Here she is curled up in her favorite chair. Gretel is now 1 year old and I think we may have survived her puppy-hood. There were days when I wasn't so sure about whether we were going to manage that, but we are all still breathing. The other thing I wanted to show you was this photo of the doorway between the kitchen and the butler's pantry.
Now you are probably wondering what's so special about this particular view. If you have visited my house in the past year, you will notice immediately it's not what's there, but what's missing. Two days ago we took down the baby gate that was perpetually set-up across here. Hooray! When my parents were visiting last month, my father decided it was all a secret plan to develop a dynasty of hurdlers as he watched my children leap across the gate multiple times a day. (It was particularly exciting when they were leaping while also trying to carry glasses of milk into the dining room.) It is still rather novel for all of us to just walk between rooms. People are still commenting when they do it.
And how did this happen? Well, I think it's all because we left town and Gretel stayed home. (Can you just imagine a 15-passenger van completely full, going to stay at someone's home, and bringing a one year old Labrador? Neither could I.) Because we plan everything at the last minute, I didn't even bother to try to locate a kennel with space and instead asked our dog trainer, who also does pet sitting, if she would be willing to come and walk Gretel a few times a day. I have no idea what she did with the
beast dear dog while we were gone, but we came back to a transformed animal. She is calm. She has left the multitude of children's toys which evidently are stored on the floor of my house alone and has not chewed them. She has stopped barking. If it weren't for the tell-tale scar across half her upper body, I would have thought that our trainer found another yellow lab and switched her while we were gone; the change is that significant. And it's wonderful.
I might have inadvertently helped this transformation a bit. I did buy her several new, indestructible chew toys before we left which she loves and carries around with her. I also bought on complete impulse two 'as seen on TV' anti-bark devises out of sheer desperation. (They supposedly emit a high frequency sound when triggered by barking. I have no idea if they really do anything as we can't hear them, but the barking has stopped.) When I took all of these things to the check-out counter, the checker looks as what I was buying and politely asks what kind of dog I have. I reply a lab and she says, "Ah," in a very knowing way. The kind of response that speaks absolute volumes in one little word.
She is still a lab, but this past week has been so pleasant with her, I think my secret fear of her turning into Marley, the dog terror, are abating. And it all becomes a positive spiral. She is pleasant and calm which makes us want to be around her more and give her more attention which makes her pleasant and calm. That's a kind of behavior spiral I can live with.