Cathy Hamilton: Puppy-love stage fading fast

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This new puppy is liable to kill me.

It's not that our first week together hasn't been great. It has. Lucy, the too-cute-for-words cocker spaniel my daughter adopted from the Lawrence Humane Society, couldn't be better behaved. That is, for a 3-month-old puppy.

Therein lies the rub. She's a P-U-P-P-Y.

I had forgotten - some might say denied - the realities of owning a baby dog. Not only are they incredibly hard work, they could actually kill you, if you're not careful.

I can't tell you how many times I've almost fallen and broken a hip (note to self: buy more calcium supplements) trying not to flatten the little fur ball who is always - always - at my feet.

One night, while cooking dinner, I made an impulsive move for the refrigerator and slid into the Chinese splits in a painful attempt to avoid stepping on Lucy's fluffy paws.

"You're killing me, Lucy!" I whimpered, before promptly putting my groin muscles on ice.

The floors of our house have become a treacherous and constantly changing minefield with tennis balls, teething rings and meat-scented nylon bones strewn about. In a mad dash to the phone one evening, my foot caught the side of a Kong chew toy and I slid across the hardwood floors uncontrollably. It's a wonder I'm not lying in ICU right now, recovering from a concussion. The dog gleefully scampered after me as if in a game of "Follow the Leader."

"Lucy! You're killing me!" I said, when I'd landed on the dining room rug. Stupid dog just stood there, licking my face.

The other morning, while I was getting dressed for work, Lucy assumed the dreaded position indicating she was about to leave me one of her specially scented presents on the bedroom rug.

"No, Lucy, no!" I said, picking her up and rushing her outside to the cordoned off "P & P area." I stood there, intently watching her sniffing the ground for three minutes before I realized I was standing there in my bra, a skirt and tights with no shoes. It was 40 degrees outside and drizzling.

I could have died from pneumonia!

Of course, my safety and welfare are of no concern. The point in dog-raising is to protect the canine from danger. And that means dog-proofing the home by eliminating all potential hazards from the environment.

You'd think removing sharp objects and long cords would cover it, wouldn't you? Oh, no! Everything - everything - has to come up and out of reach: Shoes, socks, slippers, rubber bands, pencils on tables, water glasses, remote controls, beer cans (not that we have a bunch of those strewn about, but once in a while ...), body lotion, sweaty gym clothes (a favorite of Lucy's), bras, cell phones, anything and everything in a wastepaper basket, and especially - and I can't emphasize this enough - laptop computers and their power cords.

Keeping the house in this heretofore-unheard-of state of tidiness requires constant motion - bending, squatting, lunging, lugging. At the end of the day, my back aches and my calves are barking. (Although I will admit, I haven't slept so soundly in ages.)

"You're going to kill me yet, girl," I'll say, as I chase her down to remove my husband's favorite ball cap from her clenched jaws.

The pooch, on the other hand, seems indestructible.

She has flipped off my bed, slammed at full speed into closet doors (she has a hard time applying the brakes on our hardwood floors), and barked herself into a frenzy at her own reflection in the glass fireplace doors.

She runs - lickety-split like a dog possessed - in mad circles around the yard until she collapses, as if paralyzed, and lies there for 15 seconds or so.

"Lucy! Are you OK, girl?" I'll cry, thinking she's given herself a heart attack, and on my watch! My blood pressure!

Then she'll pop up, give her 12-pound body an all-over shake and take off again.

Yes, dogs are great. But before they become dogs, they have to be puppies. And that's the rub.

Speaking of rub, did I mention how Lucy loves to be rubbed on her tummy when we're sitting on the sofa at night? When you hit just the right spot, her left foot starts thumping a mile a minute, like the cutest little Disney dog you've ever seen.

"You're killing me, Lucy," I'll say to her. "You really are."

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