My year-old puppy, Pip, a black American Bull Dog (with some other things mixed in) has now been with me for five weeks. He was picked up on the street here in Santa Fe without collar or tags and was beautifully cared for at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, where I met him and promptly fell in love.
He’s a year old, and definitely still a puppy, and a boy puppy at that. He let me know he feels leashes are an indignity by chewing up two of them and making good progress on the third, but he has finally accepted his harness, and is so good on the trails here I can let him run off leash from time to time. Nearly always, he stops when I tell him to wait, and understands that I must put the leash back on when people or dogs approach. He is so friendly it seems a shame, but he loves to run away with other off-leash dogs and the delight of the chase is so great he’s not certain to come back promptly. I know how he feels…
This week I took him for a walk along the Santa Fe River, really a creek, but blessedly full of water due to this rainy summer. Pip soon discovered a waterfall, with many ledges, pools, and rushing water, and he jumped in, ran at top speed, circled back, jumped in again, drank and dipped himself with the clear expression of joy that reminds me that dogs seem to have more capacity for joy than we humans.
He has a great sensitivity for people and knows without direction from me which hikers to pass by without a nosing—usually solitary males—and which females, alone or in couples, will welcome the touch of his nose on a bare knee and will lean down to pat him and caress his velvety ears.
I don’t want to push Pip’s prescience too far, but it is noticeable how few men, alone or in couples or groups, seem to be able to enjoy him.
As with my sons when they were small, Pip depends on an almost unaltered routine and I find I depend on it, too, for my comfort: meals at a fixed time and in a fixed place, ditto for water and bed time (for him) established at around five o’clock with his comfortable orange velour bed always available in the same corner.
After our five mile hike, he sleeps like a log as I work, decorating one of my red and black Navajo rugs with his sleek black body. I’m careful, though, never to leave him alone with a rug having found two, fortunately not precious ones, will ravaged by his teeth. I think he chews out of boredom, or maybe anxiety, when I leave him alone too long.
And treats! How important they are! Not the ice cream cones and pizza slices I used to buy for my sons on our way home from school—living in Manhattan meant we could often walk rather than ride, and I had no need of a car—but delicious tidbits of jerky which Pip receives as his due when he has obeyed a command.
I notice, too, that when I call him a good boy it seems to please him almost as much.