Puppies grow up way too fast. That’s clear to me from looking at Nova, our golden retriever. In the past four months, Nova has gone from being a fuzzy ball of fur to a gangly young dog.
Gone are the days when Nova cuddled in my lap and slept while I read books or watched television in the evening. Now, she stretches out beside me, her legs dangling over the edge of the chair and onto the foot rest.
As she’s grown, Nova’s cuteness has diminished. I’m certain she will be a pretty dog, but right now she’s at an awkward stage; her legs are too long for her body, her head looks disproportionate to the rest of her and she hasn’t filled out. She appears kind of waif-like.
Nova’s personality, like her body, is continuing to develop. She’s pretty well-behaved but has her teenaged moments when she looks at us defiantly and barks back with a sneer on her face. That usually happens when we tell her in a gruff voice to stop doing something she knows she shouldn’t be doing; gnawing on the table leg, grabbing a dish towel and running away with it or picking up sticks to chew when she goes outside to go potty.
Meanwhile, Nova has discovered she is tall enough to reach things on the kitchen counter and is persistent about jumping up and trying to grab them with her paws or swipe them off with her tongue, which seems like it’s at least 17 feet long when there’s something tasty sitting on the counter.
While I officially am Nova’s owner, all of our family members take responsibility for her care and discipline. I don’t have to be in the same room with our puppy to know when she’s being naughty because even in the farthest corner of the house I can hear my husband, sons or daughter hollering her name in frustration the same way I do when she’s testing my patience: “Nova. Nov-a-a-a. NOVA!”
On the flip side, Nova’s behavior in some ways has shown improvement. She is potty trained and rarely has accidents indoors. She sleeps through the night in her kennel and she knows how to walk beside us when on the leash.
Learning how to walk on a leash is important because we get Nova outside everyday for a two-mile trek with Casey and Rosebud, unless it’s too frigid to safely do so. Nova has boundless energy and the walks keep her –and us – sane. Otherwise, she’s a whirling dervish that is feverishly running in circles around the kitchen table, tearing up and down the length of the family room sofa or annoying Rosebud and Casey by yapping and nipping at them in an attempt to get her to play.
I’m trying to enjoy all of Nova’s stages, no matter how frustrating her behavior can be, because I know how fast time flies. Six months from now, she’ll be an adult and those years, I know from experience, also will pass quickly. Rosebud, our family’s first puppy, is a senior dog of 12½ and Casey is almost 5.
Meanwhile, Brian and I aren’t getting any younger, either, so she will likely be the last puppy we raise. I keep in mind when Nova is testing my patience that, someday, I will look back nostalgically and wish that she was still little.
I also recognize that having a puppy keeps me active and on my toes. Just as I leap into action when Nova is being naughty, I check on her when she’s being a little too quiet. In fact, I don’t hear anything right now so I need to head downstairs where Nova is in her kennel. Hopefully, she won’t be holding a tattered blanket, with a sneer on her face.
Ann Bailey is a Grand Forks Herald reporter who writes a personal column twice per month.