Baby steps and paw prints
Is it true? You’ve probably heard it said that first, you fall in love, then you move in together, you get engaged… married… and BAM! It’s time to get a puppy… because puppies are the closest thing to kids aside from actually giving birth, and maybe it’s a bit too scary to breach the actual baby arena just yet. So, a puppy might just be the elegant segway needed.
Puppies are the perfect test of potential parental fortitude folks. I say that with conviction…and here’s why.
Even if you’ve never considered yourself much of a dog person, it’s not hard to fall in love with a puppy. In fact, it’s ridiculously easy. There’s something about that happy innocent gaze and wet little nose that can thaw out even the chilliest of dispositions. Puppies are potentially every person's weakness. Spend five minutes with one and I guarantee you’ll soon be fighting an internal battle over why you shouldn’t tap your savings account and bring a pup home.
Some people make it all the way into their twenties having never owned a dog. Those are the ones that scoff at the woman pushing a puppy in a stroller, it’s that friend of yours that cringes at the thought of having dirty paw prints on their carpet or who gasps at the prospect of having to use a poop scooper. Those are the folks that have effectively built a puppy shield in their mind.
But something changes once you’ve hit your thirties. If you’re in this age group and don’t have children yet…look out! There’s a puppy out there… and it’s got your name on it.
By this age you’ve gotten an education, traveled a bit, had your first job, gone camping, skydived, drank, drank too much, dated, fell in love, fell out of love, fell in love again… you’ve been around the block a few times. Life… is beginning to get some consistency to it. You’ve got the hang of things to a large extent. But something seems missing. There’s a tinny hollowness that you can’t quite put your finger on. A restlessness and sort of feeling like you should be doing something important but you don’t know what.
That’s the queue!
You’re ready to give back. Your nurturing instincts are officially kicking in and it’s time for you to enter into the next phase of life. It’s a scary feeling and not everyone is in a position to jump right into parenthood. So, thank God for puppies!
If you ask my grandmother she’ll tell you that a dog is an animal and animals belong outside. While it’s true that animals certainly never take the place of a person… dogs are loyal companions. They were literally bred to be completely and utterly devoted to people. They need us both physically and emotionally to survive. When you make the decision to take on a puppy you are taking on a four-legged baby… a small fuzzy creature that will look to you for its reason to live. The sun will rise and set in their world starting and ending with you.
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” - Josh Billings
Here’s what you're in for…
The typical puppy is around two to three months old when it’s adopted. They have sensitive little tummies and need to eat three tiny portions each day around the same time. Consistency is important for their baby digestive systems. If your little one gobbles down their dinner too quickly… guess who is going to have a tummy ache and the toots all night! You’ll know it because you’ll hear the sad little whimpers as they restlessly roll around in their puppy bed. Tummy aches are new to them and they get scared… just like any other baby. You won’t be able to resist cuddling them through the rough patch.
Bright and early it’s potty duty. Puppy needs to learn how to hold it until it’s time to go outside. Their bladders are tender and they can’t always hold it too long. So be ready to take potty breaks outside every three to four hours to avoid accidents in the house. But watch carefully as your little one rummages around the yard. Puppies put literally everything in their mouths. They are teething and anything is fair game in their eyes.
Any of this sounding a bit familiar? Waking up every couple hours, teething, potty training… sounds like baby boot camp to me!
Don't forget vet check-ups. Puppy needs regular care and visits to make sure he or she grows up healthy and strong. With a brand-new immune system, puppies need to be very careful. You can’t even walk down the block until they have had their second round of vaccines. Stepping in or licking anywhere another animal may have marked or pooped makes them susceptible to diseases and a host of other complications.
Once puppy rounds the corner of about eight to nine weeks old it’s go time. They'll have you chasing after them left and right.
Time to puppy-proof the house
Pull any cords out of reach, put childproof latches on any lower cabinet doors that open easily, store cleaning supplies up and out of reach, definitely put your shoes someplace safe and out of the chew zone, Be sure to have lots of plush toys about the house that you can use to redirect chewing towards, lay down puppy pads to hopefully catch any accidents in the house and bring plants up off the floor because many house plants can be toxic to dogs if eaten. Much the same as you would do for any toddler.
All of this is adding up to an awful lot of work… but the good news is that you're the proud parent of a fur baby. And as the days pass you will become hopelessly in love with your little monster.
Your heart will skip a beat the first time they try to jump up to cuddle with you on the couch and they actually make it up on their own. You’ll find yourself booking puppy play dates with friends who have dogs too and you’ll take an absurdly obnoxious amount of pictures. In fact, your phone will be full of puppy pics. Halloween will come and you’ll roll your eyes at the thought of spending money on a puppy costume… but you’ll cave in and buy one last minute because it was just too adorable to pass up.
Soon you'll be best buds and proud of the awesome dog your puppy has grown into.
“My little dog… a heartbeat at my feet”. — Edith Wharton
You’ll look back on all the poop stained carpet you’ve had to clean… the long sleepless nights and the sweet quiet moments relaxing with Netflix and the little puppy asleep on your lap… snoring. You’ll think to yourself… maybe a real baby wouldn't be so hard after all. Besides…now that you have a super cool dog… they'll need someone to play with!
The transition from self-focused living can take time
Getting accustomed to incorporating the needs of another living being into our own schedule and heart takes adjusting to. Living with a partner is a great way to dip your toes in the water. But for the most part, adult human beings are relatively low maintenance. Living with a partner prepares you for making compromises, merging belongings, considering another's emotional needs, and coordinating daily activities.
Puppies up the ante and are a great vehicle to launch you headfirst into what it means to have to be accountable for another life. They are also a wonderful way to bring you and your partner even closer.
Find the thought of cleaning poopy diapers unsavory? Puppies will break you in. Wondering if you have that sixth sense intuition your mom and dad had when you were growing up?… puppies will help you develop it.
In conclusion, If you’re thinking maybe a puppy might be that little nudge your heart has been looking for, take the plunge. Open your heart to a fur baby!
That being said… take on the hunt for your bundle of joy responsibly. Do your research. Look at different breeds and learn what to expect with each one. Find a breed that best matches your own personality and that is best suited to your lifestyle. If you're an outdoor lover, choose a breed that has high energy and love to go on adventures. If you think you may want a large family one day, look at herders. They're wonderful with children. Have bad allergies? Look into hypoallergenic breeds.
Last but not least… find a reputable breeder. You want your newest family member to come from a loving and responsible licensed breeder.