On October 17th of last year, my entire life changed. This may sound dramatic (and probably is), but that’s certainly how it felt when I brought my eight-week-old puppy home. I wouldn’t call it a rash decision, but I also wouldn’t not call it a rash decision. I knew for some time that I wanted a puppy, so I spent a few months trolling pet adoption sites looking for my match—small/medium, longish hair, irresistible face—you know, the usual. Note: This search is WAY more fun than online dating.
And then, in early October a litter of seven pups popped up nearby that looked like the fluffiest, kindest, rescues I’d ever seen. So, I filled out an application and within a few days I was approved. The meeting was set for the following Saturday and I was told that if I fell in love with one of them that I’d be leaving that day with the puppy. It felt fast, but right (I know I still sound like I’m describing a dating relationship) and when I held my pup (future full name: Puffin Dorito Rush), for the first time I literally did not put him down until we got in the car. I held him while I filled out paperwork, while I bought food, bowls, a leash, toys, and seemingly one million other things.
And just like that I had a dog. It has been one of the best things I’ve ever done but it was not always easy. And by that I mean I once slept on the floor next to his crate, sobbing while he whined.
It also taught me a lot about myself. So I figured I’d share some of those things with you, because, ya know, that’s what I do around here.
I am selfish.
It’s not like I didn’t already suspect this about myself, but suddenly having a tiny, helpless thing relying on me for its every need really hit home. Pre-Puffin, I left the house as I pleased. I work for myself and make my own hours, so I wasn’t quite fond or familiar with what adults call a schedule. Yes, a schedule.
We had dogs growing up, but having one of my own made me realize how little we helped our parents (sorry, Mom and Dad!). To be honest, those early weeks of parenting a puppy were so intense they felt like a fever dream. The nights killed me and I felt like a total zombie, walking him every hour or so, pleading with him to pee at 3 a.m. But it ultimately felt really good to give up some of that freedom for something I loved so much. And I got some of it back after he mastered house training (see, still selfish).
Trust your instincts.
I know they usually say this to mothers of children, but I will say that I learned this as well when it came to “parenting” a pet. You get to know a squirmy little 6 pound angel pretty well—you are spending all day every day watching and caring for him, so if something is amiss, you will notice. Also—and this goes against every single thing I read in books or online—I chose not to crate train Puffin. (But this is because I am a weakling and total good cop to the core.)
I simply couldn’t handle the crying and whining at night. I also couldn’t handle what that was maybe doing to my neighbors. But I trusted my instincts and the personality I saw from my puppy (a roamer, very curious, extremely social) and decided he could handle other ways of sleep and potty training. And I was right! So there, to all of people who kept yelling at me about the beauty of crates. (This is not a smear campaign against crate training, just an example of doing what works for your puppy.)
This sh*t is expensive.
It helps a ton to have some money saved for this whole shebang. Not only are you going to vet appointments every month during those first four to six months, but puppies just blow through your bank account with the things they need. I mean, and also the things you want to buy because it’s fun. (Puffin is the proud owner of three hooded sweatshirts, two coats, and four seasonal costumes, for example).
Not to mention the added travel cost of finding family/friends/dog watchers to pet sit when you’re gone. About three months into Puffin life, I booked an eight day Seattle/Portland trip without really considering that, you know, I had a dog at home that needed me. Luckily a friend runs a dog walking/boarding service so he stayed with Puffin, but it adds up. Moral of the story: Be prepared financially and you will feel way less overwhelmed. Bonus: you may end up with a dog who prefers to play with actual trash over store-bought toys so you’ll save money in that department. (Yes, Puffin’s favorite toys include empty water bottles, any and all wrappers, Q tips, socks, and sticks.)
This is why you can’t have nice things.
You know how people are usually either picky about keeping their place clean or straightened up? I am in the latter category, almost to a neurotic extent. For example: any time my sister visits she claims I pick up behind her so much that she can never find her belongings. I’m like a psychotic, tidy little elf. And while I like things extremely tidy, ask me the like the last time I really scrubbed my stove. (Hint: it’s been a while).
Having a pet threw that all in the garbage and lit it on fire. From muddy paws on my white couch, to dog hair (somehow, blessedly, Puffin turned out to be a barely shedding breed but still, he’s an animal), to chewed furniture, and toys strewn about—it is a true lesson in letting go. I have done the best I can to organize his areas (he has a specific toy area and rug where he lays to chew on things and it’s wonderful), but I have also just had to tell myself to calm down and relax. And surprisingly, most of the time it works.
There is NOTHING like the love of a dog.
Of all of the things I mentioned above that rocked my free-spirited-yet-oddly-organized little world, they are all worth it when I look at Puff’s face. It’s also the most incredible thing to see how much he loves me back, and how happy he is to see me every time I come home. I would re-adopt Puffin over and over again if given the chance, and I am unashamedly one of ‘those people’ now when it comes to my dog. I also daydream all of the time about how great it would be if Puffin could text. Please do not have me committed but I still sometimes instinctively reach for my phone to text “be home soon,” TO MY DOG. Alas, this is who I am now and I’m okay with it.
Also worth noting: I initially wanted to name him Dorito, but my entire family practically had an intervention and demanded I reconsider. As funny as I still think it would be to yell “DORITO!” at the dog park, I am very glad to use it as a formal middle name and play with Puffin-esque nicknames instead (Puff Daddy, Sean Combs, Cocoa Puff, etc.). So final lesson: Pick a name that you’re proud to say to the 19 people that stop you on your walk to pet the tiny puppy, and also make sure you’ll love to say multiple times an hour when you’re trying to demand your slipper back.