,” Trainer Bob said.

If Roger was the gold-star puppy of the class, Tiberius was just the opposite. It was obvious his family hadn’t worked with him much, or maybe Tiberius just understands English better than they do and gets confused.

This week we’re supposed to work on friendly greetings. We’re also supposed to practice controlled walking, as in the owner walking the dog rather than the dog walking the owner.

After class, we did our usual stroll around PetSmart, where everyone stops to comment on how cute Roger is and how huge his paws are.

Then, karma arrived. Yes, we laughed when Tiberius had an accident during class. Yes, Roger got us back by going No. 2 in the middle of a PetSmart aisle — right after we had taken him outside for a potty break. I was amused by the irony of the situation; I think my boyfriend was a bit embarrassed by it.

Regardless, I took full advantage of the “Oops” clean-up station while my boyfriend held Roger back from the mess. At least this didn’t happen the week before, because there’d be no salvaging that soggy mess of a situation.

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March 16, 2011: Going to the vet x 2

I’m not sure which would be worse: dragging a puppy to the vet or dragging a kid to the dentist. Regardless, I had a double experience with the former last week.

Last Monday, I took Roger to the vet for his next round of shots. The animal hospital is just across the street from where I live, but you’d think I was preparing for a 20-hour road trip when I Roger-proofed my car. According to Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Applying that law to my situation, I knew nothing good could come of packing an only somewhat potty-trained, rambunctious puppy onto the passenger seat of my two-month-old car. I covered the seat with towels and plopped Roger and his stuffed elephant, Fluffy, amid a sea of dog treats. I figured I’d be OK as long as I could get to the vet before Roger ran out of treats.

Thankfully, I made it there accident-free in both senses of the word. I didn’t wreck trying to control Roger, and Roger didn’t use my passenger seat as a litter box. I made sure he went to the bathroom before we went inside the building, but of course he left a big puddle as soon as the vet walked into our exam room.

Overall, the appointment went well. Roger spent the down time sniffing the perimeter of the room and eyeing up the other dogs. When the vet went to leave for a few minutes, she gave Roger a small piece of a treat. After she left, Roger went crazy trying to scale the counter in an attempt to get to the remaining treat pieces. He failed in his first attempt, but I didn’t want him getting any more climbing practice, so I gave in and tossed him the rest of the treats. When we left, I was thinking the trip wasn’t so bad, and Roger probably was thinking about how much he enjoyed the shower of attention he received from the doctor and all the nurses.

A day later, it rained like crazy and Roger discovered puddle water. The next day, the bacteria-infested puddle water didn’t agree with Roger’s digestive system. There’s no polite way of describing what happened next, so I’m doing my best not to go into any more details. I will say that we spent the next three days cleaning up Roger’s cow patties on our off-white carpet.

During my second trip to the vet in less than a week, we learned that the potty calamity likely was caused by bacteria or something that was in the puddle water. Or maybe it was from one of the hundred or so items that Roger likes to pick up off the ground on a daily basis. Regardless, the vet said it probably would be cured with a week of daily antibiotics, so that’s good news for us.

Getting Roger to agree to eat the pills, though, is a whole different story. He’ll eat plastic, metal and wood off the dirty ground, but he turns his head away when faced with a small, white pill. Eventually we resorted to bribing him with Kong peanut butter. I guess it’s no different than giving a kid a lollipop after a doctor’s appointment.

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March 10, 2011: Fetch and the retrieval of other items

Housebreaking and training is quite the chore for Roger and his exhausted owners. I feel like we’re at about 70 percent when it comes to housebreaking. Your guess is as good as mine as to when, or even if, we ever get to 100 percent success in that category.

We’re still in the process of teaching Roger the basic commands — sit, stay, roll over, go away, don’t eat our dinner, etc. — but he has, rather quickly, grasped the concept of fetch. The softball player in me was impressed and excited.

When we started with a regular tennis ball, Roger would retrieve it but wouldn’t fetch/bring it back. He also lost interest in the boring tennis ball. A squeaky ball seemed to maintain his interest a little bit longer. He now is skilled in going after a squeaky ball and bringing it back to us. What's disappointing to me, however, is that he usually drops the ball at our feet. Best-case scenario, I’d like him to look up at me and hand me the ball with his mouth. I can dream, can’t I? Unfortunately, Roger has yet to master catching a tossed ball in his mouth. The day that comes will be awesome.

As the title of this post describes, Roger also likes to retrieve other items. His favorite things to “fetch” inside the house are shoes and socks. He likes to pick up a shoe or flip-flop by his mouth, then run away with it as soon as we realize what he’s up to. Usually he likes to steal the shoes by the front door. I’d love it if him grabbing the shoe was his indication to us that he needs to go outside to go to the bathroom, but I think that would be giving Roger too much credit. He also likes to grab socks from laundry piles. I should know better than to leave anything chewable on the floor. The problem with socks is that they’re harder to pry from his toothy grip, and they rip much more easily.

Then there are the non-toy items Roger likes to fetch and chew outside – mainly his leash and every leaf, blade of grass and piece of garbage. Roger likes to chew his collar when I try to put it on him. I guess it’s an act of defiance. Once I beat him in collar tug-of-war, he’ll move on to chewing his leash. Once that battle finally is over, he’ll stop and try to eat anything and everything on the ground outside. It’s one thing to stop and smell the roses, but stopping to investigate every single thing is a whole nother story – especially when all I want to do is get the mail and go back inside.

My parents are coming to visit us this weekend. As if Roger wasn’t already completely spoiled before, he’s going to be smothered with attention when my parents arrive.

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March 8, 2011: Bringing home the puppy

After spending the first 22 years of my life in Pittsburgh, I moved to Savannah in November to be closer to my boyfriend, who currently is stationed at Fort Stewart after a year-long deployment in Iraq. I’ve got a new job and a new apartment in a new city, and one more new thing – a new puppy. I’ve never had an animal in my house before, and my boyfriend never has had a dog, so as you can expect, we were in for a real surprise.

We picked Roger from a group of golden lab puppies Feb. 12 at the breeder’s house. He was 8 weeks old. We knew we wanted something calm yet playful, and Roger seemed to best fit that description. When I first picked him up, I held him like a baby. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do – I never had picked up a dog before. We had read that puppies sometimes get carsick, so my boyfriend took one for the team and held Roger in his towel-covered lap while I drove. We were about halfway home when I realized just how spoiled Roger was about to be – my boyfriend was sitting there using his hand to shield Roger’s eyes from the sun.  What a little diva puppy. Thankfully, we made it home accident-free.

Roger was good for the first few days. He hadn’t discovered yet how to bark, so all we had to endure was the occasional whine and whimper. Then one day, he suddenly figured out that he could bark, and it seems we hear that every time we put him to bed now. Reason #2 that Roger is a diva: He gets to sleep in the bedroom. He whines too much when we leave his crate in the living room, so when it’s 2 a.m. and we can’t sleep due to the noise, Roger wins that battle every time. I guess he feels more comfortable being around people. I don't think we'll ever have to worry about him being antisocial.

Reason #3 that Roger is a diva: We live on the second floor of our apartment building, so Roger got carried up and down the steps for the first week or two. It didn’t take him too long to figure out how to climb up the steps, but going down them was quite the obstacle for little Roger. It seemed like he didn’t quite trust his depth perception (Do dogs even have good depth perception? If so, what is it like compared to humans’?), because he’d put out his paws to try to feel for the next step below him, but he had to be persuaded by lots of treats before he made the jump. He’s gotten pretty good at the stairs now. I have a feeling the day is right around the corner when his trot up the stairs outpaces me.

 

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