Early morning walk today – before sunrise… and it was our usual time to go. Okay, maybe fifteen minutes earlier than usual. It was a beautiful morning. High tide in the harbor, 40° F, and a stiff northwest wind. To the west, clouds showing that soft pink-purple of pre-sunrise.
Walking across the little causeway near my house – in the full face of the wind – made me realize that winter is coming and I started thinking about our upcoming departure. If we leave as planned on January 1st, we have 74 days to go. Seventy-four days!?
Tomorrow, Max will be exactly nine months old. And when we leave, he will be 18 days from his first birthday. When I think of the little bundle of fluff that he was when we met, and I see him now with his long teenage legs I am struck by the huge responsibility that I have undertaken. This young being will be with me for a decade or more – barring any unforeseen accidents or health issues. He relies on me for his meals, for daily walks both necessary (toilet) and discretionary (long, fun walks off-leash). He also relies on my judgment regarding visits to the vet, when and where he can go on our walks or on visits to friends and family, and so many other important things – like training.
Speaking of training… he has learned so much about how to be a good, big dog. I often refer to him as a “dog-in-training.” By that I don’t mean the formal training that we, as responsible dog owners are obliged to provide so much as I mean that I believe puppies are “dogs-in-training” – moving into their full growth by living and learning as they go.
This past weekend, we went to Portland and stayed with my daughter Cindy, son-in-law Jonathan, and granddaughter, Maya (who just turned 11). I wasn’t sure how Max would handle being in their house all weekend – especially Saturday night, when two young cousins ages 5 and 9 were sleeping over with Maya.
To everyone’s amazement, Max was extremely polite. As Cindy said, “he never jumped on me and he never sniffed my crotch all weekend!” (Both things he DID do on our last visit!) He was gracious with the adults, happy and respectful of the children, and all around an A-plus dog all weekend.
Miles, the 5-year-old, had great fun “training” Max with treats, getting him to sit, lie down, stand … He even taught him a new hand signal that prompts Max to raise one paw in response! Since Max is as tall as Miles at this point, it was really wonderful to see him stand face to face with Miles and politely sit, lie down, and stand when asked by the other young man in the house.
So what does all this have to do with the upcoming road trip? Or planning for that road trip? Plenty!!
I’m seeing that my exuberant puppy is learning when he can be exuberant, and when he has to be more calm. He’s learning how to relate to lots of different people, of differing ages, energy levels and sizes. And most of all, he’s adapting to lots of different experiences with aplomb. All in all, he’s proving that he’s ready to be a big dog – and to be a well-behaved big dog who will be welcomed and enjoyed wherever we go.
For this, and so many other things, I am grateful.