BARBARA RUSSEK: Dating 101, taught by a puppy - The Explorer: Editorials

BARBARA RUSSEK: Dating 101, taught by a puppy

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Posted: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:01 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

I was trying to get through a very painful recent break-up. The fact that I was the dumper and he was the dumpee really didn’t make it that much easier. The temptation to call him and say I’d made a big mistake was at times overwhelming.

So, it seemed fortuitous that the very week of the break-up, everything fell into place for the purchase of my long-awaited bichon frise puppy. Friends told me Bijou (his name means jewel in French) was just the ticket out of my melancholy and feeling of hopelessness that never again would I meet a man like Joe, who despite some serious negatives, was a man with whom the conversation flowed so easily, from the silly to the serious. We had, in a word, chemistry.

I joyfully picked up Bijou on a Wednesday morning but by Thursday, he was already starting to show some of the traits I had neglected to read about in the canine literature.  He was stubborn, could be manipulative and was not about to give me an easy ride through house breaking. Yes, I was somewhat distracted from my angst with having to watch Bijou every minute he was not crated. I was determined to avoid the horror stories of my friends’ puppies, which included tearing up the couch, ruining a good pair of shoes and by far the most dramatic, a Maltese jumping on a friend’s table, getting into her purse and ripping a $l00 bill to shreds.

Yet, it was not a happy distraction. Bijou was living up to his bichon frise reputation. He would squirm when I tried to hold him, constantly nipped at everything in sight, including my hands, arms and face, and pottied on a very frequent basis in the house.

After one week of the withdrawal I was feeling from the lack of my daily phone call “fix” with Joe plus the aggravation accumulated from hours working with a very rambunctious, disobedient Bijou, I was ready to call it quits. Maybe this whole puppy thing was not all it was cracked up to be. I was drained and ready to put an ad in the paper: adorable bichon frise puppy for sale. Most significant, I was weakening to the point of almost dialing Joe’s number.

Thankfully, as I was driving around alone on that first week’s anniversary, trying to regain some sense of equilibrium (with Bijou safely crated at home), I had an epiphany.  Interacting with Bijou was actually a minicourse in Dating l0l. I had learned so many things in the past week with my new four-legged friend that I could easily apply to the next two-legged one I would hopefully meet before too much time had elapsed. I felt a sense of tranquility and a renewed optimism that everything was going to be OK.

What great lessons did I come away with after only a week, you might ask? For instance:

* Look for the good in members of both the animal and human kingdom. Bijou, for example, sleeps through the night (a blessing in a puppy only seven weeks old) and does not bark excessively. I hope to apply that principle in future relationships.

* We all have to decide which points are non-negotiable: nobody’s perfect. As far as Bijou goes, nipping, and peeing / pooping in the house are absolute no-nos. For guys, I draw my line in the sand at integrity and an ability to see the humorous side of life.

* Relationships take time to develop. I remember feeling genuinely hurt two days after I had brought Bijou to his new home, complete with puppy food, treats, even a few toys; I had gotten his shots right on time, cuddled him and told him many times how much I loved him. Friday, Bijou went straight into the arms of Keith, who does repair work at my house and stayed with him until he left for the night. I was disappointed in Bijou’s lack of gratitude for all I had done, even a little jealous of Keith, who seemed to have the knack I lacked for interacting with puppies. The next day a friend told me it usually takes months for the dog-human bond to really solidify.

* Don’t give him what he wants unless it’s what you want, too. Puppies and men don’t always know what’s best for them.

* Whining and begging should be ignored. If you can’t make the request like a mature puppy or a man, don’t make it.

* Often the simplest interactions are the most fun. For both man and his best friend, tossing a Frisbee around, playing catch and just snuggling spice up the routine of life and the price is right.

* Both animals and men show love each in his own way. I have a hunch that Bijou’s constant nipping was a way he interacted affectionately with his siblings before his new life with me. There’s no one size fits all.

* Maybe most important, you teach both puppies and men the way you want to be treated. In the case of Bijou, a stern look, finger pointing and a firm no are reminders that my clothes and jewelry are not toys. With the opposite sex as well, body language speaks volumes!

As I look back now on my first week with Bijou, my emotions of irritation, resentment and anger have been greatly mitigated.  I think maybe Bijou and I are going to be friends after all. And in case you’re wondering, I haven’t broken down and made that fateful phone call.

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