The Promise



You come to me full of promise, a gift from heaven or the universe or wherever it is sacred things derive. You are the dream incarnate, the promise still unsullied of the dog I always wanted. You are the promise of memories lost and found, of my dog at 13, unbuckled on the bench seat, head out the window, tongue out the mouth flapping like a cartoon at 40 miles per hour. You are the living potential of my own hopes, the dog with whom I will run agility, or learn dock diving. You are the promise of a more joyful life, smiles, security, naps on the sofa spooned and snuggly. You, my puppy, are filled with this sacred promise.

Cuddled, so small now, you can fit in the dips and curves of my chest, breathing in a rhythm so close to mine I could weep. This is the most perfect puppy ever, I think. You shift and make a muffled high-pitched grumble, slipping just under my chin. I catch just the faintest hint of your breath, puppy breath, so intoxicating. This sacred promise, this puppy, this living and breathing moment, it seems to be missing nothing. And, then I remember there is one thing, one important missing part, a humble thing maybe I can offer in return. And I close my eyes as if in prayer and offer this sacred promise to you, my puppy.

I will love you even as I do this very moment for as long as we live, even when you become flawed (because life is hard and this world claims its tolls), even as I am flawed, even when it’s inconvenient or hard, even as you navigate your most challenging years, and even (most especially) as you come to the end of your years. This I promise you.

I will learn all about you. I will learn your kind, the way you carry your body and express your face, the way you communicate without words (so elegant). I will learn with you and teach you how life in a human world works. I already told you it is sometimes hard. I’m so grateful you’re here. I’ll do my best to make it as easy for you as I can. I promise. We will make learning fun, together. I promise that as well.

I will speak on your behalf. Your language, perfect and complete, is still a mystery to too many of my kind. I will be your human voice. You can count on that. I will interrupt anyone who means you harm – emotional or physical – either by their malice or their ignorance. I will speak loudly if I must, clearly always, without shame or hesitation ever. You are from a place of sacred things and I will remember that when I speak. This is my promise.

We will spend time together. I don’t know yet if we will win ribbons or prizes or likes on social media. I’m assuming you don’t care. That is part of what makes you so wonderful. We will simply be with each other and that will be enough for me and for you, I hope. We will do things together. I don’t know what yet. You are so young. You can help us decide. But, it’s going to be you and me and maybe some other friends and some doggie friends. This is important. So, I promise.

You get to make choices. I promise. Sometimes things just suck and we have to do what we have to do (Honey, I get it). But, I will let you make choices in your everyday life. It might be scary at first – or maybe not, but after a while it’s fun. I’ll help make it fun. There are so many choices and you get to choose them. Who will you play with or not? What will your favorite activities be, your favorite games? Where will you like to go and where would you rather steer clear? How do you like to be petted? Will you be a cuddler like now? What do you want to learn? I’ll teach you. Even when you have to experience icky things, I’ll show you how to let us know when you are ready. You can choose that too. I’s a promise.

If I could I would promise you forever. Of course, as long as we both live we will spend forever together. This is true. But, little one, none of us gets to have forever here. Our lives are short, yours so very much so. You are a gift whence sacred things come and when it’s time for you to return I will be with you. Even as I breathe in your sweet breath now I will breathe in your last because I will be that close to you, right next to you, so close I could travel with you were that possible. And If I am the one to go first I promise you will live with someone we both love. I’ll see to it. This is as close to forever as I can promise. It is my promise, nonetheless.

But, let’s not think too much on that. All this has just started. You have my promise now and you can hold me to it. I have you now, overflowing with promise, and I will hold you dear. The years ahead are filled with promise too, dreams and memories yet to be made. (But that car thing, little one, isn’t happening. That was the 70s). Now, let’s rest. My breathing and yours are one rolling hill toward sleep. We have today. Tomorrow. So many ahead. What will we do? How wonderful will our lives be together?


Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston, TX. He specializes in aggressive dog behavior and other behavior related to fear and anxiety. 

Puppy Potty Training (it works for adult dogs too)


Potty training is simple, but not alway easy. It takes vigilance and patience in equal measure.

  1. Management

While in training your dog should have two states of existence 1) supervised  2) safely confined.  You are eliminating (pun intended) any chance of a mistake.  

Never set yourself up to ask the question,  “Where’s the dog?”  There’s a good chance they are in the next room peeing. And that’s your error.

  1. Making outside your dog’s first and best choice 

Take your dog on-leash to the chosen outside area in which he or she is to eliminate.  

Optional: Give a verbal cue such as “go potty” or “do your business.”  Choose something you are comfortable saying in public.  

Praise and treat immediately upon completion (follow up with optional play or petting).  You’re teaching your dog to trade urine and feces for a high-value reward and that’s better than simply getting relief in the dining room.

Clean up the mess.  


  1. Catching mistakes

Ignore mistakes you didn’t see happen.  They are ancient history to your dog.

Interrupt mistakes you see.  Joyfully take your dog outside and finish step one.

Never scold or yell at your dog.  This could make them shy about eliminating in front of you and slow the process.

  1. Knowing when to go

Try often.  We are always looking for opportunities to reinforce this good behavior.  

Always take the dog out immediately after: waking up, eating or playing.