I’ve wanted a dog for over 2 decades. Since I’m only 23 years old, that’s really saying something. You may be doubtful that I’ve actually wanted a dog that long (how could someone actively want a pet and remember that they did at the age of 3?), but my parents remember be asking for a puppy since my third birthday when I asked them why my birthday wish hadn’t come true in the form of a wiggly little fluffy pup.
Growing up with cats (my mom is the quintessential cat lady), I was never allowed a dog. Over the years of my growing-up I was surrounded by cats. Don’t get me wrong, I adore(d) all the cats the passed through my house – especially the kitten I had been given for Christmas when I was 8, Zippy. But a part of me still always yearned for a puppy. Instead of imaginary friends, I had two imaginary Golden Retrievers name Buddy and Bethany (thank AirBud for that first name). These two came with me and my creative mind everywhere I went, from the neighborhood pool to Yellowstone National Park.
Of course, I outgrew imaginary friends/pets, and continued on through High School and College dog-less and obsessed with being around my friends dogs instead. I attempted many times writing essays to my parents, providing them with countless research to back my claim that I could take care of a puppy, and that they would love having one in our home. Of course, these things never worked. So, alas, I spent 2 decades watching those with dogs from afar, being that creepy person at the dog park that didn’t have a dog, and just liked to pet the ones that were playing.
This all changed when I finally moved out of my parents’ home and was able to adopt my first puppy.
I would never admit this to my parents, but I’m glad they never allowed me a dog. I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it when I still lived at home. There’s a lot people don’t tell you about owning a puppy and things you can’t even begin to understand until you’ve had one. There’s endless amounts of good, but there’s also some things that are difficult that you need to learn to come to terms with and be prepared for. Some things I don’t recall ever reading about during my countless hours of research. And though, I would not trade Apollo for the world and I am too ecstatic for words to explain my love for him in my life, I wanted to write this to warn those of the hidden aspects of dog-ownership that isn’t shared as much as others.
This I was slightly aware of going in, but it really hits home after the first week. Bringing Puppy into his new home can be very jarring for him. Imagine if you were taken away from everything you new by strangers – no matter how nice – and being told that this is how you were going to live now, and with a new set of rules, and being watched over by creatures that spoke a completely different language than you. It’s hard. Now imagine that they expect you to sleep in a scary crate at night surrounded by things that are unfamiliar to you in both look and smell. You would be upset too.
If you’re crate training your puppy – which I do suggest – your puppy will most likely whine the first few nights (or more). This whining will not only be loud, but it will also break your heart because you want nothing more than for your new best friend to be happy in his new home.
Not only will the sad whines happen, but puppies have tiny bladders that need to be relieved roughly every 4 hours. I’m not sure how much you sleep an average night, but I’m a nightmare if I don’t get my 8 hours which means… you’re going to have to drag your butt out of bed and let your little buddy relieve himself in the middle of your slumber. This may not sound that bad, but you also need to realize that Puppy is still adjusting to potty-ing in the place you wish for him to. It might take him some time and a little bit of sniffing around before he becomes comfortable going to the bathroom. Then you bring him in, and put him in his new little room (crate), and the whining could start all over again.
There is light at the end of this tunnel! Puppy will grow more comfortable with his new home and begin to love his awesome new space that’s just for him (the crate) and as he grows his bladder will too! But you need to be willing to push through those beginning phases. It’s worth it though, I promise.
This was one of the roughest things I had to struggle through with Apollo – the puppy biting. Puppies are growing their teeth, and that hurts so naturally they begin to teethe. Not only that, but puppies play with other puppies through play-biting. So while you think they’re hurting you and being evil, really they just want to relieve the pain in their mouth and/or play with their new favorite person in the whole-wide-world. Humans do not play through biting… Humans have delicate skin and no layer of fur to protect it. Humans that bruise easily (i.e. ME) will have nasty bruises all over their body for a long while until Puppy is trained how to play correctly, and teethe correctly.
I knew going in that puppies bite. Duh, they’re babies, and teeth exploding out of gums sound incredibly painful. But I never really realized to what extent that would be and how much their little puppy teeth and determination would HURT. It does. It’s can get very painful. And you will get frustrated. Why can’t he just learn to stop??? You will silently cry to yourself as you attempt to extract Puppy’s jaw from your forearm/clothing/ankle/belly flab (that last one is the most painful… trust). I had many a times where I wanted to cry out of frustration that my cure little furball was a beast in disguise.
While I wasn’t totally prepared for the pain, I do have to say there is something incredibly rewarding teaching your pup right from wrong and what is appropriate for him to gnaw on and what is not. Eventually, the bruises fade and your little guy has an even stronger bond with you than he did before because now you’ve taught him how to play with you through toys and you don’t get anxious that he will soon be attacking your skin (dogs can sense anxiety, and they do not like it).
Let’s be honest here, there will be times you will not feel like playing with your puppy. We’re humans and it happens. Maybe you had a long day at work, or you had a lot going on and are mentally and physically drained, you come home seeking rest and refuge to find your little buddy zipping around the house, doing laps around your dining room table and knocking everything in sight over.
Puppies have energy, and they WILL find a way to release whether it’s in a constructive way facilitated by you or in a destructive way of their choosing.
If you don’t want your home destroyed and you want your best friend to be happy and healthy, you need to scrap that last bit of energy from the depths of your soul, put it together, and take your dog out no matter how you feel and act like you’re the happiest and more energetic person in the world for him.
I work a full-time job, sometimes it’s really hard when I get home to find it within myself to be able to be what my pup needs/wants 110%. But you need to remember that your puppy is a part of your world but to your puppy, you’re their ENTIRE world. You need to respect that and be there for him, put aside whatever negativity you’re feeling and provide that fun and loving environment that your doggy has been waiting for the entire day.
For me, the hardest part was getting started and finding that tiny bit of energy, but then as soon as you see the ecstatic response and love shining from your pup’s face, you will no longer feel any exhaustion and all the stress from throughout the day is replaced with so much love it’s incredible.
I hope that this did not come off as negative, if anything my hopes writing this is to make you and your pup’s relationship even stronger. Being prepared is what it’s all about. Being flexible is key, and open, and realizing that every dog is different and has their own unique challenges it what makes having them in your life so rewarding.
Apollo has taught me so much: he has taught me patience, unconditional love, hard work, and has even helped me build more friendships with other humans and dogs alike. I watch him every day and he shows me through example what it’s like to be strong, courageous and loving and I would not trade him for the world.
He was worth my two decades of waiting.