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Cate is afraid of the big bad dustpan. However in her defense we do have a freakishly large metal dustpan. For some reason when I bought the industrial sized dust mop from our local big box hardware store I must have thought we needed the biggest dustpan they had and bought that too. We have a mostly tile house, that I like to say we have because of my allergies, but mostly I couldn’t keep up with the muddy paw prints on the carpet.  We also have a world champion of a shedder – hence the dust mop.


The big bad dust pan on 12×12 tiles.

When you break something in a house where there are frequent puppies who think that everything has to be investigated with their tongue it takes sweeping up messes to a whole new level. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t as if I would leave broken bottles scattered about if we didn’t have a parade of puppies. But lets face it, it is infinitely less expensive to pull a little shard of glass out of a bare human foot at 3:00 in the morning than it is to have that same little piece of glass taken out of puppy intestine anytime of day.

We had another Christmas bulb casualty. The darn thing  couldn’t have fell softly on the near-by puppy bed. Instead it hit that same previously mentioned tile floor and shattered into a zillion pieces. I got the broom and the dustpan and went to work. Well sweeping under the tree led to sweeping under the piano, and that led to moving the couch and crawling around to fish out a dust puppy from under the china hutch. Somewhere along the line as I was collecting Sabina’s “Dust-Puppy” litter I set the dust pan on the edge of the couch – which came clattering down to the floor.

Not sure how close Cate was to the dust pan or if she was just completely taken off guard but she was not happy at all and took leave to the security of her kennel. After a little bit of coaxing she came close to the dust pan but I could see she wasn’t going to get any nearer to it than she had to. Here lies the puppy raisers quandary. How fast and how hard do you push something like this? My otherwise bomb proof pup lost her mind over this and I don’t want to make it worse.

While on the surface you might be thinking – uh yeah it was loud as hell I would have taken my 10 month old self off to my kennel too. The deal is that it can startle her, and she can not like it, but retreating is not an option for a service dog. Imagine her 15 pounds heavier and on the other end of a leash held by a person in a wheel chair who is leaving work in her office after a long late day. The grad team passes the janitor in the hall (who probably should have a dust pan of this size) and it clatters to the floor.

This could unfold one of two ways – either Cate takes note and looks to her partner for reassurance or direction or she bolts, running her fool head off and pulling her graduate out of their wheel chair on to the floor. Now do you see why this is a big deal? Thought you might.

So on one hand this is a HUGE deal, and on the other she is 10 months old and hasn’t shown any real fear before so this could be a phase and the only job now is to get her through it. I did what any rational puppy raiser would do – I looked at my husband and said “well I guess Cate will be eating her dinner out of this thing until she realizes it isn’t scary. Oh and we should leave it out and kick it around let it make noise from time to time.” And he looked at me and didn’t say I was crazy – nope he said “Good idea!”

So for the past few days the big bad scary dust pan has been living in the hallway where the dogs play, serving as Cate’s dinner dish, and as our trainer suggested I have been dropping occasional treats in it too. Part of the problem is that this thing is a little bent so it makes noise when you walk by it, step on, or eat out of it (yes I cleaned it before I fed her in it, geeze I am not that bad). She is a lab so the eating out of it wasn’t all that big of a deal – tummy desire trumps any level of fear ALL the time.

The real battle has been the in between time – I walk by and kick it or watching her skirt it as the girls play. I have dropped it a couple more times and each time I was getting less and less reaction – until this morning. This is the part where I remind you readers that my scaredy pants girl is also super-duper smart, she is a Bean baby. All day today, any time I make noise with it or she sees it she runs to it and does a perfect sit. Weird right? I am happy and didn’t think anything else about it until Sabina started to do it too. Light bulb moment for puppy raiser.

Seems we no longer have fear for the dust pan – just reverence. Reverence for the magical kibble dispensing dust pan. Smart girls have I!


Cate and her new friend the magic dust pan.

I am telling you I need a shirt that says

Never underestimate the power of kibble

and I mean it. Puppy poop might be the stickiest substance in the world, but kibble is still the most powerful. At least in the Johnson house and I suspect it is the same for all Labs in the magical world of Labrador.