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"Looks like they've got puppies in the paper today," my husband casually commented — within earshot of our children — as he turned to the classified section of the Sunday paper.
It was dirty pool, to be sure, but after four years of this trick, I was impervious: No puppy and that was final. I had good reasons.
My husband's career in the Navy meant frequent moves (15 times in 17 years). Finding a place to live that allowed our cat and our black Lab Sally was hard enough already.
"Am I the only one who remembers how difficult Sally was to housetrain?" I would say. When Sally was a puppy, she wasn't content with simply having an "accident" — she also had to walk through it or sit in it, as well. It was misery.
And the misery was mostly mine. The kids were only 3 and 1 when Sally came home with us, and my husband was working rotating shifts for the Navy. He was exhausted, which meant the puppy watch was all mine.
I had no interest in going through that again. Until, that is, my husband retired from the Navy and we finally settled down in our own home. Now that Sally was 9 and fully-housetrained, the doggie drama had disappeared.
So, one Sunday, I turned the tables. I pulled out the classifieds and casually commented, "Looks like they have puppies in the paper today."
Within six hours, Tinkerbell, a Golden Retriever puppy, had joined our family. The first couple of days, we all watched Tinkerbell vigilantly. At the slightest crouch, one of us would grab her and take her outdoors. All four of us took turns standing watch, including Sabrina, now 13, and Jake,10.
Even with help, housetraining our puppy was exhausting. In only a few days, the phrase "You're on puppy watch," was eliciting irritable groans from all of us.
Maybe the idea came because it was early December and holiday bells were ringing in the air, or maybe it was our new puppy's name — Tinkerbell.
Whatever the reason, the solution to our puppy problem hit me — we'd hang jingle bells on the doorknob and teach Tink to ring them when she had to go out.
I took some heavyweight corduroy and sewed a simple rectangle with a handle on top. With carpet thread, I attached four bells low enough for Tink to reach and then looped the handle over the doorknob.
Within just a few days, Tink knew what to do and was ringing her doggie doorbell almost every time she had to go out. Since we've been relieved of standing watch over her all the time, Tinkerbell has gone from puppy problem to pure pleasure.