Our nonstop pooch gives me loving pause

I look around and try to make sense of this picture. The floor is strewn with particles of bark, shredded paper towel, rubber balls, and other toys. Tabletops hold an accumulation of shoes and other objects placed hastily out of range. Chairs are askew. Our living room, which two weeks ago reflected a serene orderliness, has turned into a puppy playroom.

It was our older daughter who brought him home from the animal shelter - a small sack of soft black draped guilelessly over her shoulder. His dark eyes, gleaming with gentle innocence, gave him instant appeal. Christa suggested we name him Frode (FRO-da), after one of her coaches. This was prophetic, for Frode is the Norse god of mischief.

It starts with sharp barking around 5 a.m. I slide out of bed and stagger into the living room.

Overjoyed to see me and to be let out of his crate, Frode springs around, licking my face and tugging at my bathrobe, dying to play. I pry open his jaws to release my robe, and check the towel in his crate. Ugh! Wet again.

He seems to have grown in the night. His black Lab tail, wound up for a day's worth of fun, is a scant inch from the height of our coffee table. A tinge of alarm at the rate of his growth nips the hem of my consciousness.

Patrolling the room, Frode spies a sneaker and snatches it in his teeth. He thinks it is hilarious fun to flop it around in circles by its laces. Then he trots down the hall and tests the edges of an antique hooked rug.

"No, Frode, no!" I exclaim and stow it in a bedroom along with other rescued rugs.

With undaunted exuberance, the puppy gallops up to me, his perky border collie ears saying, "What's next?" And all the long day - except for his all-too-brief naps - he answers his own question.

Violin rosin! I discover half a block of it pulverized on the carpet and get out the vacuum cleaner. A telephone cord! It takes us three hours to figure out why the phone isn't working.

While I am on all fours plugging the line back in, Frode pulls off one of my socks. Furniture legs! I hear little teeth gnawing on wood and jump up from my work.

I have just settled back into my work when the puppy appears with one of my younger daughter's stuffed animals dangling from his mouth. Bronwyn wouldn't like this, but I pretend not to notice. I've got to get something done!

It's quiet. Frode is busy dismembering a pine cone. I'll sweep it up later.

I get so absorbed in my work I forget about taking Frode for a walk. I look up to see him making a large puddle under the piano. Shrieking, I rush him outside.

I finish cleaning the floor, just in time to pick Bronwyn up from school. Not long after she gets home, she is appalled to discover her stuffed animal with teeth marks on its belly.

"Mom! Why did you let him do that?!" she reprimands me. "Can't you be responsible?!"

I get a grip on my exasperation and go for the proactive approach. "Frode, where's your ball?" I find it under my desk and throw him a grounder.

Frode clatters after and brings it back for another throw. Over and over he romps after the ball, his jaws snapping and his black little body bouncing almost as much as the ball.

Then he gets too near his water dish and clumsily knocks it over. I drop a towel over the spill, too tired to do anything more.

His spirits undampened, Frode tries to play with Bronwyn, but his timing is poor. He catches her off balance and knocks her over. She falls onto the open door of the dishwasher.

Bronwyn yells and the dishwasher groans as it crashes to the floor, ripping out the strip that supported it.

Finally, our little mischief-maker is all tuckered out.

I sit down on the floor in the aftermath of the rumpus, and he settles into my lap. My house is trashed, and I am trashed.

But when his baby face looks up at me and his soft tongue swishes my nose, something marvelous happens. I slip from under the weight of the day and am buoyed into the lap of love. I stroke the fine fur on his head and squeeze him gently, tucking his hind legs into the crook of my arm.

"Good boy, Frode," I tell him soothingly. "Good boy."

Then I turn to my husband. "He's such a good little dog, isn't he?"

My husband, some wisdom frolicking through his mind, just smiles.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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