We’d been thinking about getting a puppy for a while.
Actually, it wasn’t so much a thought per se as a constant nagging refrain uttered in the key of toddler: the kids have been asking for a puppy non-stop for roughly the last 17 weeks (or since they could talk). Anyone who’s ever had a determined kid will know that after a while, we began to think that it might be easier to just give in rather than constantly making up excuses.
But all joking aside, we’d been tossing around the idea of a new dog for a few years. The kids have grown too wild for our sedate older dogs, who wanted nothing to do with the “fur-less puppies” from the time their little starfish hands could grab into chunks of fur.
Now the kids are a bit bigger and I might have just a tiny bit of extra time, I thought that by next year, having a younger dog would give me the running partner I’d always hoped for: you know, the kind that just holds a random stick in his mouth and doesn’t constantly natter on about his best times, her various injuries, and the next “cool” race featuring foam, paint, or bacon glitter.
Then a few weeks ago, we found a breeder with a litter of sweet, soft-mouthed Labrador retrievers. What could be better, we thought? I’ve got two months until I defend my dissertation — no classes or deadlines. The garden is finally ready to be played in, and the snow is still a few months away, long enough to passably toilet train (maybe?). So off we went to pick out a puppy that was neither so bouncy she’d threaten the older dogs, nor so passive he’d be hurt by the kids. Four hours later, we arrive home with a twelve pound bundle of fur and (huge) feet.
He was sweet and silly, gamboling and ungainly, and already the kids’ favourite playmate.
I had forgotten so much about what it’s like to have a puppy. I had not realized that I’d suddenly be thrown back into the trenches of looking after a new thing that completely takes over your life. I’d erased from my memory the ear-splitting whining and the constant, destructive chewing. I’d glossed over the needle-like teeth and the sharp puppy-claws.
But slowly, the puppy has adjusted, just as we have. He’s learned to accept his crate, and we’ve learned not to expect he’ll use it right away. He’s learned to walk on a leash, and we’ve remembered that leash training is a process (and shoulder dislocation a possibility). He’s figured out that good things come to those who go outside to relieve themselves, and we’ve figured out that if you feed a puppy, he will need to poop within three minutes.
1) Puppies like to sleep in the day but whine and cry all night. This will remind you what it’s like to have a newborn. It will also dispel any wistful feelings about having “just one more” baby.
2) Puppies need to pee at the most awkward and inopportune times — like at 4 o’clock in the morning, or just as you arrive at your inlaws. As you’re cleaning up their mess — and possibly apologizing to your mother-in-law whose new and very expensive Persian rug the puppy has just permanently soiled — you’ll also be reminded of those early stages of parenthood. It will also remind you to make that appointment to get your tubes tied.
3) Puppies don’t understand basic commands, listen to reason, or have much — or indeed, any — common sense. This will both remind you of the terrible twos and probably be good preparation for having teenagers. You will find that you are grateful for actually being able to talk to your four year old, even if the only topic of conversation permissible is the relative merits of Marvel characters versus DC.
4) Like most small children, puppies only eat one thing. Whereas feeding your child pasta for three years straight is generally frowned upon, a diet consisting solely of kibble is recommended by most vets. Unfortunately, the puppy will try to supplement the monotony with various found items, including but not limited to sticks, trees, bark from trees, shrubs, ants, bees, rocks, drywall, baseboard, fencing, decking, and rabbit droppings. You will find yourself wishing your children were equally adventurous in their eating habits.
5) Even though when they play together, your children cry and whine almost as much as the puppy does at three in the morning, your heart will melt when your kids tell the puppy they love him/her and you find them curled up in a pile on the floor fast asleep.