Okay, so I didn't fall in love with Tinsel right away. It took about 42 hours.
I blame Tinsel's bark. It's sharp and harsh and cut through me like a rusty handsaw. It started on the ride home from prison. By mile five, I was clenching the steering wheel and fighting the urge to end it all by driving into a utility pole. From time to time, I'd glance in the rearview mirror and catch Tinsel peering at me from over the back seat, an urgent expression on her face as she gathered her breath for another round of barking. There's a reason puppies are so cute.
The first weekend home with a new NEADS puppy is exhilarating but exhausting. It's kind of like watching someone else's toddler for the day. Fun, but if you're not used to focusing all of your attention on one small, often unruly being, it will suck every bit of life out of you.
Puppy raising is also like watching a toddler in that your primary concern is to keep her safe and out of mischief. The best way to do that is to tether yourself to the puppy so you're never out of each other's sight. From Friday through Sunday, except for when she was in her crate, Tinsel's leash was either in my hand or attached to my belt loop. Every movement involved a cost-benefit calculation: if I needed to get up to refill my coffee and Tinsel was contentedly chewing her toy elephant, it was worth disturbing her. If I needed to transfer the wash to the dryer, it wasn't.
Several times during the weekend, Tinsel planted herself in front of me and with no provocation, barked. I would fold my arms across my chest and turn my back. When she was quiet, we would play or work together. I threw the ball; had her do sits, downs, and stays; we practiced proper positioning and recalls. After each session, Tinsel would settle in for a nap. On Sunday morning I was so wiped out, that I joined her.
By Sunday afternoon, Tinsel was no longer barking We had arrived at an understanding: when she needed attention, I would give it to her, but only if she was quiet. Finally, we fell in love. I leaned in to kiss Tinsel and she nuzzled my hair -- right before she pulled a hunk of it into her mouth. I gently extracted it, then turned my back on her. We'll see if she tries that again this weekend.