Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fritz

We have a new dog. That has been more of a mixed bag than I anticipated.

The house was so quiet and I really wanted the comfort of a dog to ease the sad feelings I was having as I grieve the losses. I started looking for labradoodles and it was a complicated process with lots of phone calls, many web sites with puppies, research, more phone calls, discussion, phone calls. It was probably obsessive.

We kind of moved our sites from labradoodles to goldendoodles. At first I wanted to have a dog that had a similar temperament to Harvey without looking too much like him and I got excited about some chocolate colored puppies that cost more than we could afford.

We kept looking. We wanted a dog from Kansas. We wanted to buy from a breeder who spent time socializing the puppies. We finally found a puppy raised indoors by a woman who raises therapy dogs. Both his parents are therapy dogs. They are also smaller examples of their breeds, so this pup will likely grow to be around 50 pounds, instead of the 75 pounds that Harvey had reached. The breeder had begun house training the pups and they knew they had to sit to be petted.

Because of the holidays coming up, that head start on training really appealed to me, although I  was ambivalent about having a smaller dog than Harvey. Chuck appealed to my sense of self preservation by reminding me how hard it was to hold on to Harvey when he got excited about another dog.

We wanted the one male left in the litter but we did not have a name. We had 20-30 names, none of which really grabbed either of us. It was the night before we had arranged to go get the puppy, and I was still stewing about names. Chuck said that he wanted to sleep on it, so we went to bed.

In the morning I was thinking about Dad, and about Harvey, and about names. I remembered the Katzenjammer twins and got up to google them and find out their names. One was Hans and the other was Fritz. I remembered Dad calling us 'schnicklefritz' when we were ornery or silly. Fritz seemed good to me, so I told Chuck about it. He thought about it for a while and suggested calling the pup Laurence Schicklefritz Katzenjammer, Fritz for short. We threw out the list because this was a name we could easily agree on.

Tim came along to help with the driving and Mom came to spend the day with us. We were gone about 8 hours total.

When we picked up Fritz, I had a lot of mixed feelings. He was so small. The woman who raised him was not really a 'people person' and was it was hard to connect with her. What if I wasn't getting what I thought I was getting?

But he clearly loved being held, which indicated that he had been handled a lot. He did sit to be petted. He was soft and fluffy and cute.

Fritz is a different dog than Harvey, more energetic, and also more hesitant about new experiences. He is easily over-stimulated and needs help calming himself. He is cute in a different way, more fluffy and small instead of oversized and clumsy.

So learning to be Fritz's owner has come with its challenges. It is a reminder that there are new things to learn with every new dog. Just as with each child all the things you thought you knew are challenged, so with each new puppy.

I read the training books and watch the videos from Sophia Yin, a wonderful dog trainier who passed away last year. I remember being surprised to hear her say that she still learns more about dogs with each new one she meets. She even has a video of herself working with a problem dog and trying different interventions until she finds one that this dog responds to.

So it is with Fritz. I'm trying the things that worked well with Harvey and finding that Fritz is a different dog with his own personality. It is a good personality. But it also brings me up short sometimes. I'd made assumptions based on fantasy, that I could just repeat Harvey's training with a few fixes of the things I did wrong and everything would be smooth.

Patience is a virtue. Fritz is working his way into my heart. On days when I am most frustrated there will be a new step of improvement, and new understanding on my part or on his. He is a sweet and smart individual and I am learning to love him as the individual he is...as Fritz, while I still grieve the loss of Harvey.

He had been to church with us and has blessed me with the friendship of the children again.
Fritz sleeping on the lap of my friend
I have a new friend. We don't stop making new friends while we grieve the loss of old friends. Hopefully we do not force our new friends to be clones of our old friends. I hope that someday Fritz will become a great therapy dog. I think it is possible. He will be a different kind of therapy dog than Harvey would have been. And even if bing a therapy dog proves not to work out, Fritz will be my friend...my good friend.
Tuckeered out from play and asleep on his "spot", adorable and loveable.