By Mara Bovsun
1. That cookie you’re eating? The one I’m staring at like I’m about to die of starvation? Here’s a secret. I really don’t need it, and it might be bad for me. Tummy upset is the least of the problems. You could be starting me on a lifelong begging habit, which is really obnoxious and makes me no fun to be around. Hungry eyes! We dogs invented them. Eat your own cookie, and then give me my own later.
2. Being fat is no healthier for me than it is for you. I may look cute waddling down the hall, but excess pounds stress my joints and may shorten my life. But, what do I know? I live in the moment, so I rarely consider stuff like the consequences of eating a whole pot roast. Portion control is an alien concept for dogs. It’s up to you to watch my figure.
3. Want to splurge and buy me a Chewy Vuitton Purse? Go right ahead, if it makes you happy. But don’t be offended if I ignore it in favor of a battered, stinky tennis ball or your sneaker. We dogs go crazy over the strangest things. So keep an eye out for playthings I’ll really love. Hint: They are likely to look ugly and smell bad, and they don’t usually come with a big price tag.
4. My mom and dad may have been Golden Retrievers, but I am an individual. Just like you, I inherited traits from my parents, but my personality is unique. My brothers and sisters may be more outgoing and adventurous, or perfectly calm snuggle buddies. Don't assume that all dogs from my litter will have the same temperament or act exactly like other Golden Retrievers you've shared your home with before.
5. If you don’t want me on the couch, or someplace else, tell me—and the sooner the better. Like children, we dogs thrive on structure, rules, and boundaries. Use a lot of treats and happy dances to teach me to respect the house rules. If you really mean what you’re saying and don’t waver, I’ll learn to keep all four paws where you want them to be.
6. Work makes me happy. Find some way for me to be useful. It could be serious and important, like carrying your medicine or searching for survivors. Or it could be something fun, like running agility or being your dance partner. As long as we are a team, any labor is a joy.
7. Learning is one of my favorite things, and I’ll never outgrow it. The littlest things can bring a big round of applause—giving a paw, sitting pretty, taking a bow. If there’s one thing we dogs love, it’s applause. And, while it’s easiest to teach a puppy, there’s no rule that says learning has to end at maturity. When I’m old, I’ll really appreciate the extra attention and, of course, treats.
8. Pain is something I hide really well. People say it’s a throwback to our wild ancestors, for whom being weak or injured could mean desertion by the pack. It’s up to you to look for subtle signs: a slight favoring of a paw, a little less gusto at dinnertime, or a hesitation when chasing a ball. Anything that varies from the norm could mean that I hurt and need your help.
9. You’re going to learn as much from me as I do from you. Every time you teach me a trick, or refine my manners, you become a better teacher. Even when things are hard or unpleasant, you’re still learning, perhaps more than you do with the fun stuff. Did it take a year or more to convey the idea of housetraining? Look what that taught you about patience and persistence. The hardest lesson of all will be about loss. Our lives are so short that the chances are great we will leave this earth before you do. You’ll have to learn to work through the sorrow and move on.
10. Remember, even after I’m gone, I’ll always be with you. I’ll be in the memories of our favorite walk, or when we came blasting through the finish line at a perfect agility run, and every day you came home and I got to greet you at the door. And, I’ll be there in the wagging tail and bright eyes of your next puppy. Once we’re in your heart, we’ll never leave you.