My mom never got us puppies growing up, only adult dogs.

Karma, born in February (she’s an Aquarius!) and brought home in July, has somehow been with me for three months already. Like dog years are longer than human years, puppy months are longer than human months. Being 8 months old, Karma has definitely entered her toddler era.

She only knows a couple of words and her attention span is basically zero, but she’s clingy and testing boundaries. She’s also not nearly as afraid of cars as she should be. And she’s growing so fast! When I first brought her home, she was a little smaller than Janey, who has historically been around 30 pounds (she’s gained some weight recently because of theft of Karma’s high-calorie puppy food).

But Karma has shot up to 45 pounds. Most of it is sheer muscle; if dogs could be bodybuilders, Karma would have a good shot at the Ms. Olympia title. I was already in pretty good shape from walking Janey, but now I can add some serious strength-training to my routine by playing tug-of-war with Karma.  

I’ve quickly realized how spoiled I’ve been, in many ways, with Janey. See, Janey spent the first three years of her life as a street dog in Tijuana. That’s the sort of environment where natural selection speeds up, and only the smart dogs survive. Janey’s very intelligent for a canine and reasonably intelligent for a human. She learns things very quickly and has a talent for figuring them out on their own.

Karma, meanwhile … would not be graduating at the top of her class. She is an avatar of the viral internet expression “no thoughts, just vibes.” There is absolutely nothing going on behind her adorable puppy eyes. Janey figured out how to walk on a leash on her own within about a mile. Karma hasn’t put two and two together to realize that her pulling forward is the thing causing her collar to cut into her neck. (A proper anti-pulling harness is on the way.) 


I’m happy to report that Karma is now 85%-90% house-trained, thanks to a dog-specific adaptation of my mother’s wildly successful “M&M method.” Her accidents happen when she’s distracted and overstimulated – for example, after an intense wrasslin’ match with Janey – which seems to track with her being a toddler.

As for household interspecies relations, diplomatic negotiations proceed slowly. We’ve had a few nose-to-nose sniffs between Karma and Juno, my elderly cat, where Karma was clearly trembling with the self-control required to not jump all over Juno with sheer joy and excitement. Mostly, Juno has been hanging out behind the couch, on the tallest table in the house or in the KFZ, the Karma-Free Zone, colloquially known as my roommate’s bedroom.  

A partial, but by no means complete, list of things Karma has destroyed so far: A “Raising Readers” children’s picture book. A pair of flip-flops. An insurance claim. Three pieces of bedding. All of her toys, slowly but surely. A kitchen chair cushion (this one happened during the writing of this very column, when I made the mistake of going to the bathroom). Several of my roommate’s Magic: The Gathering trading cards, including one worth $50 in resale value. My roommate’s winter coat. My roommate’s costume plastic elf ears. A lot of my roommate’s things, actually. Karma has only three functional brain cells, but all of them are focused on gleeful destruction. 

She responds to the command “come” about 60% of the time. If I really want to ensure that she comes to me, all I have to do is make sure she sees me lavishing love and attention on Janey. Karma’s jealousy kicks in, and she comes barreling over to us. You can practically see her yelling “KARMA, TOO! KARMA, TOO!” She knows “sit,” and we’re working on “paw.” She’s also learned the phrase “baby jail,” which is what we call her crate. Now if she’s misbehaving I can just say “baby jail” and she’ll go hide under the bed, thinking she’s cleverly escaping imprisonment when in reality she has done exactly what I want her to do (give me a few moments of peace and quiet).  

Despite the nonstop chaos in my household, it’s all worth it.

At the end of the day, when Karma is finally sleepy, she curls up next to me in bed and lays her big, blocky head on my lap. (I’ll be saving quite a bit on heating oil this winter with two dogs in bed with me.) And Janey has been so much less anxious with a dog friend around; she only barks at houseguests for a moment when they walk into the door now, instead of hounding them mercilessly while quivering under the coffee table. Karma is so naturally friendly, open and cheerful in a way that both Janey and I are … not. That said, I’ll certainly be glad when she’s out of the teething phase.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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