The Puppy Chronicles: As Angus turns a year old, he remains a work in progress
All summer and into the fall, Angus woke me each morning at 5:10 on the dot by smooching me on the nose.
Of course, now that daylight saving time has ended, he wakes me at 4:10 on the dot.
We are working on this.
We are working on a lot of things.
As near as we can figure, Angus turned 1 right around Nov. 7. I don’t know the exact circumstances of his birth, nor the exact date. I only know that he, his mother and his six siblings were rescued in mid-November 2017 from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota by a tiny nonprofit group called LightShine Canine, which rescues about 2,000 dogs a year.
The puppies were so young their eyes weren’t yet open. We adopted Angus on Dec. 30, when he was about 7 weeks old.
Since then, it feels like we have done nothing but train him. There was housebreaking, always a joy, especially in winter. There were formal classes: puppy class, obedience class, leash class. There was one private lesson: how to meet strangers politely. (We’re still working on this one.)
And then, of course, there’s constant daily training — back, and sit, and walk, and down, and come here, all those commands repeated in all sorts of places and circumstances until you would think that they would be automatic.
You. Would. Think.
I had figured that by the time Angus was a year old he’d be — well, finished. Mature. Obedient. Calm.
Instead, we have a dog that seems stuck at half-trained. He learns things quickly — maybe too quickly — and then seems to decide which commands he wants to follow and which he doesn’t. He definitely has a mind of his own. He also seems in short supply of impulse control.
We’ve seen progress, of course. He’s thoroughly housebroken. He’s kennel-trained. He comes when called, happily. He waits quietly for his meals instead of going into a frenzy, and he no longer vomits in the car.
Outside, he has quit barking at random people at the bus stop. (This is huge.) He mostly ignores other dogs, too, unless they stare intently at him. (Then all bets are off.)
He no longer tugs my gloves off my hands in cold weather. He’s pretty good on the leash — unless he sees a squirrel or a rabbit. (We’re working on it.)
But in many other areas, he has a long way to go.
He still steals our socks, grabbing them out of the laundry basket and prancing into the living room, shaking them vigorously to break their necks and then tossing them into the air. It’s entertaining. But I now have an awful lot of socks with puncture wounds.
He remains a mad chewer, and we continue to find the remnants of napkins, drink coasters, bedroom slippers, Kleenex and newspapers all over the house. There are black ink stains on the hall carpeting, where he happily demolished a ballpoint pen. I came home from work in October to find that he had destroyed his dog bed, balls of fluff and stuffing ankle-deep on the dining room floor.
He still barks at visitors, though the duration of the barking is shrinking. (We are working on it.)
He has never, god bless him, chewed a book.
Now that I list his assets next to his liabilities, I am heartened. He actually has come a long way. His three biggest obstacles to perfection are all essentially the same thing — excitement. He chases squirrels, he barks at other dogs, he barks at visitors. He needs to calm down.
This will come with age.
So now he is a year old, and he is not a finished dog by any stretch of the imagination.
We, and Father Time, are working on it.
Laurie Hertzel is not a dog expert, just a dog lover. She is writing about the first year with Angus on these pages. Follow along at startribune.com/puppy.
Coming Nov. 24: Angus gets by with a little help from his friends.