The First Week With Harriet: Old Dogs and Puppies

The Author

E. Alana James

E. Alana James

Dr E Alana James is reinventing herself again! Coming full circle to the first love of her life - art - and bringing back to her images all the lessons of her life as author, researcher, academic and wife. Concerned mostly with the idea of images as vehicles for expression of the truth of our inner and outer life experience.

At eight weeks old Harriet entered our lives. She was a little black ball of fluff, weighing 14 lbs, with the little white zip on her chest and forepaw the only indication of her mixed parentage. We had lost an older black Lab to heart failure a couple of months previously and her brother was moping around the house. Following the logic that the older dog would show the puppy the ropes, when we met a soft and loving female dog at the vets who had just had puppies we decided to seek adoption.


Prayer went up at times for God to give us the strength to cope with early am crying, toilet training and having to “puppy proof” the lower shelves in our house, nevertheless she was very cute. Her third day with us, after getting me out of bed at the miserable hour of 6am on Sunday, I took both her and G.O.D. (her name for Stefan, as she clearly idolizes him) to the hill behind our house. Amazing how much distance a young creature can cover. Low to the ground, the smallest clumps of grass became encyclopedias of smells. Here is Harriet scampering along the path (the tall grass being too much for her) and coming across a single tall blade of grass. Suddenly her little hips squat, her tail wiggles and she jumps at this giant adversary – toppling it with one swift blow to its tassel. Proud as “all get out” she continues on her way.

By day three sleep deprivation has set in. The puppy wakes us between four and five am with many progressive series of whines. She wakes a few times in the night too, but generally goes back to sleep, but by five am she has had enough puppy sleep and is frantic to get out of her enclosure. Of course by then Stefan has had enough too and has removed himself to the far reaches of the basement. This leaves us to get up, get dressed and all the time trying to calm her fears until we can take her out.

She is a sweetheart, as we were assured by a young couple with a 10 month lab who was clearly a much bigger handful, but now we find our whole household regularly dosing on Rescue Remedy and cringing whenever she begins to her unique escalating cries whines and screams. “Can the neighbors hear her? Do they think we are regularly torturing our puppy?” Margie notices that her tone has changed from “oh cute girl” to “HARRIET stop THAT.” We plot ways to have the small TV on in her “playroom” downstairs and yearn for the day when she is more self-contained.

By day four life is getting easier (ah isn’t this always the lesson) because we start to set boundaries. She has to learn that she doesn’t get 24/7 attention and in actuality she is a fast learner. She only screams for about 5 minutes before she settles down. We also are experimenting with where we keep the cage, etc. Margie got up with her in the middle of the night to let her out and she settled back down – letting us sleep to seven. I agree with all the new mom’s I have ever known that sleep deprivation is the hardest of the challenges.

Stefan is getting some time out on his own – we realized he needed it after he tore out the door last night after we brought them both back in. This morning he chose the direction of our walk and I loved seeing the sun rise in pink and ivory puffy clouds on the pasture and the water’s edge, listening to the gentle waves lap and watching the dance of silver and pink on the waves. What a fabulous wake up call.

By day five Harriet is good in her cage, and we have to keep her there as she gets out of everywhere else we try to restrain her. She is a little monkey when it comes to climbing – sitting happily by the front door waiting for me when I returned from the market.

Thank heavens for Stefan playing the role of “G.O.D.”. I see now why the woman I overheard said it was easier to have an older dog help raise a puppy up into doghood. Harriet is now comfortable enough with our home and life as a member of our family that she is asserting her own individual needs and wants more day by day. This is balanced by ease in sleeping in her cage when we are too busy to watch over her and far less screaming when not the center of attention.

Stefan does not love the “G. O. D.” role as it puts her under his feet much of the time. Since he has limited eyesight we can understand why this is disconcerting. I am thankful however because otherwise, without Stefan when we take them out to the “loo” Harriet would have NO IDEA what we were out there for and the whole process might take hours as she becomes distracted with every new leaf and twig. Instead picture this big black dog heading out to pee, with a little black bouncing ball of fur next to him bonging along the path. He stops, she says, “Oh what is up now?” (he is peeing, hopefully not on her head). She gets the idea and within minutes thinks that perhaps this is a good activity for her as well. Mission accomplished we all travel home. Yesterday the two young lads who live next to us (Daniel, nine and Conor, five) went with us to the paddock and purely by accident (at least on my part if not for the boys and the dogs) to the beach. The sun was shining, the water glittering, the dogs and boys rolling in the sand. We all came home with huge grins on our faces.

Yes indeed, thank God for dogs and puppies.