Warning: this post will be full of puppy cuteness. We have gone mad with puppy love…
Thanks to everyone who suggested puppy names, even the wholly inappropriate ones (Rufus – for a female pup, really?). Considering that both D & S have ties to Amherst, MA and given our puppy’s bashfulness, Rachel’s idea to name her after Emily Dickenson was too good to pass up.
Though we welcomed her with open arms, the first few days Emmie’s shyness was exacerbated by a touch of sadness. She had been rescued along with her sister and her doleful eyes betrayed a deep melancholy at being separated and uprooted from her familiar surroundings. She demanded a lot of love and would whimper uncontrollably whenever one of us left the room. But she quickly got used to her new home and has returned to her adorable lap dog self. She craves attention and loves to put her paws on our shoulders to give us full-face kisses and to nibble on our ears.
Overall, Emmie is very well behaved. She responds to her name, allows us to take things that she should not chew out of her mouth, stays off the furniture, and is learning not to gnaw on us even though she is teething. She sits and stays on command, and is well on her way to being house trained. Crate training is also going well and though she does not always want to go inside, she barely makes a peep when we leave her alone. She hasn’t quite figured out how to play fetch yet, but we’re working on that and hopefully we’ll turn her into a frisbee-loving dog. When we are home, she likes to lie at or – more often – on top of our feet, and if we sit on the floor, she immediately jumps into our laps and curls up for nap time. And most of the time she seems content to push her kibble ball around or lie in the corner chewing on her toys while we’re eating.
Our biggest challenge is her submissive urination. The vet who raised Emmie from her first week of life believes that African dogs tend to be fearful of people and submissive by nature. This owes partially to genetic disposition, but is also due to the fact that domesticated animals do not receive the same love and affection in Africa as they do in the States. Even when they like dogs, Africans tend to approach them in an intimidating way, leaning over the dog and petting the top of its head rather than bending down and petting underneath the chin as foreigners are apt to do.
In Emmie’s case, extreme excitement, fear, or some combination of the two leads her to lose control of her bladder. She gets spooked by loud noises and cars, unfamiliar men, and Black people – yes, our dog seems to be racist. We’re working on changing that, having our gardener and housekeeper feed her whenever they come over so that she gets used to them. But thus far we have been unable to eradicate her deep mistrust of Africans. We have also turned to online puppy psychologists to try to solve Emmie’s piddling, and most of the tips actually work. So when D comes home from work, S distracts Emmie with kibble while D goes upstairs to change. We talk to each other so that Emmie hears D’s familiar voice and has more time to process her emotions. If D ignores her long enough, she forgets how excited she was that he came home and we thus avoid any accidents.
One of our friends recently remarked that a puppy is like a proto-baby and though we are not planning on adding any biological children while we’re in Nairobi, Emmie has brought out the parenting instincts in both of us.