The Rockwood Files: The Toddler Dog

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

There’s a toddler in the house – a four-legged, floppy-eared toddler. And he’s making me crazy. How is it possible that I could love the little beast so completely and want to throttle him at the same time?

Charlie, the Beagle baby we adopted, is now 7-months-old which equates roughly to the age of a human 3-year-old. And anyone who’s lived with a 3-year-old knows it’s like having a small tornado in the house – an unpredictable, destructive force that leaves a mess behind.

Thankfully, Charlie has finally caught on to the idea of not using my carpet as his personal potty and for that I’m thankful. But in all other regards, he is ruled by his puppy impulses. He steals dirty socks from the hamper. He kidnaps Kate’s stuffed animals and carries them around as if they’re his kill. He has taken a particular liking to one of Kate’s house shoes that has Minnie Mouse’s head on it. You wouldn’t believe the abuse poor Minnie has had to endure.

We’ve given him chew toys and rawhide bones and countless other things designed to keep a puppy out of trouble. But puppies like Charlie look for trouble. They seek it out. They want it.

Yesterday I found him chewing on a metal screw. A screw! I don’t know where it came from or how he got it or why – when there are chew toys littering the floor – he would choose to chew on a screw. But there he was, about to ingest something that would’ve ended in an expensive trip to the vet’s office. I snatched it away just in time.

And it’s not as if we’re indulgent puppy parents. We’re trying to raise him right. We asked a dog trainer to give us tips on how to civilize Charlie. We practice with him and reward him when he gets something right. But, like most toddlers, Charlie’s memory is short. And he gets distracted by, well, just about everything.

The dog trainer says part of the problem is his Beagle nose. He follows it everywhere, and there’s no reasoning with him when he’s on the scent. I can stand outside clapping and calling his name until I’m hoarse, but if his nose is snuffling along the ground in pursuit of an interesting smell, he cannot or will not hear me.

If I could, I’d let him out into our fenced backyard to sniff to his heart’s content. But Charlie is a skinny puppy and can squeeze between the fence’s wrought iron bars. When he escapes, it’s nearly impossible to get him to come home. He’s like a kid set free in a toy store – sprinting off to find new, fun things to do.

Last week he ran across the street and into our neighbor’s backyard. He spotted them through a picture window, innocently sitting at their breakfast table. Not understanding that his “turf” doesn’t extend past our property line, Charlie barked incessantly at them for having breakfast in their own home. I had to go over there, pick up the little lunatic and haul him back to our house. I wouldn’t be surprised if the neighborhood association tries to evict us.

Despite the sock stealing, chewing, escaping and his sick, twisted fascination with the cat’s litter box, I still adore the little guy. He knows when he has been bad and looks up at me with sad, pleading brown eyes that seem to say “Love me anyway?” And I do. I know his toddler phase won’t last forever. But for now, I think I love him best when he’s asleep.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.