Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Scruffy Puppy Christmas with Cousin Homer

We spent Christmas at the home of my in-laws...a nice, quiet little place in a quiet little retirement community in Washington. We brought the whole Oregon contingent of the family, including my mother, Jamie's brother and our dogs Kirby and 12-week-old Remy. Also descending on the grandparents: another of Jamie's brothers along with his wife, their two adorable daughters (5 and 8) and their 5-month-old-but-gigantic-already scruffy puppy, Homer. We had not yet met Homer, and the rest of the family had not yet met Remy, although the human siblings have had a few "climb down off the ledge" puppy-rearing discussions by phone over the past few months.

To further set the stage: The grandparents have two bedrooms, no pets and white carpet. Bless their hearts, they invited everyone to stay at their house on Christmas Eve. Despite the warnings, we were fairly certain they had no idea what they were getting themselves into this year...

The adult kids, grandkids and puppies came with Aerobeds, sleeping bags, dog crates and Nature's Miracle (Homer and Remy are mostly housetrained, but still not 100% reliable). Kirby is completely reliable in that way, but he has always been a tad freaked out by large family gatherings, particularly those that involve children whom he is not allowed to herd around.
Homer, 5 months

We approached the whole thing with a bit of trepidation. We didn't know how we were going to choreograph the puppy situation, particularly since Remy and Kirby still can't spend five minutes together without turning the whole scene into a wrestling match. Homer, we were told, is a pretty dominant puppy with a fierce independent streak, a big, strong body and the smart-yet-wacky brain of a 5-month-old puppy (they were told by the shelter that he is a German Shepherd/Poodle mix but he also looks a LOT like an Irish Wolfhound). We feared he and Remy might duke it out for number one.

Needless to say, the excitement and anticipation of a merry Christmas was getting back-burnered by our desire to just make it through the two days without any tears, major injuries (dog or human) or property damage.


In fact, it was fun and merry and remarkably without incident. There were no "surprises" on the white carpet, no children's toys were maimed, the Nature's Miracle never even came out of the bag. I still can hardly believe it.

The girls loved having three dogs to play with (though I think we all missed Baxter's presence terribly... I know Jamie and I did.) Interestingly enough, without Baxter around, Kirby took on the role of "elderly statesman dog." No herding of the children. No excited barking. He left the rowdiness to the puppies and did a remarkable job of circulating, cheerfully accepting the hugs and kisses and pats on the head from every member of the family.

To keep the peace, we did control things a bit, though. We only allowed one dog out at a time in the living room unless the puppies were on leashes. This kept it from seeming like a three-ring circus and enabled us to focus on really having a good time with the girls and the designated puppy of the moment.

Remy and Homer played in the garage and the back yard and Kirby mostly just stayed out of the way. He seemed relieved that Remy finally had a gonzo playmate a bit closer to his own age. Homer and Remy wrestled, chased each other around and generally seemed to have a fantastic time together. Homer, though nearly twice as big as Remy, was appropriately gentle with him.

Remy discovered that he needs to look where he's going even when he's being chased, otherwise obstacles like trees can really cramp your style. He also discovered that he didn't have to run around bushes, he could run THROUGH them and they made great places to hide from Homer (Remy's such a Griff). The two puppies managed to wear each other out without any injuries (despite the aforementioned tree) and while neither of them particularly liked being put into their crates for some down-time, they seemed to accept it with only minor whining.

Remy, 3 months
Santa came. Gifts were opened. Dogs chewed on rawhide. Humans stuffed themselves on cookies and candy, turkey and ham. And, to top it all off, Remy found "treats" some rabbits had left for him in the back yard. He thought they were the best Christmas gift of all.

The day after Christmas we said our goodbyes, rolled up the sleeping bags, packed up the packages, loaded the dogs into their crates and headed home...fatter, happier and quite relieved that Remy and Homer's first Christmas was pretty great.

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