Rules for Puppies


     If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years in journalism, it’s that people will read a story about a dog.
     One day long ago, when I was city editor of The Brownsville Herald, the AP reporter in south Texas wrote a story about a miniature poodle that had been swooped up from its back yard and carried off by an eagle.
     The story did not mention the poor little dog’s name.
     I was editing the 3-inch drama when the AP reporter, the doughty and remarkable Joel Williams, walked into the newsroom.
     “Joel!” I hollered, (city editors always holler), “what was the dog’s name?”
     “What!” he said. “I can’t believe they cut that.”
     The dog’s name, I believe, was Fluffy.
     The Brownsville Herald beat the world that day.
     Fluffy Lives!
     The eagle had dropped her on the other side of the fence.
     It’s been a rough winter in Vermont.
     I’ve written about the death of my beautiful Akita, Rufus, and about how I was almost, but not quite, ripped off by Puppy Scam Central in Cameroon. So I figured I should give you the Happy Ending.
     After suffering through Rufus’ death, and the puppy scam, I found a family in Wisconsin who had Akita puppies, and I claimed one.
     They sent me Chester.
     Poor little Chester arrived on a puppy flight at the Hartford airport, barely 10 weeks old, and I picked him up there.
     I call him poor little Chester because he had no idea what was happening to him, any more than Fluffy did.
     The people in the cargo terminal were way nicer than the people at the humans’ airport. It’s often that way in the back shop.
     “That’s a beautiful dog,” the cargo guy said as he led me to Chester.
     I took Chester out of his puppy crate and carried him outside to pee and fed him by hand as we drove home.
     That’s the last time Chester peed outside for quite a while.
     He had never been outside, except for a trip to the vet.
     Chester perked up as soon as we got him inside.
     Rosie, our ancient golden retriever, checked him out, and decided to ignore him. The cats ran and hid.
     Chester’s human momma had trained him to pee on newspaper. But Chester was in a new place. He peed pretty much wherever he happened to be.
     So we lay down newspapers in two places, and every time Chester peed in the house, I carried him to the newspapers.
     Chester learned fast.
     By Day Two, every time he peed in the house, he went and stood on a newspaper.
     Way to go, Chester! Good dog!
     Chester has gained half a pound a day for 3 weeks. He weighs 32 lbs. and he’s 12 weeks old. His paws look like snowshoes.
     I saw his pawprints in the snow today, and thought, “Holy cow (or some such word), I got to get out of here!”
     But it was only Chester.
     Chester follows the five Rules for Puppies.
     These rules are:
     1. What is it? Better check it out.
     2. Can you play with it?
     3. Better chase it.
     4. Better bite it.
     5. Better drag it away.
     6. (See Rule No. 1.)
     Everything they ever told you about dogs was wrong.
     “Fighting like cats and dogs”?
     Ridiculous. The cats are already Chester’s friends.
     And I disagree with those who say that the great thing about a dog is that when you come home from a hard day at work, a dog is always happy to see you, and loves you no matter what.
     That’s not the point.
     The point is that dogs allow us to love them, and they never ask us a thing about ourselves.
     Puppies are pure love.
     Not much of that around these days.
     Soon as he gets his rabies shot, I’m taking Chester to puppy kindergarten.
     But that’s the wrong way around. Puppies should take humans to school, and teach us what they know and we forgot.

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