Adolescence Brings Out The Worst
Although I hate celebrity gossip, I can’t avoid news about the latest Miley Cyprus scandal or Justin Bieber meltdown.
It gets me thinking about the dumb things I did around the same age. Like the time I raced my friend eight miles to a bowling alley. He drove a Pontiac Firebird and I drove a Chevy Chevette. Which means I didn’t catch sight of him again until we got into heavy traffic near the finish line.
Sure his car was faster. But he cared what happened to it. I didn’t care about mine. So when I saw him up ahead, I did a u-turn over a grassy median strip to beat him into the parking lot by seconds, winning the race. While losing my muffler and flattening two tires. And I was sober!
Adolescence brings out the worst in us. Even our dogs.
I didn’t know Shadow, my last dog, as an adolescent. We adopted her when she was 8 or 9 years old and past teenage mischief.
My first dogs, Agatha and Christie, had a memorable adolescence. It included destroying a kitchen floor, eating a shelf of cookbooks, devouring two expensive couches, and drag races down the hall ending with a hard slide into the walls on my antique oriental rug.
If I weren’t such a masochist, consuming the first $60 cookbook would probably have earned them a return trip to the shelter. Luckily for them, and me, I love pain.
Honey was most challenging pre-adolescence. She was a defiant little puppy. I’ll never forget the just-you-try-to-stop-me look in her eyes when she swallowed a pigeon as big as her head at three months old. And the repeat performance when she swallowed the squeaker out of a cheap toy she stole from her puppy play class.
But I think that squeaker saved Honey from having a full Justin Bieber adolescent meltdown.
Surviving Honey’s Adolescence
We spent a week watching Honey carefully, expecting the squeaker to reappear. It never did.
She was happy and healthy. So we assumed it must have passed through her system some time when we weren’t looking.
But three months later, Honey started getting sick. She’d experience vomiting and diarrhea and then she’d recover and be fine. This happened over and over. The vet suggested we get an x-ray. And suddenly, we found the squeaker.
Yep, she had carried it around inside her for three months. And finally it had worked its way into her intestines and gotten stuck. A short surgery later, we had the squeaker back. And Honey was on the road to recovery.
What this means, though, is that Honey spent the start of her adolescence recovering from surgery. And gaining weight. And being fussed over.
A trainer told me to expect Honey’s brain to fall out when she turned about six months. It never happened. And I can’t help but wonder if her experience with being sick short circuited her adolescence and kept her from going nuts.
Adolescent Shelter Dogs
I see lots of young dogs when I look at shelter listings. A study undertaken by a humane society in Indiana found that 54% of dogs surrendered to their shelter were younger than three years old.
The reasons dogs end up in shelters are complex and include underestimating the care a dog needs, economic reasons, and lack of proper socialization and training. But I wonder how many adolescent dogs end up rehomed because they were acting like normal adolescents and their families just couldn’t cope?
I’d be willing to bet that the Bieb’s parents would be considering dropping him off at a shelter about now if it were an option.
Things to Remember About Adolescence
If you’re suffering through puppy (or human) adolescence, don’t forget:
- it’s only temporary
- it’s not you, it’s them
- and it lasts longer than you expect
In humans, the brain doesn’t fully mature until we hit 25 years old. I haven’t yet seen research that tells us exactly when the canine brain matures. But it’s a good bet that it happens later than you think. And that a dog of 1-2 years old is probably still adolescent, even if they look like an adult.
So the next time you read a news story about a teenage celebrity getting in trouble, take pity on them. Like golden retrievers, at some point their brains just fall out.
And if you make it through your dog’s adolescence without him having a Justin Bieber meltdown, count yourself lucky.
Your Turn: Have you faced challenging adolescences with any of your dogs? How did their growing pains compare to your own?