Last year at Disney, one of our favorite rides was Everest. On the ride, you wind around a mountain chased by a Yeti. We affectionately called the ride Yeti, and decided it would make a great dog name. We just needed a dog to go with it.


Vivvi and husband Wally had been pining for a dog ever since our golden retriever passed a few years ago. Wally Ben had enjoyed the break—even though he was born into a family with two big dogs, he never warmed to them. And after a long break from having two shedding dogs in the house at the same time as we had newborns and toddlers, my heart was finally ready again.

Over Christmas break, the big day we had been waiting for for weeks arrived—it was time to pick out our puppy. The puppies were finally 6 weeks old, and we had first female pick from a litter of Wirehaired Pointing Griffons—the un-doodliest hypo-allergenic dog we could find. We would be meeting and snuggling 4 bearded babies, and at the end of an hour, we’d claim one as ours.

Wally Ben wanted the runt—the less dog the better. Vivvi wanted the snuggliest one—but honestly, the girl didn’t care. They say love is blind, and she was so hopelessly in love with all of them that for days afterward she kept asking me, “Which one did we pick again?” The girl just wanted a dog. Any dog. On our visit, one nut job dog was ruled out immediately. And a not-too-timid, but not-a-total-nightmare, nice, mediumest, beautifulest pup stole our hearts—the dog the breeder had dubbed her “Makayla.” We wrote her name down, and the decision was made. She’d be coming home with us in just over a week.


IMG_8062On the way home, after another reminder of which dog we had picked, Vivvi gave her a full name: Yeti Makayla Bananaface Ottenhoff. We don’t know where Bananaface came in the picture, but it stuck.

Everyone—books, friends, family—warned me puppies were hard. “I had one!” I’d say, “I know.” I ran into a friend who had been taking care of her puppy for a month. “I thought I knew, too,” she replied, making solemn eye contact, “but they are really, really hard.” It reminded me of being pregnant for the first time, and everyone is so excited, so thrilled, so chattery. Then they say, “How much longer til you are due?” And you give them the count, and they say, “Enjoy it while it lasts.” It happens so often, you start to wonder what godforsaken place in life you are marching toward. Then the newborn arrives, and Saturdays and Sundays and evenings and nighttimes ain’t what they used to be. And then you know.

We brought the fuzzball home, and she slept almost the whole 3-hour-ride. We pulled over for her to relieve herself when we were halfway home, and we cheered her on and gave her treats and praise and were proud parents, and smug, really—rightfully so—at our clever dog who could go potty outside. This was going to be fun.

For her first night’s sleep, we let her sleep on towels with her littermate’s scent by the bed. She got up 2-3 times to go out, and I again was reminded of taking care of a newborn. If you know me, you know I love my sleep. We probably only have 2 children because I love it so much. By the 7th day of that 3AM wake up, I started to wonder what fresh hell we had entered.


After a few days of these night wakeups, I found we were planning our days around her naps, trying not to be too loud or active if she was sleeping. “Sleep begets sleep!” I’d quote, from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which I had memorized during the desperate days when Wally Ben was colicky. At one point, though, I shook myself awake from this crazy. Wally “put her down” in her crate at bedtime and started whispering when he talked to me.

“I refuse to be quiet for this animal,” I said, as loudly as I could.

We followed her around every day for the first few weeks, using the recommended constant vigilance as our potty-training technique. She’d pee, and we’d scoop her up to bring her outside. We have a lot of wood floor in our house and hardly any rugs, so we thought cleanup would be easy. Then the mustached-wonder started to seek out carpet to go on. I never realized how many small rugs we had in this house until she found every last one to keep her pees nice and tidy inside, without having to go out into the bitter Midwest cold. Wasn’t she clever? It is hard to love someone who is peeing on all of your stuff.

The constant vigilance to be sure she was not biting things or cords or children combined with the not-sleeping of baby-ville is enough to make any person wonder why we invited this monster who is peeing on all of our stuff and waking us up all night into the peace of our quiet fold. At one point during the first week I found myself imagining how much better this puppy would be if I removed all of her legs and she was just a fuzzy slug of a body with a cute face. Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 3.33.38 PM

She made little-to-no progress potty training in the first month. I watched her all day, played with her, let her out thousands of times in -20 degrees and snow and slush, and still ended up with more pee inside our house than out. We stayed in the basement because there were no rugs, and we had a big area where she could run. She was so bite-y that first few weeks that the kids would come home, say “hi,” and disappear upstairs. They were terrified of the monster. These walls were my dungeon, and no Vitamin D could penetrate them. February was a long dark night.

In addition, she decided she had separation anxiety. All of our following her around everywhere to see if she was peeing on our stuff for 2 months led to her thinking she needed to be with us nonstop. We noticed this when we left her in her crate a few times, and when we came home, she had pooped, rolled in it, stomped on it, and jumped all over every wire in her crate to ensure it would be 45 minutes of poop-cleaning punishment in the middle of winter when we got home. The first time she did this, in fact, Husband Wally was the only one home to discover her and manage cleanup. He cleaned so much poop that he was sure she was empty for days to come. When every last wire of the cage was wiped and decontaminated, he put her back in the crate to run outside and shovel up the miserable winter that had blanketed our sidewalk, as it would be his only opportunity to do this before it became ice. He left for 15 minutes, came back, and she had done it again. “When I saw and smelled it, I almost cried,” he says, when he tells this story.

Despite what you imagine at this point of the story, the puppy is still alive. And, miracle of all miracles, she is still an Ott. Cuteness is a survival tactic.


It goes the same way as it does with a colicky newborn, or a tantrum-y toddler. You survive it until you love her more than you hate her. And then, you find the only thing left is love, and you wonder why a month ago you stood in the back yard swearing at this 10 pound creature who was hiding under the patio table not peeing in weather so cold your face hurt. She was cute, wasn’t she? What had she done, aside from be what she was—a baby-toddler-monster? And didn’t you always know it wouldn’t last—that Spring would come?

We slowly have been able to open up the rest of our house to her, so we are up and out of the basement. Her puppy teeth are gone or not a bother, because she’s stopped biting as much. We cozied up her crate with a blanket over the top, and made her start napping in it, so now she considers it her home and doesn’t freak out so much when she’s in it. She even voluntarily takes naps there during the day! We spent a few evenings and weekends forcing the kids to learn to stop her from attacking them. Vivvi’s daily schedule now is everything she dreamed of—come home from school and play with Yeti.

She has even won over the most reluctant member of the family. Wally Ben came downstairs in the morning the other day and said, “Where’s Yeti?” I told him his dad was letting her out. “Okay, I’m going to go back upstairs so I can come into the room again when she’s inside,” he said. “I like when she first sees me and runs over to say good morning.” He did, and when he came back in the room, she bounded over to him, tail wagging so hard her whole back end shook with it.

YetiShe’s stopped trying to jump on the couch all the time. She sometimes even chooses her toys over the many other things she’s interested in ripping to shreds—books, blankets, and TP, which she still occasionally grabs the end of runs out of the bathroom and across the room, 30 feet of the roll trailing behind her.

We had a few of my nephews over, who are young and short enough that, when they run, she runs and nips. During that visit, though, I fell in love with her a little more and saw hope for our future. At one point, Yeti was over the excitement of it all. The 4-year-old was still terrified, and when she walked near him, he let out a wild yawlp right in her face. She glanced up at him like, “What’s up with that kid?” and kept walking.

Of course, she was still more puppy than not. The two-year-old’s review of the meet-and-greet was,  “I yell when Yeti eat me.”Yeti

I find it strange when I look back to the desperation I felt over her a few months ago. I wish I could go back to my mid-winter frozen heart and warm it up with just a glimpse of what I feel today, when our interactions are walks and hugs and snuggles and enjoying her warming up my feet as I work. Spring has come—and summer is next. And I have already come to love her—wall-climbing, food begging, book-eating, pee-leaking and all. She is what she is. And she may be a monster—but she’s our monster.


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