New puppy brings surprising lessons

Puppy School.

The 24-hour academy launched the moment we brought home our Bluetick Coonhound-Beagle-dachshund rescue pup.

We call her “Butter.”

The first thing we’ve learned is that the learning never stops. Ever.

Let me be clear, though. It’s Mama, not the puppy, getting schooled.

I’m getting schooled on things I realize have really nothing to do with a dog.

Like manhole covers and those rusted oversized pizza trays embedded into the road. Every road.

You don’t realize just how many manhole covers there are in the world until you spend too many hours a day walking a pup who is afraid of them.

And by afraid, I mean, terrified. Slam on all four paw brakes, reverse the engines of a 747, make yourself a flattened puppy filet in the middle of the street. That kind of scared.


Pup has yet to fully explain her anxiety.

Being the woefully imperfect puppy mama that I am, I have tried everything.

Tugging on her leash, cajoling, reasoning.

“I promise Mr. Manhole cover is very nice!” I said as I petted the metal disc.

The neighbors are still talking about that one.

“Let’s really look at this rationally.”

A phrase I recommend never trying out on a puppy for any reason, but especially a terrified one who has managed to turn 21 pounds of puppy weight in a two-ton sandbag.

“Nope. Not doing it. Not budging. You can go closer, you ignorant, Human. But you’re on your own. When that evil villain manhole with infinite super powers gobbles you up and ceases your very existence, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.”

Little pup can say all that with just one look.

I’ve worn myself out fighting her terror, forcing her to get over herself.

Exhaustion has led to acceptance of her fear.

That’s when it occurred to me.

It’s not about fixing this one pup. It’s about accepting a lot of us have manhole covers.

That scare-you-out-of-your-pants fear that no one understands.

Public speaking? Picking a healthy relationship?

That was certainly my manhole cover for most of my life until I met my husband.

Maybe in this scary world it’s easier to be focused on something that doesn’t pose imminent danger than consider all the harm that awaits you outside your front door.

Like manholes.

Boy, are there a lot of manholes outside in the world!

We will address that in puppy school starting next week.

Meanwhile, I do what I should for anyone I truly love.

Accept her as is. Not try to change her.

I now try to see the manholes before she does and casually head to the other side of the street.

When that fails, I simply pick her up and carry her.

There are few things a protective, loving hug from Mama can’t cure.

I’m sending you one of those hugs this week.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out how and when to get past, to the other side of the street.

For now, I accept you and your manhole just as you are.

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