Nica is a twelve-week-old girl; a puppy who appears to know absolutely nothing. We’ve done a lot of reading about puppies, and I’ve learned my instinctive responses to her behavior are all wrong. I, of course, want her to be a ‘good dog;’ to be silent, obedient, cheerful, and affectionate – not to chew the furniture, bark at strange noises, or pee on the floor. With my children, I’m used to demanding what I want, then yelling at them when things fall short. Nica doesn’t have a clue.

There is a way of teaching through loving. It didn’t come naturally to me, and I still haven’t learned how. First, Nica isn’t about me. Nica is living her puppy’s life and something makes her feel warm and gratified if I’m pleased, and self-disappointed if I’m not. But she could easily not care for me at all. I have to flirt with her.  I have to be her friend, and then, while I’m her friend, show her what it takes to get along together; show her how much joy it can be to rely on each other.

I’m reminded how rarely this has been done for me, then how, when it has, I’ve chafed and felt manipulated. I want to be special. I want to bite my human, and go unpunished. So now I’m hardened and lonely, with only a few people willing to scratch behind my ears. Nica is wide-eyed and friendly. I hope I take my time with her.

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