About this time seven years ago (give or take a week or so), northern Virginia and the rest of the DC metro area got hammered by a monster snowstorm that shut the schools down for approximately a week. Snow plows were no-shows, and the NoVA 'burbs were in a state of not-so-splendid snowed-in isolation. This was the environment in which I was raising and attempting to housetrain Allie, who was then about 3 months old.
We went on walks -- long, long walks in which we clambered over snow piles, scrambled up snow-covered embankments, and played a little fetch on a deserted tennis court from which at least some snow had melted, thanks to a daily dose of morning sunlight. I was desperate to get my active puppy some consistent exercise, if only to calm her down enough to be receptive to my teaching her some basic good manners. Housetraining was also slow going, because neither Allie nor I was all that keen on going outside to do her business. Even though I knew better, there were times when I was sure that neither that winter nor her puppyhood would ever end.
Now, Allie is a relatively dignified seven-year-old -- a fact for which I've been particularly grateful this winter. That's because we've had one pre-Christmas blizzard, two moderate snowstorms, and are forecast to get another whopper this coming weekend. The snow and accompanying cold have kept Allie and me from our usual outdoor haunts and strenuous activity. But unlike seven years ago or even a year or two ago, Allie's not going crazy over the lack of such exercise and outdoor adventures, and her bathroom manners have long been impeccable. My puppy-girl has grown up.
That doesn't mean Allie's content to snooze away these snow days, or any other days. But instead of trekking around outdoors as we did when she was a puppy, she's happy when we play indoors. Our indoor shenanigans include fetch-the-treat games that require her to run up and down the stairs, tug-of-war and ladylike wrestling. And lately, I've been teaching Allie to "say her prayers." (Those of you who know my religious views--or, more accurately, my lack thereof -- have my permission to laugh or at least appreciate the irony of this effort.) This maneuver consists of Allie sitting on the floor and placing her front legs atop the seat of a chair. We're coming along well with this, and I love how she instantly materializes at my side when I pick up the clicker.
Every snowy foot we trudged, every snow pile we negotiated, every undignified spill I took ... they were all worth it to get to this point: of everyday enjoyment, of two-way communication, of love and appreciation and laughter. And yes, I'll still think that when we take a walk tomorrow or the next day and she reverts to puppy-like behavior, such as trying to play tug-of-war with her leash. These days I don't fight her on that; I laugh. Because not only has Allie grown up -- I have, too.
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