“Clancy” – Photo by Elise Sullivan

We’re celebrating a birthday in our family soon, and as I do each February 25th, I’m planning something special for the birthday boy.

Usually, I whip up his favorite steak dinner, with some kind of yummy dessert. He can’t have chocolate, so I might pick up a cannoli or a few peanut butter cookies, depending on what looks good at the bakery. The doggie bakery, that is, where for eight years now I’ve been spoiling our Welsh terrier, Clancy, rotten. Yes, it’s Clancy’s birthday, the little devil.

Before you rush out to buy him a present, you should know a few facts about Clancy. First, he’s a typical terrier. All the dog books and dog experts agree: “Terriers are feisty, independent, determined, mischievous and most of all, stubborn,” (“that sounds just like you!” my husband says), “and it takes a certain personality to own and train one.” Boy, were they right.

Next, he can be a huge pain in the you know what, stealing socks and slippers and my daughter’s stuffed animals, not to chew but to initiate a chase. The only thing he steals to chew is food.

Finally, he’s extremely quirky (just like my husband), making strange noises while he sleeps, barking at TV animals, even cartoon ones, and not barking at the doorbell (he just loves company). I’ve always said he’d welcome any burglar with open arms.

Dog Day Afternoon

Some of you may be planning to expand your family with a dog this spring, and I’ll admit, it’s a great time to do it…the temperatures are rising, the snow’s receding, daylight’s extended and love is in the air. I’d just like offer a little preemptive advice.

Mind you, I am not a professional…I only know what I’ve learned in the eight years we’ve had Clancy, and I’m sharing my experience with you.

First and foremost, remember that a puppy is just like a baby. If you’re not ready to take care of a baby, then you’re not ready to take of a puppy. It’s as simple as that.

Like babies, puppies cry. They scratch. They nip. They chew. They pee. They poop. They even throw up (possibly all at the same time, and very likely on the same spot on your new living room carpeting). And most importantly, they want to be with you. If you work full time, and are only home a few hours a day, or if you travel often, maybe you should get a pet rock instead. It truly is like having an infant in the house, and most everything about your home will have to be adapted to the little pitter patter of puppy paws.

Paws and Effect

When you decide to get a dog, visit the local animal shelters or find a reputable breeder. I began researching various breeders, looking for just the right match. I read a number of puppy guide books and dog training manuals, so I’d be prepared.

Confident that I could handle a tiny terrier puppy, I proceeded to locate a reputable breeder. Having found one near our home, I made a visit with a friend, to meet the breeder and see her kennels first hand. Her facility was immaculate, and the dogs seemed clean and happy. I paid my deposit, and returned home to prepare the house for the eventual arrival of our new addition.

My cousin, an experienced dog owner, loaned us baby gates, so we could keep the puppy contained. We planned to keep him, with his crate, in the kitchen, until he could be trusted to gradually roam throughout the rest of the house.

I bought a crate, cute bowls, doggie toys and treats for the puppy, found a veterinarian and almost threw up several times from nervousness until finally, we went to pick him up. Or should I say, out?

“I have three male puppies for you to see,” the breeder told us upon our arrival, one soggy, wet Saturday in May. Mother’s Day weekend, as I recall. How appropriate.

The dogs, in their fenced in kennel, climbed over each other to see us, with the littlest, the runt of the litter, on the bottom. We knew instantly that he was the one for us.

I had already chosen his name, and after a short bonding session, and a few words of friendly breeder advice, we were off. I sat in the back with Clancy while my husband drove, and it became quickly obvious that Clancy got car sick. He threw up seven times on the drive home, and when we finally made it into the house, he curled up on my lap and fell asleep. Those were the first – and last – moments of peace with our puppy, until he turned two.

Puppy Love

The first six months were chaotic, thrilling, trying, fun, horrible, frightening and wonderful. I had a difficult time training Clancy, and I recall one instance in which I sat bawling on the kitchen floor while he growled at me. We enrolled him in a puppy training class, and had several sessions with personal dog trainers, which I recommend to all inexperienced puppy owners.

Repeat this sentence to yourself 100 times: “IT IS A LOT OF WORK TO HAVE A DOG!” I walk Clancy every single day, rain or shine, and I brush his coat and teeth regularly (he really likes his Superman electric toothbrush). Then there’s playtime, training and taking care of him when he’s sick.

Just as with children, we mark milestones and celebrate holidays with our pets.
For his first Halloween, for example, I bought Clancy an adorable red devil costume, complete with satin ears and a little cape. He hated it, and wore it for all of five minutes (enough time for me to get a picture).

For Christmas and Chanukah, I buy him toys and treats. It’s amazing what you can find at the pet store. Menorah and Dreidel squeaky chew toys, candy-cane cookies, holiday themed collars and sweaters…you name, they’ve got it.

My husband thinks I’m crazy, that I spoil Clancy so. I just think he’s a little jealous. After all, he doesn’t get this much attention on his birthday.