I Wish My Puppy Had Come With an Instruction Manual

My fiancée bought a Pomeranian on a whim, and we were swept into chaos. First step: potty training.


It’s been more than 20 years since a puppy graced my humble abode. (I would like to say I was 2 at the time, but my mom taught me to never tell a lie.) At the time, I was a junior in college and I’d just moved into my first off-campus apartment. Gone were the days of sharing a house with 40 fraternity brothers. I now had my own pad!

I rented a modest one-bedroom apartment from landlords who lived on the other side of a subdivided home. Another student lived in the apartment above me. The carpet was old and worn and the furniture sparse, and the bathroom was so small that it was a challenge to turn around inside it. In addition, I soon came to learn that I had to keep the television and music at a low volume, because there was only one wall separating me from the landlord. Yes, it was a crappy little apartment, but it was all mine — for an entire day.

I moved in on Friday, thinking I’d have the weekend to kick around and relax before hitting the books. After getting my belongings moved in, my then-fiancée, Kim (now my wife), and I decided to go shopping. We stopped by the local pet store, which, because we both loved animals, was always a favorite place to visit. Seeing all the fish, birds, cats, dogs, and reptiles was a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

While in the pet store, I turned the corner and noticed this beautiful reddish-tan Pomeranian puppy. She reminded me of a little fox. As soon as she saw me, she must have thought, “Oh, there’s a sucker.” Of course, she was right. My soft spot for critters must have been shining brighter than a beacon from a lighthouse.

(Note to readers: This was in the dark ages, when rescue organizations and animal shelters were not as abundant as they are today. In fact, I don’t recall any rescue organizations in Muncie, IN, at the time. Thankfully we have come a long way to change that!)

The puppy started to jump up and down. She ran in circles and pawed at the front of the cage. She was trying to tell me, “Look how special I am! I would not dare cause you any problems if you were to take me home.” She was very cute, and she knew it.

Kim had mentioned that she had always wanted a Pomeranian when she was growing up because her best friend at the time had one. However, her family moved frequently, and having a dog would have been challenging — or that was the excuse her parents made.

I turned to Kim and said, “Isn’t this a Pomeranian?” Kim immediately locked eyes on the pretty little puppy. At that point, I knew I had slid down a few pegs in the pecking order. I also realized that my one-bedroom apartment was about to receive another new resident.

Coincidentally, Kim’s birthday was coming up and she thought her dad should give her the puppy. Why not? He wouldn’t be the one taking care of an untrained puppy. That would be the guy who had a giant lollypop (sucker) in the place of his head — me. Kim asked the pet shop owner if she could call her dad.

The days of kicking back and chilling out were, for the immediate future, gone. Welcome one puppy to my beautiful new apartment. (Notice how quickly it changed from a “crappy” apartment to a “beautiful” apartment, with the addition of a new puppy?)

As we drove home, I asked Kim what she was going to name the new puppy. As we stopped at a stop sign, she looked up at the street sign. We were at the corner of New York Avenue and we lived in Muncie, so it seemed logical to combine the two names into “Neecie.”

The fun was about to commence. I knew nothing about potty training a new puppy. Fortunately, my upstairs neighbor had gone through this with his Poodle and said it would be easy. He said to first get her used to pottying on newspapers indoors. Once she had mastered this, I was to take the newspapers outside and allow her to potty on them there. The last step, he said, was to take her outside and remove the papers, so she got accustomed to pottying in the grass. He said to give her a treat each time she did it correctly, and in few weeks she’d have mastered the art.

It sounded like a better plan than any I could come up with. Let the training begin! Within a couple of days, Neecie had started pottying only on the newspapers I laid on the bathroom floor. A few days later, she was doing it on newspapers in the yard. Within two weeks, the lawn was getting officially watered by our brilliant dog!

Unfortunately, this newfound skill lasted only a week. Our early signs of spring left, and I was quickly reminded that Mother Nature decides when she will thaw out from the Midwestern winter. Once it turned cold, our brilliant puppy decided that pottying in the warm apartment was the way to go.

After struggling, whining, begging, and bribing, Neecie finally caved and granted my request to do her pottying outside from then on. After three additional months, one soiled linoleum area, some mutilated carpet, and the loss of my security deposit once I moved out, my new four-legged roommate was finally settling in and causing no more challenges — for the moment.

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