Silver and Lola share a nap. (Janet Rigg/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Tlellagraph: Puppy love, and puppy pains

By Janet Rigg

There’s a new resident in Tlell. She’s young and feisty, loves to play, and has beautiful coal-rimmed eyes. She can be a bit vocal when she wants something, and doesn’t like to be confined to small spaces. She’s eager to learn, but a bit of a night owl. She loves to cuddle and, eventually, she’ll love long walks on the beach. Her legs are just too short at the moment.

Yes, we got a puppy! Meet Silver. She’s nine weeks old and bound and determined to harass our older dog Lola until she submits to some puppy play time. So far we’ve only accomplished puppy sleep time in close proximity, but I remain hopeful. I also remain hopeful that crate training will start to go better soon, because right now it’s either sleep or pee accidents in our house, and that stuff drives me nuts. It’s like having a newborn again in many ways, but at least babies can wear diapers!

Dogs are an important part of the tribe up here in Tlell. Many times at community gatherings there are as many four-legged friends as there are children, sometimes more. Both run in packs around the socializing adults, free to negotiate their own social hierarchy. It’s amusing when these packs collide — kids and dogs in a swirl of unbridled exuberance. We raise our dogs in a communal way, with each community member as responsible as the next to keep that pup in line. Again, much like the children.

Having a dog has been proven to have multiple physical and mental health benefits. Studies show that dog ownership reduces stress-hormone levels, increases longevity, combats depression, and could be the secret to world peace (okay, I made that last one up, but it could be true).

Dog ownership inspires, or perhaps necessitates, a more active lifestyle as well as general sociability. You all know about the guy in the city that borrows his friend’s dog to pick up ladies. That works, because people love to stop and say hi to a dog, and then that opens the possibility of a conversation with the owner. That ploy wouldn’t work well here, since we all know who owns what dog, but I suppose you could try. We’d still stop and say hi, and then wonder aloud why you have so-and-so’s dog.

We also don’t have to walk our dogs in designated parks here. When we moved our old dog, now dearly departed, Farkus from downtown Montreal to Tlell, it was like he had won the doggy lottery. In Montreal, the fine for the transgression of having your dog off leash was a hefty $125. Dog walking was always a game of “Spot la Police,” which likely negated much of the stress-reducing effect of owning the dog in the first place. The deserted beaches and trail walks of Tlell and Haida Gwaii afford a natural freedom for dogs that can’t be underestimated. It’s beautiful.

What’s not beautiful is dealing with a puppy yelping and howling at 4 a.m., inconveniently after it’s already relieved itself by the patio door. Yes, we are trying crate training. It’s something we did successfully with Farkus and then Lola. Silver, however, seems less inclined to be so cooperative. Perhaps it’s her temperament, perhaps it’s because the kids want to snuggle with her during daytime puppy power naps, but it’s proving to be a slight nightmare for this writer. It’s only been a few days, however, so, as I said, I remain hopeful.

In fact, she’s sleeping peacefully in the crate right now. Shhhhhhhh…..

If you have any puppy training tips, email me at sewnart@haidagwaii.net.