I’ve always heard people say “If you’re thinking about having a baby, get a puppy first.”
Folks, I am here to tell you: it’s the other way around. Dog ownership is not for the faint of heart. It’s sometimes not even for those of us with the heart of a lion. Unless you enjoy waking up at 5 a.m. with the stench of liquid dog poop invading your senses.
My kids are excited over the prospect of moving out to the country in the next year or two and getting a puppy and a goat and some chickens. And while the jury’s still out on the goat, and I don’t know much about chickens but I do love eggs, I shudder at the thought of a puppy. Any puppy.
If you buy a puppy as a family pet, you are committed. You’re in it now. That puppy loves and trusts you way more than it should. You can’t keep it outside, chained to a tree or confined in an 8X8 kennel. I don’t care if you let it inside the garage on really cold nights. Strapping a blue tarp up between two fence posts so that your dog has shade in the August sun doesn’t exactly make you the most compassionate person ever. In fact, if you have a strictly-outside dog that you ignore 99% of the time, I kind of don’t like you.
That said, here are some facts I wish I had known going into dog-ownership:
Puppies are hyper. They’ll run around and around your living room at the speed of sound, knocking over–and breaking–everything you hold dear. And did you know puppies can climb walls like ninjas? I’ve never actually seen this happen but there’s no other way to explain how objects that you purposely put away on a high shelf or counter find their way into a puppy’s mouth in the 30 seconds it takes you to use the bathroom. Puppies chew every single thing that you don’t want them to chew on, plus a few bonuses that you never expected them to chew on. Like the carpet. Or the wall.
Of course, some stuff they just eat entirely, like baskets and crayons.
And then? They have massive indoor blow-outs, probably on carpet. Your house will smell like nothing you can ever imagine. Febreeze will not help. And when you get used to the smell and it doesn’t seem like it’s that bad anymore? Just remember that anyone who comes over to your house CAN SMELL IT AND TO THEM, IT’S OVERWHELMINGLY HORRIBLE. They’ll tell you it’s not, but they’re lying through their teeth. I promise.
Puppies are expensive. I will not tell you how much we spent–spend–in dog food per month. Dogs get sick. Dogs need shots. Vet bills get straight ridiculous. One day your dog might eat something stupid and get his stomach all twisted. At midnight. And you might have to rush him to the emergency clinic for emergency surgery. And you might have to sell a kidney to pay for it.
Also: puppies grow up. The cute little 8 week old lab that you cuddle in your lap will be 100 pounds in 4 months. His hair won’t be fluffy and soft anymore. It will be coarse and wiry and IT WILL BE EVERYWHERE. You’ll start to wonder what you did everyday before you had to sweep the floor 9 million times an hour. Bathing your dog is an all day affair and you will have to set fire to the bathroom when it’s all over. (Sidenote: don’t forget to put away the dog shampoo unless you want your hair to have a fresh tick-repellant scent to it for the next few weeks.)
He slobbers. He drools. His tail knocks over everything. His nails need clipping. You may need a wheelbarrow when you poop-scoop the yard. He doesn’t do cute things anymore. He just does annoying things, like bark at a moth outside at 3 a.m. In fact, you may start to resent him, and also rue the day you first saw that classified ad that said “ADORABLE BLACK LAB PUPS JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS”.
Puppies not only grow up, they get old. She might move slower. Her nails will clackety-clack all over the tile floors. Her fur is coming out by the handfuls, and her breath be kickin’.
But she’ll still watch over your house and your family. She’ll scare off weirdos with a protective growl. She’ll leap with excitement when you come home after a long day. She’ll melt with joy and contentment when you sit down beside her to rub her belly. She’ll be eternally grateful when you give her a bone, even though the only thing she’ll ever want is to just be close to you. She’ll alternate between sleeping at the foot of your bed and keeping watch in the hallway where the kids’ rooms are. And when you lose a baby she won’t leave your side.
And then your poor dog reverts back to the puppy stage, needing to go out 80 times a night. Sometimes she can’t make it to the back door quick enough. Sometimes she can’t even stand up. And when you’re 8 months pregnant, you might have to carry all 100 pounds of her outside and hold up her back legs while she goes. Afterward, she looks at you with the most sorrowful expression a living thing can make.
And you’ll have to be attentive to your dog’s needs and feelings when the day comes and she can’t eat and can’t walk and can’t see. You’ll have to be unselfish and honest and sensitive. And you’ll have to be with her when she goes.
Soooo… if you’re down for all of that–and I do mean ALL of it–by all means puppy-up.
But if not, well, then I’m glad I warned you. Here’s another word of caution: don’t bother looking into guinea pigs. You may want to check out a fine pet rock though.