The Pushkin Papers: One
I walk into the apartment with Pushkin in a small purple crate tucked under my arm. At eight weeks, she's got that rank puppy smell. Notley and McCracken take a deep whiff: very exciting, hysteria-inducing, even. The two hour, take-the-edge off walk they got earlier in the day may not have been enough. Notley paces, McCracken's eyes roll back in his head, and both bark loudly.
"Sit," I say. My tone is almost calm. "You will get more treats in the next two weeks than you have ever had in your little lives." It's going to take a ton of treats to get Mack Crack and Nots to accept their small new sibling, and it will probably take longer than two weeks. But we are all pretty excited, including Pushkin. She is snuffling in her crate. She threw up in it twice on the trip to her new home.
The first night
At 2:40 a.m., I am awake. Everyone else is asleep. I thought we'd all be awake, wigged out by first-night puppy whines. Pushkin has left her siblings, landed in new digs, and figured out she is the tiniest mammal in the household. Sensibly, she's decided to sleep through the strangeness. The other dogs are following her lead.
I am awake, though, swamped by adrenaline, pondering if Pushkin weighs more than three pounds.
Pushkin is not a purse dog. Photo by Jean.
My first small dog
Though I've walked many small dogs, I've never lived with one. Pushkin represents uncharted canine territory -- territory that I've already stepped on twice by accident. Lesson one: little dogs are hard to track, and mighty in their protest when you misstep.
Whenever a new puppy joins my pack, I feel both joy and fear; it's the same excitement and anxiety combo I see so often in dogs.
With Push my fears are focussed on her small size, and are largely irrational. I wonder if she could hit her head and drown in her water bowl. (I replace the soup bowl she's been drinking from with a finger bowl). I wonder if the coffee bean she ate might kill her. I have nightmares: in one, she falls through the opening of a sewer grate, and in another, she has crawled into the microwave.
Neighbours are not surprised I have a third dog, but they are surprised by her size. "I didn't know you liked little dogs!" is a constant refrain. "We'll find out if I do," I reply. I did not tell people about her arrival for about a week. I was worried the big dogs/little dog combo might be too stressful for either Pushkin, or Mack Crack and Nots, or me. (More on household integration in the next instalment).
If there is a "little dog type," apparently I am not it. "I never thought you'd be the kind of person to have a dog in your purse," says a friend. Her tone is affectionate but baffled.
"Push is in a bag, not a purse," I insist. "She's a bag dog." We come to a compromise with "satchel." I suggest I get a first-time-ever manicure, to live up to a vague stereotype we both associate with small dogs in satchels.
Pushkin is a mix; I tell people she is a puppy-kitten-hamster. In reality, dad looked mostly shih tzu, and mom mostly chihuahua, but larger than breed standard. They weighed between twelve and sixteen pounds. I hope she'll be bigger, as is sometime the way with mutts, but regardless she'll be less than half the size of Mack Crack and Notley. Right now she's way, way smaller than my cats, Zelda and Hadley. I hadn't realized what tanks they are.
Three is the ideal number
I have three brothers, so three feels like family to me. And while two dogs are interesting, three are a soap opera. There's more strategic alliances, unrequited feelings, and back-biting opportunism. And who doesn't love a good triangle?
I should also mention that three is the legal limit of dogs per household in Toronto. So I can't have more.
Push's personality (so far)
Pushkin with her turkey; you can see her slightly bald head.
Fortunately Pushkin is perky, curious, and seemingly nightmare-free. She is more agile than the larger dogs were at her age. She has tripped over her own head only once, and figured out my building's stairs without any instruction. Instead of wobbly, ungainly, fumbling puppy play, I'm watching a a zippy, professional wrestler at the top of her game.
Pushkin likes to climb all over me, and I love it when she wraps herself around the back of my neck (my cat Hadley does this too, but she can't resist needling me with her claws, which makes it less relaxing). Push doesn't really walk; she runs everywhere, then plonks down, flattening herself to the earth, a master of civil disobedient dead-weight. All 4 pounds of her.
She has grasped the point of pee pads, mostly. I find it difficult to be as vigilant with her as I was with my bigger dogs, since she only produces a tablespoon or two of pee. I keep lecturing myself about how important it is, but my toilet training zeal is a shadow of its former self.
Pushkin stalks her food, growling at it, backing up, then pouncing. "You know it's already dead, right?" I ask her. All my previous pups were so frantic to inhale their food they never bothered to play with it. Push lives in a multi dog household, so I'm pretty sure this habit isn't going to last. Back up from the bowl and someone else will swoop in.
Pushkin is slightly bald behind her ears and on the fur on her forehead grows in odd vertical furrows, with ridges of white skin noticeable between them. Up close, she looks like she's had a bad hair transplant. If I ever develop female-pattern baldness, I won't be alone.
To compensate, she has lots of facial fur, including a small, feathery beard. Her mother had a small tuft on the top of her head, and I am watching for a similar tuft on Push. So far, just the semi-baldness.
She has round eyes and she rarely blinks. She'd look serious, except that she looks ridiculous.
Ridiculous is a good look for a pup.
Pushkin flops out -- and looks ridiculous.
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