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TITLE: Just a Little Bit
By Fay Johnson

Story about family dog becoming a member and facing the challenges of bad habits and housebreaking-literally.
Our daughter begged for a dog. She stated her case; her dog (full-blooded, registered Shi-Tzu) needed a dog for a companion. The two could play together and entertain each other while we were all at work. It was certainly a fresh argument; we had never heard of a dog having a dog for a pet. Yet here we were considering and then of course agreeing reluctantly.

When we first saw the fluff of brown fur we were surprised by the Shi-Tzu and Maltese combination. He looked like a Maltese with Shi-Tzu coloring. He certainly did not seem worried by breed standards, but sported a long nose, curly hair, and athletic frame. We were soon won over by two little dark button eyes peeking through the shaggy tufts of his unruly coat; not to mention his never-ending kisses.

The older dog took to the puppy immediately and was content to give up his toys to his new pet. He watched as the puppy destroyed them all one by one. Ripping and tearing; nothing was safe from his sharp teeth, sturdy paws, and stubborn determination. We began to look for doggie toys that might last a little longer, but nothing seemed to satisfy his insatiable habit. The older dog enjoyed growling and tossing about plush animal figures with a whimsical squeak, but this new puppy required ropes with knots, miniature tires, and rubber balls. We quickly learned if he did not have a toy or bone readily available, the furniture was a suitable replacement. He also enjoyed helping to decorate the house especially since it is so popular to bring the outside in. Often we would come home to new scratches and teeth marks in the legs of the sofa, tables, or footboard of our sleigh bed as well as potpourri of sticks, leaves, and trash he meticulously placed throughout every available floor space. He also liked to take things outside through the doggie door like shoes, clothing, and underwear. His energy seemed relentless.

We began to train him; we wondered if we were ready for the task. He actually took to the doggie door and the usage of the backyard very quickly thanks to the good example of the older dog. I also started lapdog training. He would patiently wait for me to complete the first tasks of the day such as making coffee, adjusting the thermostat, and refilling the dogs’ bowls of water and food. Then he would struggle to jump on my lap, but after one, two, three tries he would always make it. He would lie on my lap for my early morning Bible study.

With doggie door training/housebreaking complete; we decided to tackle some of his other habits. As I was busy writing one evening, I heard a strange persistent banging noise on the doggie door. I looked in the direction of the sound, and was astonished to see the little puppy dragging in a huge bone at least twice his size. He seemed so proud of his conquest. I wondered where and how he managed to happen upon it. After some investigating, it was obvious he had dug a tunnel under our fence to the neighbor’s yard and had stolen a bone from the Great Danes next door. We stuck a brick in the hole and scolded him for stealing as two gray, angry Danes snorted through the pickets. Unfortunately, the puppy did not learn quickly enough but dug another hole and proudly paraded a large breed dog toy. One evening we heard loud yelping; I ran out the backdoor to find the puppy had been cornered by the Great Danes. Looking over the fence at the situation, the two dogs resembled something from Jurassic Park. Their owners were trying to hold back both dogs as well as lift the puppy over the fence. We had heard Danes were big lapdogs but even lapdogs will not share with an intruder. Bricks began to line the fence as our backyard soon resembled the moon. The puppy still busied himself with digging; he had created quite a network from our yard to the other backyards surrounding our house. He knew our neighbors and their dogs better than we did. He even taught the other dogs how to dig as well. Soon we might wake up to not two dogs but sometimes three dogs in our house. Not of all our neighbors housebreak their pets. Notes began to show up on our door as disapproving neighbors voiced concerns.

Finally, one evening I came home to find the wooden arms of the sofa gnawed beyond repair of wood putty; this was the preverbal last straw. I asked my daughter to find the puppy a new home because we could not tolerate the shenanigans any longer. He was destroying our home and our lives. Not much else was said except quiet full agreement from all members of the family, especially the older dog. A few weeks went by with nothing else said concerning the puppy’s eviction. But then the dreaded day came, a home had been found. Not just any home, one with a child. We each thought about the puppy leaving, as well as all the damage done at his paws. Yet there was something holding us back from sending him out the door. We got together and took a family vote, it was unanimous; the puppy would stay. We were sad about the child and thought about the fun the two could have had together, but he was our dog first. We did give the child’s parents ideas on other places to look for a pet.

Today, I still look forward to seeing a scruffy looking dog patiently waiting for me to finish the morning chores so he can lie quietly on my lap while I read the Bible. We all enjoy the puppy’s favorite games like fetch, keep-away, and hide and seek. We refilled holes in the yard and around the fence as well as opened communication with the neighbors. Even the older dog plays more with the puppy, who is still just a Little Bit.
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