And so begins the reign of Fergus the Red

Our puppy follows closely in the big, scary outdoors. And he thinks he’s hurting his squeaky chew toys and whimpers

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The Farmer and I have entered another phase of life. In our 10th year of marriage, as he settles into his 60s and I finish off my 40s, we are once again parents of a newborn.

We recently picked up an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy. After weeks of deliberation, we decided his name is Fergus.

We said goodbye to our farm dogs last year at the proud old ages of 15 for our border collie Chelsea and 17 for our flat coat retriever Cody. The former was a working sheep dog all her life and the latter was a feckless idiot whom we were unable to train but loved very much.

The Farmer insists the dogs were so healthy for so long because they were outdoor dogs. Indeed, Cody came in to sit a while every day but he preferred to be outside. Chelsea didn’t like people much, so she had a lair next to the shed. In extreme heat or extreme cold, the animals were sheltered inside the barn and the house, but for the most part they were out of doors.

We have a veterinarian friend who says the sure way to an unhealthy pet is to coddle them. Well, I promise not to fuss too much over Fergus. But I grew up with house pets and a golden is an indoor dog.

After just a short time with us, Fergus is already revealing his temperament. In the big, scary outdoors, he follows closely, his paws treading on our heels. He doesn’t have separation anxiety, though: he goes silently wandering off to explore every room so that I have to run around calling his name and searching for him in closets and under beds. He won’t fit under the furniture much longer and has already been stuck once.

He’s not very fond of squeaky chew toys. He thinks he’s hurting them and whimpers in response.

He doesn’t seem to mind being ushered into his kennel for a nap so I can leave the house and get things done. Even at bedtime on the very first night, he only whined a bit. I remembered a trick I used on the few occasions when I had to bring baby lambs into the house. I went into the basement and found the old ticking alarm clock. I dusted it off, changed the battery and wrapped it in an old towel. It is now wedged beside Fergus’s bed, mimicking the heartbeat of his mother.

Fergus avoids the danger of the staircase but stands at the top and sniffs. I suspect he knows the cats are hiding down there.

I’m trying to learn his signals and rush him outside every time he sniffs and squats. I have chosen a spot just beyond the groomed lawn, where the long grass grows, to place his pee post. This is a device I picked up at the Dollar Store, of all places. It’s supposed to emit pheromones that will attract the dog to do his business next to it. Mostly it smells like cat pee – but it appears to be working. I’m hoping this plan will protect our lawn from dog droppings and save me the trouble of spending hours scooping poop in the spring.

I have conflicting advice about bedtime from people in the family who have raised puppies. First, I was advised to put Fergus in a crate beside my bed, so I can get up and put him outside when he needs to relieve himself in the middle of the night. Then I was reminded that allowing him to sleep in our room now will teach him that it’s his bedroom, too. I’m a very light sleeper. Fergus may be a quiet snoozer now but I doubt I’ll be able to sleep through his dreaming and snoring when he’s an adult. So down to the big crate he went.

I have wedged the smaller dog carrier into the larger crate so he’s cozy. He can see out the patio door to the grazing cows by day and a starry sky at night.

I’m hoping the cats will eventually come out of the basement and keep him company (translation: taunt him through the bars of his crate) while I’m away.

So far, so good. He’s eating and sleeping and pooping, as he should.

Excuse me while I take a wee nap. I’m absolutely exhausted.

Diana Leeson Fisher is married to retired university professor Jim Fisher and lives on a small farm near Kemptville, about an hour south of Ottawa.

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