Monday, July 16, 2018

The Puppy Days of Summer

            July is a quiet month in most school buildings. It’s a time when administrators, custodians, computer technicians and secretaries do a lot of preparing for the onslaught of activity that will take place in just a matter of weeks. I’ve been enjoying the quiet at school, especially since life at home is a whole lot more hectic than usual. Two and a half months ago, we came home with a rescue puppy, and life has most definitely not been the same.

I was reminded of how this 60-pound, 6-month-old Labrador/Great Dane mix landed in our house just as I was sitting in my serene office this past week. You see, one of the ways I’ve been preparing for my new job as an assistant principal is by studying and reviewing my school district’s Board of Ed-approved policies, so that when issues arise I am better versed in the rules. One of the many board policies in our district is the one regarding live animals. It’s not the most-read policy, of course, and I would imagine it was designed mostly for science classes. But it can apply in other ways as well.

            Take this past April, for instance. One of my colleagues asked if the Community Service Club that I advise would be willing to welcome a visit from a dog rescue organization for which she volunteers, as the group was looking for teens to help them out as well. I asked the students, and they said yes, they’d love a visit. My colleague then asked if we’d be OK if the dog rescue person brought an actual dog with her to class. I said no, that wouldn’t be allowed. She said maybe it would, if the principal agreed to it. I said sure, feel free to ask.

            When my boss was asked about the dog, he dutifully referred to the aforementioned board policy, which stated that in this kind of situation, a live animal could enter a classroom if all students and parents had been informed, and no one was allergic to the animal. I sent out a note to parents, and a few days later, we had our visit. The dog rescue worker entered the classroom, followed by a “foster parent” who held the leash of a 4-month-old Lab/Great Dane nicknamed “Big George” by the rescue group.

            When this black Lab stepped gingerly into the room, he settled on the floor, resting his head on the leg of a student who had knelt down to pet him. He seemed like the gentlest puppy I’d ever met. My students fawned over him, and several of them signed up to volunteer for the rescue group. As for me, I found myself skimming the organization’s website, looking at the writeup on Big George. He was found in a garbage dump in Georgia, it said, and his name came from the theme to this litter – all of them were named after characters from the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I emailed my wife the link and wrote, “I don’t know why I’m sending you this.” She responded that she didn’t know, either. She passed the link along to our daughters.

            We had a dog already. Our 8-year-old golden retriever, Daisy, was perfectly content, if a little lonely. But she found her life turning upside down when we brought her to a meet-and-greet with this friendly puppy. And when we brought that puppy home, Daisy was even more confused. It was as if she knew what we were in for before we did.

            We have spent the past 11 weeks raising a puppy – which, in case you have never done so, is second only to raising a child in its degree of difficulty. George is growing about 20 pounds per month, and by the time he’s filled out he will look more like a pony. He likes to get our attention with a howl that sounds like it came from Chewbacca. When losing his baby teeth, he would shake his head to try and free the dangling tooth, thereby sprinkling blood all over the floor. He drinks from his bowl and then walks away while still swallowing, leaving puddles of water all over the place. He chewed his leash in half, and chewed the laces off my running sneakers.

            George is learning to stop pulling on his new leash, which is important because he’s almost stronger than we are already. He wants Daisy to play all the time, but that’s not our older dog’s style. So between growling and completely ignoring him, Daisy is mentoring George on the art of settling down. We take him for three walks a day, and he still has energy to spare. One day he was stung by a bee or wasp, and we had to give him Benadryl. When the medicine knocked him out, we enjoyed our quietest night in months.

            A day in the life of Big George features all kinds of fun. Today, for instance, we had a 5:30 wakeup call, as he howled from inside his crate. I tried to take a nap after work only to have him hop on the bed next to me and start chomping on a bone. While clearing off the table after dinner, I was treated to him dipping his snout in the garbage pail, leaving a trail of couscous across the kitchen floor. And tonight, my wife says we need to order an XXL dog crate since he’s grown out of the 42-inch crate we already have.
            There’s no board policy on raising a puppy; that’s my own riddle to solve, outside of work time. The dog days of summer will be more literal than figurative for us this year. But the family will figure it out together, and George will mature and pay more attention to our rules. Eventually. Meanwhile, I’ll keep sneaking away to work each day, trying to recover from dog education by focusing on the education of teenagers.


  1. Well guys.. I have a Dane, BEn.. who is now ancient in Dane Dog years - in his prime he weighed 180 lbs. I believe your mom showed me a picture of the big, beautiful George. I'm guessing he's going to reach at least 120-ish. lbs. No Board policy at all. :-)