Theo’s first birthday was one that we highly anticipated. Maybe not so much the event itself, but the milestone it represented. Many dog owners we have talked to shared that puppies start to settle down about the time that they turn one year old. This was a milestone I was looking forward to as I have longed for a return to my “normal” life when I had more freedom!
Well, as we are finding out, working all this out is still a work in progress. Not unexpectedly, hitting the one-year-old milestone hasn’t meant that everything changes overnight. Here are some recent observations.
Theo isn’t quite as high-energy as he used to be; despite his continued enthusiasm to get out in the community and go for long walks, we sometimes end up having to carry him partway home either because he gets tired, wants to dawdle, or I have appointments I simply must get to. He has settled into eating twice a day instead of having three meals (although often with a noon-hour snack). He continues to be a good night-time sleeper and lately—because we have been keeping him challenged with group classes, long walks, and lots of visiting—he has been taking longer naps during the day (which means I get more work done). He has greater self control—is less demanding—and is getting better at chilling out if he has to wait a few minutes for something (like going out). He is less excitable when meeting other dogs and people (although he still is super social), and at the same time he is less enamoured with staying for long periods of time in places like Pet Smart. He loves to explore new areas, and if he had his way, he would spend all of his time outside sitting and watching the world around him.
In essence, we are seeing him mature right in front of our eyes. With that maturity, we are seeing him mellow out and snuggle up to us more, and be content (some of the time) with just hanging out together. He absolutely loves playing, resting, and/or napping on my bed (although I am still drawing the line about having him sleep overnight with me because, hey, I need my space and he is perfectly content to be crated). More and more I understand why people love their pets so much.
He is also getting better trained. We are taking a group class, as mentioned above, that focuses on giving pets different experiences, challenging them to try new things, and working on obedience training. Since we started the classes, Theo has solidified his sit/lie down/stay training; learned to jump up on and walk across/on a wide variety of obstacles such as park benches, playground equipment, and rocks; and even walked across a LONG wooden train bridge high above the ground. He has hiked on trails, visited multiple schoolyards across the city, and learned about car safety. We are currently working on dropped leash challenges where he stays close despite the fact that we aren’t holding his leash. I am still a little nervous that he will get distracted by dogs/people and run far away from me.
Being one year old, Theo now fulfills a minimum requirement on his way to becoming a therapy dog. When I read about a program that pairs dogs with university students, particularly those suffering stress or anxiety during exam periods, I felt a leaping in my spirit that this is what he is—what we are, as a team—destined to do. He is popular with young and old alike, and he is also good with dogs that aren’t used to being around other dogs. I truly believe that Theo and I together have a higher purpose in ministering to others. He still needs more obedience training, and we still have to figure out what to do about his diet (he is on a raw diet, which is prohibited—for now—for therapy dogs), but he has shown time and time again that he has the perfect personality to help others.
I may yet change my mind, but for now, this is likely the final installment of my blog series “Sally’s Adventures in Puppyland.” Behind the scenes, I will continue to document my journey with Theo with the hopes and plans that one day, I will publish our story (or at least, part of it—likely a children’s story but could be a piece for adults too). So for now, despite the hardships and challenges we have had, I am grateful and blessed that he is and continues to be in my life.
To read about how our journey started, please click here.