Written by Anna Hollisey
Preparing for our first Christmas with Louie the pup…
“Guess who we bumped into on our walk today?” I ask my husband.
“Don’t know, who?”
“Well, who’s the last person you’d want to meet on a walk with Louie?”
He has a little think, until horror spreads across his face. “Puppy teacher?”
There we were, both soggy, carrying a poop and a bagged poop (respectively), and Louie and I rounded a corner and found our dog trainer. Louie pulled all his best behavior out of the bag, leaping at her in all his wet glory and ignoring my pleas for recall. “Right, well, I’m going this way…” says puppy teacher firmly, setting off with her two perfectly-trotting dogs. Louie looks disappointed. Ten minutes later, he has forgotten about her and is wrestling with his leash as puppy teacher strolls over the horizon.
We can’t really claim that puppy training has worked, or even finished. But Louie has learned to ‘go through the hoop’ and ‘give paw’ (because we watched a frenzy of Crufts Heelwork videos and decided he would learn a routine). Walking on the leash? Coming into the kitchen when we want to shut him in? He has no use for tricks like those.
Christmas shopping has begun and we’re doing most of it online. We have 3 children and 7 nephews and nieces. That means parcels. Many, many parcels. And those are some of Louie’s favorite things!
Even if he didn’t have a reindeer Kong hidden in the cupboard, Louie would be happy this Christmas rolling around with the boxes from everyone else’s gifts. He loves to be left alone in the living room with an empty box – especially if he has sneaked it away without anyone noticing. You’d be surprised, really, at the devastation he can cause from just 8” of cardboard. Tape? That makes a great chew toy, too.
As the boxes come out of the loft, we’re thinking carefully about how to arrange our decorations to make them dog-proof!
Louie’s world consists of stuff he can chew and stuff he can’t (but we just haven’t found that stuff yet). He will eat anything, from old apple cores and plastic bags to carpet, dishcloths and even the kitchen worktop. So the Christmas decorations don’t have much chance of survival.
Of course, an undecorated house is unacceptable. So we’re tentatively stringing up fairy lights in windows and throwing festive cushions on the beds – the couch will have to stay naked this year. Louie can and does jump up to check out the fire mantel and dining table, so they’re not suitable for any breakables. When we bring home the tree, I think we’ll elevate it on a small table so that Louie can’t reach it easily. We’re all hoping that Louie becomes more chilled in years to come!
We will have some visitors over the holidays and need to take precautions to help Louie be on his best behavior. You might think that involves long walks, but sometimes they just make him more excitable – like a toddler, he’s a puppy who becomes frantic when he’s tired. Plan B will be shutting Louie in his ‘safe space’ – the kitchen, where he can relax with a comfy bed and without any hazards. Plan C will be driving Louie to stay with Granny and Grandad for a little while.
Our older daughter researched ways to introduce Louie to our elderly cat. She was the one guiding their interactions. The first attempt involved restraining Louie while the cat was brought in, so that she could assert her dominance.
After a couple of these sessions, it transpired that there was no need to restrain Louie, since he’d prefer to peep at the cat from beneath the couch anyway. These evenings you’ll often find a cat on the couch and Louie cowering at the other end. If she turns her back he might try a risky butt-sniff, but he has learned to expect consequences.
From his body language, we suspect that Louie would absolutely love to make friends with our cat. We’d love that too. But for now, the best we can hope is that the cat feels free to get on with her day as usual.
It’s that time of year when there are draft Christmas Lists and Letters to Santa floating around the house. They are scribbled and overwritten and rewritten and started afresh… until mid-December, when I announce I’ve had enough and we put them all in the mailbox.
So what’s on Louie’s Christmas list this year?
It’s his first Christmas. And I doubt a dog-shaped bauble has made it onto his list, even though I think that would be cute. Here’s what I think will make the final cut: