Anxious Parents 

Vaccinations and Puppy Porn

John Rember

Juno, who joined our family earlier this summer, is now 5 months old. She's 100 percent Australian, half shepherd and half cattle dog. When we announced her genetic background, one of Julie's Facebook friends warned us she might be smarter than both of us put together. Thus far we have no evidence to the contrary.

She's more or less potty trained, goes to her crate when told, barks violent distaste when Julie and I dance to '80s music in the living room, and is learning English. That's way ahead of where Julie and I were when we were her age.

Yesterday, at morning coffee, Juno brought me Squirrel from her toy box in the kitchen. Squirrel is a squeaky toy cleverly crafted to look like roadkill. She wanted me to throw Squirrel into the kitchen, where she would shake it and growl at it before bringing it back to me.

"No, Juno," I said. "I don't want Squirrel. I want your stick. Go bring me your stick."

Juno took Squirrel back into the kitchen and got her stick, a short length of hickory that I sawed off a broken shovel handle. She chews on it instead of the legs of the furniture, at least so far. She pushed it at me. I took it from her and hid it.

"No, Juno," I said. "No playing with the stick until you bring me Squirrel." She went into the kitchen and brought me Squirrel. I picked up Squirrel and threw it into the kitchen.

"I'll trade you your stick for Squirrel," I told her. By this time, Juno really wanted her stick. She went into the kitchen for Squirrel and brought it to me. Finally honoring my end of the bargain, I tossed her stick back into the kitchen and she went after it. Much growling and chewing ensued. She stayed in the kitchen. Lessons in monetary theory were over for the day.

"You're messing with her mind again," said Julie. "One of these days you'll be sleeping on the couch, and she'll rip your throat out."

"She's learning grammar and economics," I said. "Already she knows that capitalism produces terrible inequity, and she's going on strike."

"Until lunch time," said Julie.

Julie thinks Juno's commitment to food transcends her commitment to ideology.

We have of course thought about Juno's further education. We will buy her a set of the Lassie books, for their lessons in altruism and sacrifice rather than their portrayal of bourgeois farm life, and we'll keep her well away from Jack London. White Fang and Call of the Wild are nothing but canine eco-porn, in my opinion, to say nothing of the soulless nihilistic speciesism of "To Build A Fire." We'll hold off on 101 Dalmations for a while, because while we know full well there are people like Cruella DeVille in this world, we want Juno to enjoy an innocent puppyhood. She'll grow up too fast as it is.

We're pretty sure she's going to want a non-digital set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, even if it's a little out of date. You can find them cheap on Craiglist, and there's a lot to chew on in those thousands of pages, and then there's the covers as well.

There are big decisions in Juno's future. We're certain she's going to get a full scholarship for college, so we won't have to mortgage the house, but which college? Choosing a college is not a simple thing these days. You don't know whom she's going to meet there, and you don't know if she'll be advised into a humanities major and end up as the barista with the weird hair at the local supermarket Starbucks. We are hoping that once she gets over her experiments with a puppyish anarchism, she'll settle down, declare a finance major and have a career path like Carly Fiorina's.

We are of course getting her spayed, not only because there are too many puppies on the planet, but because we don't want her coming home pregnant in high school and having to raise grandpuppies about the time we were expecting to have a peaceful retirement with a motorhome and winters in the secure parts of Baja. We considered just having "the talk" with her, and getting her an appointment with a good gynecologist. But these days, what with BST in dairy products and social media's emerging behavioral norms, we don't feel comfortable trusting in her adolescent impulse control—anybody's adolescent impulse control, really.

As of her next vet's appointment, she will have all her vaccinations. No, we're not afraid of autism. The studies have been done, the science is conclusive and vaccinations don't cause it. What we don't want is for her to bring bubonic plague carrying fleas home from a day of digging up Idaho ground squirrels, or to get rabies from the local bats, or to get distemper from promiscuous local foxes. "It's hard to prove a negative," I tell Juno. "That's why people believe anti-vaxxers. But you're smarter than that."

In the end, we simply hope that she will grow up to be a happy dog, with a life full of ski days and hikes, and maybe the occasional vole caught on the ditch bank. But we have bigger fears. We live next to the highway, and it's full of humans driving 70 mph in giant pickup trucks, talking on their cell phones. We make her stay on the far side of the house, we make her stop and wait before crossing the asphalt, and we tell her to stay away from things with wheels. "Listen to what we're saying," we say. "You don't want to break our hearts."

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