Entry 441: Barking Bad

Before starting this blog, I had one on the humorous side of parenting (see below to get a copy of my book), and today I’d like to talk about a subject that thankfully never came up when we were raising our daughter: what to do when you discover your youngster is on drugs.

The youngster in question right now is our 4-month-old Shetland Sheepdog, Riley.

It all began last Saturday morning. Riley had begun pooping in the house and my wife Barbara scooped him up to take him outside, leaving a turd trail behind them (Riley got a late start on house training due to the severe and overly-long winter in the northeast).  There were 13 people coming for dinner that night and Barbara, with a full day of cooking ahead of her, would have preferred not to have it start in this manner.



Immediately afterward, my sober daughter Casey appeared in my office doorway with the puppy in her arms and suggested that we get Riley and his poop out of the house for awhile by taking him to the park for the first time. “Sure,” I said, although I, too, was sober.

This demonstrates that Casey and I can be decision-impaired without the use of drugs or alcohol.

Off we went to Cove Island Park here in Stamford, a lovely area right on Long Island Sound. It was a sunny and blustery spring day, and Riley seemed happy walking around, smelling new smells, seeing new sights, and, as it turned out, eating new things.

We ambled around the large park just once, and then we thought we should leave because it was really, really windy and we were worried that little Riley, all nine pounds of him, might became a kite, flying around at the end of his leash. On the way home in the car, he seemed appropriately tired after his adventure. Then he had lunch, played for a bit, and went in for a nap. So did I.

I was awakened two hours later by my wife. “There’s something wrong with Riley,” she said. “It’s like he had a stroke.”

Evidently, Barbara had woken him up to go outside and he began rocking from side to side before tipping over. Casey chimed in that, earlier, she had found him sitting in his crate, nodding his head back and forth as if he had headphones on and was bopping along to a pop tune. Or, more likely, reggae.

Our vet was closed, so Casey and I took Riley to the emergency room at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists, a hospital-like 24-hour facility nearby. There the doctor listened to our story, casually took a few looks at Riley, and announced, “Oh, he’s high.”

Casey and I looked at each other. “No, really,” we said in unison. To which the vet replied, “Yup, he’s stoned.”

“Wait–you’re not kidding?”

“The timing from your trip to the park is exactly right,” she said.

I was immediately ready to accuse the two pit bulls we had run into. I know the breed has a bad rap, and these dogs had seemed very sweet, but, jeez. their heads were the size of Butterball turkeys. I could just imagine one of them pulling Riley off to the side while we weren’t looking: “Psst, hey, kid. Try this.”

The doctor told us that weed-eating dogs are a lot more common than you’d think, although usually it’s a result of a dog finding it in some edible form, like brownies. “Who knows what he found at the park,” she said. “He probably picked up a joint. At his weight, it would have only needed to be a roach to have this effect.”

She certainly seemed very knowledgeable on the subject–probably from her time at Cornell. She suggested we leave him overnight for observation and tests to confirm her diagnosis. So Casey and I said goodbye to Riley, to which he replied, “Oh, like, ruff, man,” and went to sleep in the vet’s arms.

They called a few hours later to tell us the preliminary tests seemed to be confirming that our puppy was, indeed, a pothead, and we’d probably be able to pick him up in the morning. I asked if we should send over a pizza for him.

“They actually do get the munchies as they come out of it,” she said.

So, the next morning, we were there again to pick Riley up. We sat in the waiting room opposite a somewhat stern looking woman with a boxer. Finally, an assistant brought Riley out.

“As we thought,” she said, ”he got into something, almost certainly marijuana.”



I happened to glance across the waiting room where the stern woman was glaring at us accusingly. “He should be fine now,“ the tech continued, “although for the rest of today, he may be a little special.”

That’s the word she used: “special.” I’ll have to ask my sister-in-law and son-in-law, both Cornell alumni, if that’s the euphemism that is used there when students start swaying in class.  Meanwhile, I could tell the boxer lady was being all judgmental. “You are bad influences on your puppy,” her look said. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

I figured we’d take Riley home, feed him some pork rinds, and watch Cheech and Chong movies. But when we arrived, he was his usual crazy self, chasing sticks, playing with pull toys, and exchanging barks with the dog next door (maybe asking if he knew a dealer). But then something miraculous happened: for the first time in his young life, Riley pooped outdoors. He did it two more times later that day.

We may have discovered the most remarkable training aid in the history of dogs.

See you soon.

P.S. To the woman in the waiting room, and the 13 people who came for dinner while Riley was in the hospital, you must know this (and I paraphrase Henry Higgins): the pot in pup came plainly from the park.

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3 Responses to Entry 441: Barking Bad

  1. CB says:

    LOL great story!!! However since your little one got a slow start on his training, we have a fantastic tool/system for getting him to alert you to let him out. It is a simple jingle bell hanging from a string, on your back door. We have used this method since forever it seems, and even our newest little one picked up on it quickly! Just get a bell or set of bells from a craft store or Amazon, and hang them so Riley can hit it with his nose. When it comes time to let him out, each time simply take the bell, and let him ‘hit it’ with his nose, and give an “OUT” command or ‘POTTY’ (He may actually like this one better – lol). Because shelties learn quickly in ringing the bell to alert you when they need to go, it really is a fool proof way to teach them! And, because its a noise related alert, it will always be a great way to hear them from any room, when they need to go out. We swear by this system so much that we even have a bell at my parents house for our visits!
    Good luck and to Riley — Party on DUUUDE!!!

  2. markhal says:

    CB–Problem with bells and shelties: they quickly learn to ring them just to get someone to play with them.

  3. Pingback: Entry 444: Guest Post: My Life in the Theater, Act II by Riley | The Upsizers

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