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state of the family: canine edition.

hi all! you may have noticed that Jord and I have been rather mum on the topic of our Yorkie, Wyatt the dog, as of late, and there’s a very good reason why: Wyatt is not part of our little family anymore. instead, Wyatt the dog is on his way to finding a forever home, as part of a terrier fostering and adoption program in a nearby state.

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the back story: after we moved in to our new home in August 2013, Wyatt began to show signs that he wasn’t his typical happy self, including various instances of acting out. while he never was aggressive towards us or towards L – something that we never, ever would have tolerated – we began to feel concerned that our little dog’s unhappiness may not be easily remedied by extra loving and the feeling of being settled in a home.

so, after much deliberation and thought, my parents kindly offered to take Wyatt into their home on a trial basis, to see if he was happier in an environment where there were two people to love on him that weren’t distracted by new jobs (me), by getting settled in a new home (all of us), and/or by a growing child (again, all of us). for a while, this situation seemed to be working for all parties – i know that my parents enjoyed aspects of caring for Wyatt – he truly is a good-natured dog with a loving heart – and i know that Wyatt enjoyed receiving lots of attention from his beloved grandparents. during this time, we kept the door open to my parents taking Wyatt in permanently – their offer! – while continuing to explore other options when it came to Wyatt. we still visited Wyatt often at my parents’ home, and he always greeted us with happy, excited barks and kisses (L included).

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about the time that we learned that we were expecting baby Gillis no. 2, it became clear to all parties involved that Wyatt again was feeling unhappy. he again began to act out in my parents’ home at times, and after many discussions with each other and with my parents, we all decided that A) Jord and I were not comfortable with Wyatt returning to our home, either in the short term or the long term, due to his various episodes of acting out and the fact that we were expecting another little one that would, again, draw love and attention away from Wyatt, and that B) my parents were not comfortable with Wyatt’s presence in their home on a long-term basis, since he was again displaying his unhappiness, even in light of my parents’ loving care.

at this time, Jord spoke with one of his trusted coworkers, who is a dog-lover and has always offered helpful advice to us as “dog parents” to Wyatt. he explained our situation, and after doing some research of her own, Jord’s coworker recommended a terrier shelter in a nearby state that may be interested in taking Wyatt in and finding him a suitable home. we immediately contacted the terrier shelter, submitted an application for Wyatt, and he was accepted into their fostering program. and in mid-July, we met up with Wyatt’s foster mom (who, after discussing Wyatt with her via phone, and after meeting her in person, is just the kindest lady!) and formally submitted Wyatt into her care.

we feel so, so grateful that organizations like this exist for dogs like Wyatt – a dog who is kind-hearted and loving, but needs more attention that we can offer him at this point. we feel hopeful that this organization will help to find a new home for Wyatt in the near future, one that prioritizes his needs more than we could when he was in our care.

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there are moments when I miss him, when I miss his snuggles or his kisses, but we feel confident that we did the best thing that we could for Wyatt – through the help of this organization, we are giving him the opportunity to find a forever home with someone who can love him the way that he needs to be loved.

as far as our future dog-owning days go, we’d love to add another canine to our family at some point far in the future, most likely when we are done having children. when we do take this step, we know that we’ll think much more seriously about a dog’s personality and his/her needs when considering how well a dog would fit in with our family’s lifestyle, and we feel confident that “parenting” Wyatt was a fruitful experience for both of us in helping us to understand how important it is that a dog complement our ever-changing family dynamic.

The Wyatt Files: A Look Back at Puppy Potty-Training

Oh, the joys of house-training a puppy. To sum up our adventure with trying to potty-train Wyatt the dog, all I can say is this: we had NO IDEA what we were getting into.

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We purchased Wyatt the dog from a breeder in rural South Dakota. Upon bringing him home, we quickly learned that while the breeder said that he was “relatively potty-trained,” apparently the key word in that explanation was “relatively.” The pee on my in-laws’ kitchen floor would beg to differ with “relatively.”

Thus began the efforts to house-train Wyatt. We began by sequestering Wyatt in the first floor bathroom of our home when we were gone. We would give him food and water, and we would lay down “potty papers” in the bathroom for him to go on. Why didn’t we put Wyatt the dog in a kennel when we were gone? He was scared of the kennel, and me, being the marshmallow Mama that I was in the early stages of Wyatt’s life, didn’t want him to be scared.

After a few days of that plan, we realized that A) Wyatt always found a way to pee not on the paper, but in the shower, on the floor where there wasn’t paper, etc., and B) that Wyatt was teething. How did we know that Wyatt was teething? He chewed the floorboard molding in our bathroom. In the bathroom of our RENTED apartment. Yup. Paid for that one.

After that plan failed, we began to see the error of our ways. Out when the “potty papers,” and in came the kennel. We were big, bad doggy parents by that point, so we didn’t care if Wyatt was scared. That solved the potty issue while we were at work or out and about in town, but when we were at the apartment and Wyatt was running around and playing, he had no idea how to control his bladder.

So we tried everything. Treats, taking him out every half hour, praise, punishment – you name it, we probably tried it. Before long, Wyatt just ignored our desires to house-train, and would just run upstairs in our apartment (we rented a two-level townhome) to do his business. Soon enough, one of us (either Jord or I) would notice that he was gone, and, carpet cleaner and paper towel in hand, we would run upstairs to see A) where Wyatt had decided to make his presence known, and B) clean it up to the best of our abilities. We became steam-cleaning and vacuuming experts.

After a year in our townhome, Jord accepted a job in another city, which meant that I moved back in with my parents for the six months that we had left before our wedding. Wyatt the dog moved with me, and it was finally when we were living with my parents that Wyatt and I got down to business with potty-training. I took him out ALL THE TIME. I’m serious – whenever he would sniff something, we would go outside. Whenever he would run away from me, I would chase him, and we would go outside. With my parents to help praise Wyatt, he was literally bathed in praise. He got treats, he was petted, he was treated like a King whenever he did his business. By this time, he was also one year old, so he was no longer a tiny 3-lb puppy. He was 5 or 6 pounds by now, and he was learning what was allowed and what wasn’t. He caught on so quickly, and the accidents went from one to two per DAY to one per month (or never!) in about two weeks.

Now that Jord and I are living in a new apartment together as a married couple with Wyatt, we’ve worked hard to ensure that Wyatt still knows that he must do his business outside. We take him out every 2-3 hours now (it’s wonderful – as he’s gotten older, he’s able to control his bladder for quite some time), and he diligently does his business whenever we prompt him to. We’ve made sure to stay consistent (ever since we were living with my parents) to use the phrase “Do Your Business,” coupled with the words “Potty” and “Poop.” We always took him to the same spot in my parents’ yard, and we always take him to the same spot near our complex. We also always ask if he needs to go outside using the same voice inflection and the same question phrasing (“Do You Need to Go Outside?” in an excited voice) every single time.

What I’ve learned about house-training a puppy is that sometimes, it isn’t possible until the dog is ready. And sometimes, you as the doggy parent have to lay down the law. Finally, consistency is the key – consistency in word choice, in the spot in the yard where you take the dog, and in praise. Good luck!