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  • Maureen Chambley

Housetraining @*#?!!

Updated: Jul 8

This story is from Philly in the 90s, back when it took days to process the film used to capture a puppy moment. The original image is so small and fuzzy, the puppy has been inset with an X to mark the spot he rested his butt all those years ago. The puppy is Shane at 4 months of age. The place is the front steps of (what used to be) the apartment building I called home.

Exterior of Philly brownstone with photo inset of puppy and an x to mark the front step where he sat.

Shane stayed with me for two sultry summer weeks while his owners — close friends of one of my clients — took a long-planned, nonrefundable vacation. I made an exception to my no-boarding policy because, well … just look at him. Adorable, friendly, and easygoing, together we embarked on the most frustrating roommate experience of our lives.

I knew he was too young to be housetrained but I was completely unprepared for a puppy so committed to using my apartment for a toilet. An heirloom splotch of Axminster quickly became Shane’s preferred relief station, though the synthetic hallway runner proved equally suitable if I didn’t carry him all the way to the sidewalk.

Potty breaks were frequent and rigorously scheduled because every time Shane did eliminate outdoors, we took one giant step toward housetraining success. And stain-free carpets. He made real progress on the 2s but, outdoors, Shane was a master of bladder control.

This image of Shane watching me watching him was taken during our second week. We have just spent 40 minutes on the move hoping he will pee. We checked every street tree around the block, investigated every lump on the pavement (all the things that go unnoticed until you walk a puppy), and visited a nearby park. He delighted neighbors along the way. What he did not do was pee and in this moment Shane was telegraphing his desire to go back inside because he really needed relief. I had about 5 minutes to spare before my next dog walk.

Seconds after I snapped the photo, a miraculous trickle appeared between Shane’s front legs. Except for a slight lifting of his rear end, Shane remained still as we both watched his urine race down the steps to puddle on the sidewalk.

Full disclosure, I felt @*#?!! about cleaning up another puppy mess. But the first thing I did was heap praise on Shane for finally, finally, emptying his bladder outdoors. It was a breakthrough moment.

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