Age: 8 weeks
Weight: 20.4 lbs
Yesterday, Sampson turned 8 weeks old and already he feels like a member of the family. After a whirlwind week of sleeping on the floor in strange positions, being chewed on in the dark, rising at dawn, over-caffeinating in the afternoons, peppered with bouts of blinding cuteness and much gallumphing about, it feels like he has always been here, guiding us with his puppy ways.
Lesson #1 -- Appreciate the dawn:
I am not being sarcastic here. J and I have never been able to let our children 'cry it out'; why would we listen to the horrible yips and yelps coming from the kitchen when our hairy baby woke up lonely? So there has been some sleeplessness. We all take shifts sleeping with Sampson in his cozy spot in the kitchen.
When he gets up for the day, as early as 4:50 am as the birds are just thinking about trying out their morning chirps, I do too. We go outside and putter, pull weeds in the garden, take out the compost, feed the cats and water the vegetables. The world is quiet and we have had the good fortune to see a doe and fawn, a red-headed woodpecker and a fox heading home.
I had forgotten how much I cherish early rising, how many things can be done before all the little towheads stagger out of their beds demanding bacon and hugs. And much like a human baby, Sampson often comes back in for an early morning snooze, which means I get some writing time with a faithful dog at my feet--something that's been missing for too long.
LESSON #2 -- Be present:
I don't mean this in the 'burn your patchouli stick and fold yourself into full lotus and breathe in some chi', but in the 'this puppy has grown 4.5 lbs in a week and will be a full-on dog by Christmas' way. Enjoy who he is right now. Lie on the floor with him. Coax everyone out on another lap of our evening walk (bonus: Sampson sleeps better when he's tuckered out!) Watch with amazement and joy as he pounces on the clover flowers or discovers the tangy zip of onion grass.
I had an idea to take a weekly photo with Sampson and the same, standard object to show his growth. I picked a tennis ball, since he was frolicking and mauling one at the time before I remembered that in a very short space of time, a tennis ball will disappear in his cavernous jaws. (Jonah used to treat the boys' baseballs as gobstoppers, crunched into nothing.) Nevertheless, here's your NOW photo of Sampson.
For his part, Sampson keeps me present and on my toes in the more practical way--if I lose sight of the now, lose my awareness of my surroundings, stop watching his every toddling, snuffling move, he brings me right back by peeing on the floor. (Today's score? Me: 4, Sampson: 6) Some days are better than others.
It is also very difficult for me to report these infractions to J without feeling like Parker Posey's, yuppie, therapy-attending, neurotic-Wiemaraner-owning character in "Best in Show", without using words like 'pee-pee' and 'poopie'. If you don't know what I'm talking about, there's something waiting to be added to your Netflix queue now.
House training has been a challenge, compounded by the fact that we don't have a big dog around to show him the way. My boys have offered to pee outside for him, but I just don't think it's the same, cross-species.
The message for my family? Lesson #3: Appreciate Mom's Cooking
"How come Sampson gets fed before any of us?" one of my boy's wailed when they woke up to see him chin-deep in his bowl, crunching away.
In part, this is because Sampson appreciates what I make. He sits politely as I poach his egg, maybe just the slightest wriggle of eager anticipation, smiling his canine grin. There's no, "When are we going to get some real food from the store?" or "Why do you have to bake our bread!" or "This smells like throw up!" or "This again?!" Sampson eats the same meal of puppy chow and poached egg with gusto every day. Of course, just like my human children, there is some snacking between meals...
LESSON #4 -- PICK UP YOUR THINGS
$40 in Petsmart chew toys have got nothing on toilet paper rolls, the pool bag, Max's red Keens, two pairs of my flip-flops, the feathered cat fishing rod, and a certain pink squeaky bath toy. Here, cross-species works just fine. Sampson will 'play' with any and all objects left out, testing them with his little needle-sharp puppy teeth.
LESSON #5 -- REDIRECT
"Something shiny just went over the trench!"
The redirect is a staple of parenting. What can be more attractive than poking your sister, teasing your brother, or in Sampson's case, following after a pack of small compadres, the littlest of which wears ruffled and flouncing fabrics that just beg for a nip? How can we tempt you to put your energy and impulses elsewhere?
Outside, Piper has learned to carry a chew toy in hand and when he nips at her flanks, she's an expert at the art of distraction. I think she'll make an excellent mother.
Finally, LESSON #6 -- Time your rewards
In an attempt to be expedient, to quickly reinforce the positive of going to the bathroom outside, I whipped out a dog treat while poor Samps was still mid-crouch, throwing the deuce. Misunderstanding what I wanted from him, (we've been practicing 'sit' a lot this week), Sampson promptly sat. Right in it.
We love our Newfoundlands for their gentle nature, not their intellect.
Stay tuned next week to see if Sampson has learned to sleep through the night yet...