She still looks like a puppy, her coat short and flat with a few scattered wisps of longer hair to indicate where her future "feathers" will be. She's not even half a year old, but sweet little Bisou is about to plunge into her teenage months. Trust me. I've had daughters; I know.
In dogs, as in people, the surest sign of impending puberty is separation issues. As in "I am separate from you. Very separate. So don't be getting any ideas of sappy together times. Unless I want to be with you, of course, in which case you'd better be there."
It happens very fast. A week ago, I'd say "crate!" and she'd trot happily into her cubby. Now she gives me a look that says "As if! Do you think I don't know when I'm being abused? I wasn't born yesterday, you know."
She used to be unfailingly deferential towards the big dogs, especially old Lexi. Now, while I prepare their food, she drives Lexi nuts, jumping all over her and distracting her from her focus on the food. Bisou has learned to play tug of war with Wolfie, and growls so convincingly that he lets her win.
She came to us at nine weeks old, a demon retriever. She would chase anything you threw for her, and bring it back to you, and be grateful if you threw it again. Now she chases things, all right, but once she gets them she yells "Mine! I got it and it's mine, mine, mine! And never in your fondest dreams will I let you have it! Ha!"
At nine weeks--ah, those halcyon days--and at twelve weeks and even sixteen she had perfect "recalls"--that is, she came at me like the wind when I called, wherever I called, no matter what she was doing. I knew at the time that it wouldn't last, but it was sweet while it did.
Now she comes to me, sometimes. Often, on good days. Always, eventually. And, believe me, it is one of the hardest things I've ever done to follow the trainers' advice and welcome her back with open arms and give her a smile and a treat in hopes she'll remember that next time.
You'd think the deep snow and the cold would drive a little dog like her indoors as soon as she was called. But not at all. She has heard the other call, the call of the wild, and she likes it better than my call. She has figured out that it takes a few minutes for me to pull on my boots and coat to go get her, and she believes that she has earned this reprieve and has a right to it. This afternoon the sun was out, and even after she'd started to follow me to the house she decided to take a few detours along the way. We are entering the dangerous time.
At this point, the trainers tell me, I should be exercising her, playing with her, training her and stimulating her so much that she will decide that nothing in the woods or under the snow or in the compost pile is as much fun or as interesting as I.
To which I say "pshaw!"