Joco Diversions

A crash course in puppy love

Sheriff Submitted photo

My firstborn and his girlfriend popped into town unexpectedly.

An urgent cell phone situation would be magnetizing them to our nearby Apple Store. The squeeze-in diagnosis would likely take hours, the busy college seniors explained, because zero appointments were available.

A Sunday visit from these dearies was doubly exciting for me and my husband. They not only brought themselves, but also Sheriff, their exuberant 3-month-old dog. Animals don’t mix with Genius Bar Zen, so we were suddenly thrust into our first dog-sitting gig.

Sounds like no big deal, but my husband and I have led mostly dog-less lives. So you could imagine our thrill and trepidation at the prospect of being in charge of a puppy for several hours. Not just any puppy, but Sheriff.

Bloodline-wise, Sheriff is a dog breed smoothie. I love this about him. The shelter suggested he might be part Catahoula leopard, which I had never heard of, part beagle and other cool stuff. One thing is certain: if you look at his clunky paws, he’s related to the bear from The Revenant.

Sheriff may have lots going on genetically, but he’s purebred ENTHUSIASM.

I don’t think his brand of wacky energy can be entirely pegged on youth. We hear he wears out all other puppies at obedience classes. Ninety percent of his photos are fur blurs. He’s also a reported dog pen escape artist. A video game controller destroyer. (That’s another thing I love about this dog. He chews up time-sucking Wiis. Good boy, good boy!)

On walks, Sheriff grasps his end of the leash in his teeth, probably to alert the universe he’s actually walking the person on the other end.

Upon his arrival that Sunday, he barreled into our house. He slid across our recently refinished floors (lol!) and slammed into us, two apprehensive middle-aged humans he had met only a few times. In the next flash, Sheriff leaped high into the air, bounced off my husband’s leg and landed on his side. He scrambled back up and did it again. This was the beginning of our crash course in Dog World.

The first ten minutes of reintroductions remained high-level nuts. If we could have put a thought translator in Sheriff’s brain, like a neural GoPro for doggies, the interpretation would have read:


However, the moment my son and his girlfriend left for their errand, there was a rare lull mixed with confusion. Sheriff paused at the shut door. He whined in a way that broke my heart, and he actually sat still a few times to stare at the doorknob. Where did his people go?

Hours of distraction and action ensued.

We figured a nice walk would wear him out. (Spoiler: It didn’t.) Outdoors, I felt overwhelmed with responsibility and cluelessness. Here’s a sampling of what I said to my surprisingly calm husband:

“Don’t let go of that leash!”

“Gah! He just ate dirt!”

“Why is he rolling on concrete? Is that normal?”

“Holy #%^* he’s chewing on a rock! What were we supposed to say if he picked up something bad? ‘Out?’ ‘Let go?’ ‘Drop it?’ Oh dear God I can’t remember!”

My son’s dog was not going to choke on a rock. Not on my watch. I grabbed it from his mouth like a seasoned veterinarian. At that moment, I crossed some kind of threshold.

Back indoors, I played with the klutzy tail-wagger. I talked to him. Let him lick my neck. I scooped dry dog food from his travel bowl and fed him with bare hands. What happened to my inner “DOG GERMS!” Lucy? Gone forever. At least with this four-legged knucklehead.

So now I’m the one staring at the doorknob, counting the days until, once again, The Sheriff comes to town.

Denise Snodell writes alternate weeks. Reach her at On Twitter @Denise Snodell