Like all puppies, he couldn\’t help being adorable. He was adorable when he tried to go up the steps and couldn\’t, when he tried to chase the cat and failed, when he fell asleep on our laps. He was tubby and clumsy, and had a wonderfully expressive face, topped by two huge upright ears.
The crate method of house training was becoming known at that time. Jesse slept in his at night, and during the day while I was at the college, though I used to race home between classes at noon and let him out.
We thought he was wonderful, if slightly hyper. I didn\’t know anything about the need to “drain energy” in those days, and found him a bit much to deal with when the girls and I would straggle home in the afternoon with homework and supper to get done. He was especially annoying to my eight-year-old, endlessly chasing and herding her around. But a book I had read recommended waiting until the dog was over six months old to begin training, so I tried to be patient.
The day after Christmas I found his first hot spot. I had no idea what it was, but it looked alarming, red and raw, and was driving him crazy. The vet said that sometimes dogs just got these, that he hoped it wasn\’t a sign of allergies. At the end of the visit he gave Jesse a shot—either a puppy shot he was due for, or it might have been a steroid for the hot spot—and Jesse growled at him.
The vet shouted “No!” in a very angry voice and shook his finger at him, then turned to me and said “Don\’t EVER allow him to do this!”
I abashed and surprised. Surely the vet realized that Jesse was just a puppy? Surely it was only natural, having been given a shot, for him to growl? I felt as embarrassed and guilty as if one of my daughters had been sent to the principal for misbehavior.
I took Jesse home and watched him carefully for further incidents of growling, but there weren\’t any. He was perfectly house-trained, smart, and affectionate towards all of us, if a little mouthy. Clearly, I had nothing to worry about.
Unbeknownst to me, clouds were gathering on the horizon for Jesse.