So here it is, the impaired puppy owner’s Holy Grail: a surprising list of items essential to your sanity during these first few months, and you’ll find most of them just lying around the house…
The vital importance of a ready supply of gin should not be underestimated during this delicate time. As well as its ability to dampen panic and dull hysteria, it can also resuscitate humour during the bleakest of moments, and provide a smidgen of warmth and light at 3am when you’re sitting on the back step waiting for your pup to poo.
Drink it to celebrate what you’ve gained (a puppy!) and to commiserate what you’ve lost (your social life, your libido, most of your trousers, and that comfy wicker chair in the lounge).
A TEA TOWEL
In A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams proclaimed the humble towel “the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”, providing the adventurer with shade, warmth, shelter, slumber, wardrobe, weapon, and everything in between. In a similar fashion I now declare the common tea towel just about the most massively useful thing a puppy owner can possess. Here’s what it can do:
Tea Towel Puppetry
Tie a toy to one end of your towel and then dangle and dance it around for pup to chase. Exercises pup using a mere one hand whilst the other can balance a glass of gin.
The Tea Towel Dinner
Never just give a puppy its food – make them work for it. This helps tire out their little brains and wins you time to put the other sock on. Tie the tea towel in a knot and stuff the folds with kibble; put kibble in the middle of a flat tea towel and tie the opposite corners together to make a pouch; sprinkle kibble onto the tea towel and then roll it, fold it and thread it through a ring-shaped chew toy… the possibilities are endless, but essentially you fold it and stuff it. Get your origami head on.
Tea Towel Peekaboo
Put the tea towel over your face and say “Where’s mummy?”. Pup will either bark manically, run away, or jump on your head. That’s a one in three chance of a few moments’ peace.
The Patient Tea Towel
Teach pup some manners: Spread the tea towel out on the floor and make pup sit and wait whilst you slowly lay out pieces of kibble, one by one, on the towel. Good luck with that. Then fold the tea towel in on itself from the edges until all the food is hidden. Now let pup snuffle it all out.
Tea Towel Gift Wrap
Wrap toys inside the tea towel – hidden treasure gives greater pleasure for some reason, and it keeps pup busy during vital gin-refilling moments.
Tea Towel Chew
The tea towel itself is fair gnawing fodder for puppy gnashers, and as it’s cheaper to replace than your jumper then I’d just let her get on with it.
THE JOY OF SOCKS
Puppies love stealing your socks. Get a job lot from Savers and dot them round the house in unexpected places. The stolen sock victory dance is one of the great puppy wonders of the world.
Even better, put a tennis ball in the sock and drag it along the floor for pup to chase. Or put some treats in one, tie it in a knot, and let her work it out.
It must be admitted that sometimes us dog owners may be guilty of forgetting that our puppy is an animal and not in fact a child. Just like real parents we get up in the night when they cry, we nurse them when they are ill, we try and teach them about right and wrong, steer them away from danger, and relentlessly bore all our friends by never shutting up about them. However, it is when we present our little angel with a cuddly toy to play with that we are shocked into remembering what we are actually living with.
At first puppy will LOVE teddy: she’ll run about with it, play catch, fetch, and tug-of-war with it, sleep on it and greet you with it when you come in the room.
Next, she’ll love it a bit TOO much, and you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that although your daughter is only a few months old she is still full of hormones in a way that no human child is.
Then she’ll start experimentally nibbling teddy’s ear, just to see what he’s made of, and the next thing you know his eyes are gone and there are two great gaping holes in his face and she’s mercilessly pulling his stuffing out through them.
This de-stuffing phase is why our cuddly toy has made it into my survival kit, because if teddy is a big teddy it can take quite some time before he’s totally flat, and, waste not want not, once teddy is deflated he becomes the perfect place to hide food for pup to snuffle out.
So yes, it is a bit like in the Andrex adverts, and it is cute, but it is also so much more. Not only does the trail of tissue entertain puppy, but the cardboard tube inside is gold dust: stuff a sock in it, or squeeze teddy’s leg through it, and pup won’t stop until everything’s emancipated. Or blow raspberries down it and chase pup around the garden (the neighbours love this).
In fact, tissues and cardboard form a massive part of the puppy owner’s arsenal. The delight of a puppy who has just stolen a tissue only to find that another has magically appeared in its place poking out of the top of the box for them is second to none. This can go on for hours.
For extra value, place a tissue where puppy can see it, but that is just out of her reach – if you can stand the perplexed whimpering this can keep pup focused and still for SECONDS.
Nearly as fun is stuffing teddy in an empty tissue box, or sealing Piglet inside an envelope. Never underestimate the contents of your recycling box, the cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper can almost bide you enough time to eat breakfast.
Whilst we’re on the subject of recycling, your empty tonic bottle may just be about the best thing that’s ever happened to your puppy (and the worst thing that’s happened to your neighbours). Pup will love chasing it, jumping on it, barking at it, and chewing it, but be warned: it’s really REALLY noisy.
Two and a half months too late, this happened at the vet’s:
And then something magical happened: he gave us PUPPY SLEEPING PILLS and anti-anxiety spray. Who knew? Okay, so it’s not quite valium, but they simulate the mother’s milk and hormones which does have a vaguely soporific effect – good enough for us to finally have more than two hours’ sleep at once, and to even dare a rogue trip to the pub one night. Yay!
So there you have it, my definitive list of all the booze, drugs, rags and rubbish that you’ll need to get through the first few months with your monster. So take a deep breath, holster a tea towel, down that gin, approach the cage, and release the hound.