Stella Part II: A Backyard Full of Furry Friends

To the yard: the trials and tribulations of potty training a pup

   Somebody's a bit too big for her crate.

By Samantha Pearsall

My roommates thought I was crazy for throwing my food scraps in our backyard for the hungry critters. We—well, I—had a makeshift compost pile that was basically just moldy decomposing food scattered around the yard, which one of my roommates dubbed “our backyard trash heap.” All year long I took the ridicule from each roommate with every sweet potato skin, grapefruit rind, or leftover anything I threw off the porch to “biodegrade.” I pictured a snacking Mecca for birds and small rodents. Sure enough, in they came.

Gotta go NOW!

stella6Hmmm, what did she get into? Stella looking a tad guilty.

Stella now eight and a half weeks old and all of about 12 pounds soaking wet, stands no chance against really anything larger than a chipmunk—and maybe not even. Now the back and side yards are her dumping grounds—along with the kitchen floor, futon, ottoman, bath mat, and even my perfectly made bed! She has gotten better, sort of, and most of the time will scamper awkwardly over to the slider to let you know she’s got to go. But the problem is, like a potty training toddler, when she’s got to go it’s not in 5 minutes from now—it’s right now.

That’s where we get into trouble.

Stella's not the only furry one out there

One night as I let her outside to take a bathroom break before putting her to bed, her pure black body disappeared into—of course—the largest bush in the yard. I head out with a flashlight to retrieve the retriever. As I reach the bottom of the porch steps, my worst nightmare for midnight on a Wednesday when I’ve got midterms in the morning: a skunk charging blindly toward me and the bush, where I suspect Stella is hiding.

stella7"These make a better pillow than slippers."

I take half an instant to consider my options. If I leave her and cowardly run inside she’s sure to get sprayed—and I’m sure to have an even later night with a tub full of tomato soup. If I run to the bush, I risk startling the skunk and getting sprayed myself. Plus, Stella might not even be in there after all.

Quick thinking?

So, being the brave mom that I’ve become over the last few weeks, I risk it and make a beeline for the bush. Of course, Stella is mid-tinkle just at the perimeter. I grab her under her front legs—like she hates so much—and I book it to the back yard to let her finish up.

It was certainly closer than a close call. I put Stella down, but she just sits there at my feet looking up at me with those tiny dark eyes. So adorable. She didn’t need to finish up though. She already had as I ran with her to the backyard.

stella8Stella makes her way through what hopefully is the last snow of the season.

The front of me was all wet. I was annoyed and exhausted. It was past midnight. My bedtime is 11. And now, out of the corner of my eye, I see a solid white stripe of stink scurrying toward us both from around the other side of the house. Stella whips her head around and sees the skunk too, then begins frolicking toward it. I grab her again, not believing my eyes that this thing was stalking us, and I run inside. At that point, I didn’t care if she had done number two or not. It was bedtime for sure.

What will spring bring  me and Stella?

A few days later, a similar situation occurred. This time it was a raccoon who made a late night visit. It was much larger than the skunk, and much more interested in Stella and I.

Spring began last Friday, these critters don’t need a free smorgasbord anymore. Needless to say, I have since ceased my backyard composting in lieu of puppy potty training.

Read Part I here.

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