Night Buddies creator Sands Hetherington loves dogs! He loves them almost as much as nighttime programs and red crocodiles. Dogs have always been a part of the author’s life, beginning with Whiskers, a cocker spaniel. When his wonderful boxer Hube died, he despaired of finding a boxer who could match him and instead got a Saint Bernard. He ended up breeding Saints for a number of years and, at one point, had twelve as house pets. Sands and his son John raised St. Bernard litter mates Dudley and Maggie, who were just like members of the family.
“Dogs can do you a power of good,” Sands said. “And if you lose one, go out and get another the next day, and you will be surprised at how fast your grief goes away.”
In 2017, Sands wrote about what he learned about parenting from raising dogs. We share excerpts below:
I know there are a lot of people who claim to be dog lovers . . . but man, I’ve had a bunch of dogs! Thirteen of them since the time I could vote. Eleven Saint Bernards, with two boxers as bookends—not counting the twenty-three Saint Bernard puppies I bred and shipped out!
The time I spent as a breeder was one of the more memorable adventures of my life. My runt, Fwiddie, birthed twenty-five puppies in only two tries. When the puppies were young, it was some job! I had to mark each pup with a ribbon to see that it got its share of milk at feeding time. Three feedings per day and another at 3:00 a.m. meant I felt as sleep-deprived as a new father! Luckily, unlike with a baby, the puppies’ feeding schedule only went on for five or six weeks—but during that time, I could never leave the house for more than a few hours. There was also the matter of shots and dew claws—I would carry twelve Saint Bernards to the vet’s office in a small box.
Now let me give any new dog owners some fine advice: When you are training your young dog, and you tell him to do something, anything—Sit! Come here! Quit that! No!—See the business through! Even if you have a broken foot, get yourself up, hobble over, and make the dog do it. Never let him get off disobeying you. If you do, he will surely try it again and prolong the training. It may be inconvenient for you just then, but see the lesson through, and it will pay off triple in the long run. Go over to him, grab him, and show him how to do what you’ve commanded. Every single time!
Housebreaking can be done in several ways, so I’m told. Whatever method you use, try your best to catch him in the act. This is not easy to do, but just one time will impress the dog much more than marching him back and scolding him at accident scenes he’s probably already forgotten. Potty training kids is clearly different. With kids, it’s all verbal, and there must be a hundred theories about it. I have a beloved anecdote about the time I was potty training my son: I was finishing a Number Two one day, and cleaning matters up when my two-year-old John marched in, stopped and stared, and announced, “That’s good! That’s how you do it! I’m so proud of you!”
For dogs, it takes two years for them to get it all together, move past the primary school stage, and move on through the baccalaureate. After that, their training should be complete, and they can get more human in subtle ways, depending on how much you interact with them. Some (certainly not all) pick up actual wisdom.
Despite all the hard work, sleepless weeks, and the pain of losing a few beloved canine friends along the way, owning and raising my dogs has been, and always will be, a passion of mine. So if anybody wonders whether owning a dog is worth their time and money, all I have to say is that I wouldn’t choose to live life without the love and devotion they’ve shown me!
The picture shows my son John with Henry, one of our St. Bernards.