Sheltie puppy Elvis transforms lockdown life

June 7, 2020

It is truly amazing, during a two-plus-month lockdown with social distancing, how effectively and completely a wife can wear down her husband.

Paula and I are now the proud owners of an 8-week-old Sheltie puppy. She named him Elvis and has for him a gold leash with rhinestones, a gold collar with rhinestones, and his name tag in the shape of a golden guitar. She plans on getting him a black leather jacket for the winter. I hope the other dogs in our community don’t make fun of him.

The deal was that we would rotate taking him out. How’s that going? We’ve had him two and one-half days. He’s been out 43 times. Scorecard: Jim 43 times, Paula zero.

Lessons learned: You sleep when he sleeps. It is not surprising how few sleepless days can make you a walking zombie. He is a light sleeper, so any movement will cause him to awake, and you are up and at it again.

Your normal routines are reduced to swift duties less important than keeping an eye on him. Such luxuries as taking a shower, eating, using the restroom, taking your medicine and sleeping are no longer that important.

At two and one-half pounds, his digestive system is really small, so what goes in one end rapidly makes its way to the other. And his bladder must be the size of an acorn! Still, I've learned to keep track of the time with everything he does.

My life has transformed to that of a detective on a high-level criminal surveillance case. You watch everything he does, lest a corner of some piece of furniture is changed into something it wasn’t. Where he walks, you walk; where he sniffs, you alert; where he chews, you inspect.

With all of the commercially purchased play items we have for him, he is transfixed by our toes. Elvis has a toe fetish, and he’s getting very good at it. You have to imagine what those prickly juvenile canine teeth feel like squeezing into one of the most sensitive places on your body; your stimulus-response mechanism is instantly triggered. The problem becomes what to do with your feet while he is prowling every inch of the landscape in your home.

Social distancing is important with puppies. While it may be nice to have him licking your face, a couple of nose bites or a few ear nibbles will quickly remind you that a six- to eight-inch distance is more practical.

Learning how and when to take him outside is a combination of science, data collection and consequence. Make a mistake and you will wish you didn’t.

Having said all of that, Elvis is the most adorable and cute item (except Paula) in my life now. I’d do anything for him. Hell, I’m picking his warm excrement off the ground four times a day.

Retired educator and Sussex County native James VanSciver lives in Lewes.

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