Tag Archives: housebreaking

Man’s best friend

Puppies are just so damn cute. If they weren’t, we would never let them piss on our laps and shit all over our houses.

Sweet Perfect Hazel was an amazing puppy; she was cute, she was obedient, she was calm, she didn’t bark. She was a border collie mutt, attentive and social and smart. She was an A+ dog in all things except Housebreaking. F. A solid, shitty F.

  1. We put down newspaper for her, patting the paper to show her that this is where good doggies go potty. She was so sweet. She’d scamper onto the newspaper, with us saying gopottygopottygopotty, and then she’d go to the edge of the paper, all four paws on the paper, and squat, her little doggie butt hanging over the edge of the paper so she could shit on the floor and not soil the beautiful paper we’d laid out for her.
  2. After she ate, I would take her outside on her leash. We would walk around. I would be super patient, waiting for her to do her business. Nothing. I would sing to her. Nothing. 45 minutes of nothing. I would eventually decide she didn’t have to go, so we’d head back inside. She promptly ran to a corner of the living room carpet and baked a Tootsie Roll. I think she was actually waiting to go inside so she could do her business.
  3. We locked her in the laundry room until she pooped. She’d cry and whimper and howl until we let her out, where she would promptly scamper somewhere exciting in the house and let it fly.
  4. We built a little pen outside, next to the kitchen door, where we could leave her cooped up until she pooped. Minimal success, and then we discovered that she could get out and we were too inept to patch the pen properly.

It was horrible. NOTHING WORKED. Crate training seemed cruel and unusual punishment and slightly unnecessary. My girlfriend and I were both 22; we had bachelor’s degrees but were still at the developmental stage where you get the phone shut off because you forget to pay the bill and it’s easier to just close the office door than clean up dogshit. This is actually quite a brilliant solution. We lived in an enormous house, a four-bedroom summer home on a lake, out in the wilds of central Virginia. The house was so big that if Hazel took a dump somewhere, we could just ignore it. Like the Mad Hatter’s tea party – move on to another room. So we did.

Hazel was an equal opportunity pooper. The house had vinyl flooring in the kitchen and laundry, hardwood in the living room and dining room, slate in the foyer, and wall-to-wall carpet in the bedrooms. She’d poop in all rooms, but she seemed to prefer the wall-to-wall carpeting. In this case, ignoring fresh dog poop makes sense – if you let it dry and harden, it is easier to pick up. I have a terrible gag reflex, finely honed from growing up with two poop-mongering black Labs. Trying to gingerly pick up Sweet Perfect Hazel’s moist poop and not have it smear into the carpet was a nightmare. Way easier to breathe through your mouth and pick it up tomorrow. Or maybe on the weekend. Yeah, that’s better.

I worked days and my girlfriend waited tables at night, so the only time Sweet Perfect Hazel was alone was if I went out at night and left her home. Frequently, I’d come home from work, change out of my suit and into casual clothes, and then take Sweet Perfect Hazel out with me to the restaurant where my girlfriend worked. It was during the summer months, and I’d sit on the restaurant patio having a beer with Hazel on a leash. It was far preferable to being alone out in the woods in a empty old house full of drying dogshit.

One evening I came home from work as usual. Coming in through the kitchen, I heard the phone ringing. I dropped my keys on the kitchen table and looked around – the phone wasn’t where it belonged. In such a huge house, a 1989-era cordless phone could be left anywhere, and finding it was a chore. I started jogging through the house toward the sound of the phone ring. This was pre-cell phone and voicemail; screening calls was unheard of. I picked up my pace, not wanting the caller to hang up. We were not only too lazy to pick up dogshit, but we were also too lazy to get an answering machine.

I ran through the rooms. Dining room – nope. Living room – nope. As I made a sharp left into the slate foyer, I spotted the phone on the bookcase, and I picked up my speed. I was wearing dress shoes, and my left foot hit a patch of something slick on the slate.

That’s when life kicked into slow motion.

My foot went out from under me, forwards, and I was launched into the air in a classic slip-on-a-banana-peel move. Except this wasn’t a banana peel. As I slid, I caught the pungent stench of fresh dog shit in the air, feeling it sliding underfoot, and my gag reflex kicked in. My foot went forward and I went backwards. Assaulted by the smell of dogshit, I vomited. A big, hot, involuntary jet of vomit shot into the air as I fell. I landed on my back, fortunate not to hit my head on the slate, unfortunate to fall onto the pile of dogshit. A spray of vomit landed on my teal 1989 power tie.

Sweet Perfect Hazel ran over to me, lying in the front hall sandwiched between her shit and my vomit, and started licking my face. Good girl.

The phone still rang on the bookcase next to me. I reached up and grabbed it.

“Hello?” I croaked.

“Are you okay?” my girlfriend asked, sixth sense on overdrive.

“Guess where I am,” I whispered.

“What’s going on?”

I explained the situation to her, my voice low to keep control. I thought I might cry. At first she was silent, and then I thought maybe she was crying, too. Soon I realized she was laughing and trying not to. Little high-pressure gasps of merriment pffted through the cordless phone.

“It’s not really very funny,” I said.

“Yes it is,” she shrieked, full on hoots of laughter now.

I was lying on my back on a pile of dogshit, with a puppy licking my vomit off the lapel of my charcoal suit. There was nothing to do but laugh along with her. We finished our conversation, but not until she retold the story to everyone within hearing range at the bar. I clicked off the phone and stood up. I stripped naked in the front hall, dropped my suit and tie and everything in a pile on the slate, and got in the shower. I left the pile of clothes in the foyer. I put Sweet Perfect Hazel on her leash and took her to the bar for a much-needed beer.

It’s worth noting that a year later, when we moved out of that gargantuan house, the landlords kept our entire security deposit. They said the house smelled. We didn’t argue.

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