When you become a first-time puppy owner, it helps to adopt the motto, “Over prepare and go with the flow.”
And yes, that might mean the flow of dog pee all over your living room floor.
How do you prepare for a puppy when you’ve never owned a dog?
Like many others, we got a pandemic pet. The world is full of them, as you can see in the Cleveland Jewish News’ “Pandemic Pet Contest” photo gallery on Facebook. Ours is the cute white fur ball with the black ears named McIntyre.
The grandkids wanted a pet, especially since they couldn’t see their friends during the pandemic. Since the kids outnumber their parents 3 to 2, we offered to house the puppy and give them visitation rights. They’re sort of like grandparents to the dog: they get all the fun and we do most of the work.
We had no idea how much work was involved.
It’s sad to read articles about people sending their pandemic puppies to shelters as their lives open back up and the puppies grow more difficult to manage.
I get it. Puppies are a lot of work. But we made a commitment for life, one I vow to keep no matter how much our golden doodle acts like a juvenile delinquent. The cuteness factor wears off fast when your precious pooch barks at 3 a.m., digs holes in the yard and tries to eat your socks.
I was totally clueless about raising a dog, much less a puppy. So I read 10 books and assembled a three-ring notebook of tips. I watched endless training videos and interviewed dog owners. I found solutions for each problem and if those didn’t work, a good trainer would. We found one at Process Canine in Shaker Heights who trained us so we can train the dog.
You’ve got to keep the dog busy, so we bought chew toys, plush toys, dental toys, tug toys and a Snuggle Puppy with a beating heart for bedtime. Unfortunately, Mack uses it to relieve his humping needs.
We bought spray to protect our furniture, enzyme cleaner to kill the smell of urine, three baby gates, endless poop bags, giant bags of dog food and 20 food dishes but he still insists on eating out of our hands.
My husband said we should have had a puppy shower.
It was overwhelming that first time I walked into a pet store to buy a leash. I nearly had a panic attack. They had 800 options.
So, I figured I’d just get a collar. There were 8,000 choices. Plus aisles of clothes, food and snacks.
I can’t do this. I sat in the parking lot and called my friend Vicki. “Am I crazy to get a dog? What was I thinking?” I said.
She calmed me down and said, “When you get that puppy and look into its eyes, it’s like you’re looking into a soul. There is nothing like it in the whole world.”
The next time I panicked over whether I was qualified to raise a puppy, my friend Sherrie told me, “As long as you don’t forget to feed it and love it, you’ll both be fine.”
My sister, Theresa, reminded me, “You’re not the first person to get a dog who never had one.”
Heck, I had a baby at 21, back in 1978 when there was no internet and only one book on parenting, by Dr. Spock. I relied on instinct, luck and God’s grace to fix anything I screwed up.
We’re discovering the secret to raising a dog is to not do it alone.
You have to build a “we” and create your own community of dog lovers. We assembled Team Doodle. Our “we” includes a good trainer, groomer, vet and endless friends who love dogs.
I called them when the dog had diarrhea for three days. When the dog threw up on our shag rug. When the dog wriggled out of his cone of shame and three of us couldn’t get it back on.
Mack just turned 6 months old, and I’ll admit, it’s a lot harder than I imagined. But when you’re talking to him and he tips his head to the side in a quizzical way, like he’s asking, “Huh?” my heart melts. When he can’t stop licking my face and hands, it’s the slobber of unconditional love.
I want to love him the way he loves me.
It’s a messy, loyal love, and it’s for life.