Socializing The Puppy Grady is no easy task and that’s because he suffers from what I call “excitement induced psychosis.” Instantly overwhelmed with feelings of exhilaration, my calm pup is transformed into a creature I no longer recognize. Once the excitement hits, The Puppy Grady lunges on his leash, rears up on his back legs, pants loudly and begins choking on his collar. His ability to listen disappears and no amount of treats will entice him back to reality. During these episodes The Puppy Grady is explosive and loud. Bystanders give us a wide berth and their expression makes me think they believe they are witnessing a dog possessed. Few will look me in the eye.
I think it can be a wonderful thing to feel so excited that you are not quite your normal self. Inhibitions are lowered and for a brief moment one is expressing himself in a way that others don’t often see. You know, like the normally quiet guy who turns into a happy drunk at the office Christmas party, slurring the words, “I love you!” and giving bear hugs that are neither expected nor desired. Most of us are amused by his behavior and forgiving if intruded upon. After all, we’ve all had moments when we were not our best self and people still liked us.
At puppy kindergarden, The Puppy Grady is the happy drunk.
That would be fine except he’s the only “drunk” puppy in class and everyone knows it. The other pooches are calm compared to The Puppy Grady and settle down faster than he does. The Puppy Grady is pretty good ignoring other puppies if he must (and the treat is good enough) but his weakness is meeting people. He just cannot contain his happiness. Although I try to shield folks from The Puppy Grady’s rough love, it isn’t always possible. Tonight at puppy class is one example.
After running through our basic obedience exercises with our puppies, the teacher announced that everyone was going to exchange pups and examine other people’s dogs. I immediately had a flashback of being chosen last in gym class (will that ever go away?) and worried that no one would want to trade for The Puppy Grady. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the gal next to me scoot her dog further away from me and The Puppy Grady so I knew that was a no-go. I was starting to panic when the couple seated across from me walked over with their very small, calm dog and asked me if I wanted to trade. I’m not proud of my reply (“Are you serious?”) but they took The Puppy Grady anyway.
The Puppy Grady went willingly and the commotion immediately began. I kept my attention focused on their dog and refused to look in their direction. I heard the teacher come over to give them a hand but it was hard to hear her suggestions over The Puppy Grady’s loud panting and lunging.
Long minutes later the exercise was over and the young man brought my possessed pooch back to me. With a smile he said, “That’s not the kind of dog we’re use to” and waved off my apologies for my puppy’s exuberance. I was grateful for his good natured reaction to my dog.
Socializing puppies is a big job and it can’t be done alone. Some puppies are easier to work with but all of them are excited about the newness of all they are experiencing. And when people volunteer to help socialize a crazed puppy, they are doing a good deed that is much appreciated and never forgotten.
The Puppy Grady and I thank you, kind classmates.