We’re bringing home a new puppy tonight. I’m excited, but with each passing hour, I’m realizing that bringing home a puppy is not going to be like bringing home a dog. It definitely feels more like we’re about to bring home a new baby. I’ve had only two dogs in my life so far, but have never had a puppy. I have had three babies, though, so maybe I’m a little bit prepared. Maybe…
Like almost every kid I knew, when I was growing up I desperately wanted a puppy. My parents definitely did not want a puppy.
We got a cat.
As soon as my husband and I moved into our first house, I stated that we were going to get a dog. Jim, who had grown up with dogs and liked them but also was much more aware of the responsibility level, so different from cats, said, “You don’t want a dog.”
“Oh yes I do,” I said back.
We got a dog.
Gus, a mastiff-lab mix, was a stray from the SPCA. He was about a year old, pretty much housetrained, and generally well-behaved. Sure, he had oily fur and gunky ears, and turned out to be a little bit too big for our house size. But he was the kindest, gentlest dog. He put up with my frazzled hormonal state and benign neglect as we had three children in a row, and he became a best friend to them all.
Then he died, as dogs tend to do before their people. He was eleven, at the end of his life expectancy, so the loss was sad but not tragic. I’d thought that when we lost him, we might or might not get another dog. Surely there would be no other Gus, and dogs were a big responsibility, after all.
Three weeks later, we got Seamus.
Seamus was another one-year-old rescue, more appropriately sized for our house this time, a different personality altogether than Gus, but he still became part of our family just as quickly.
Then about three weeks ago, Seamus left us, too.
This time I knew we would get another dog. This time, not only did I know what it’s like to love a dog, I also knew quite well what it is to miss a dog, to have a dog-shaped hole in your heart, a dog void in your home. I didn’t even kid myself that the idea would need some consideration.
Now we’re getting a puppy.
After several family discussions, we decided that if we’re ever going to have a new, freshly-minted, infant family dog, now’s the time. The kids, at sixteen, fourteen, and twelve, are old enough to help with care and training. I have a flexible schedule for the time being. Even though I really like the idea of giving a home to an adult dog who’s been short changed, we’ve done that twice already. Now it’s puppy time. And this puppy was one of eleven born to a stray mother rescued from a city roadside, so she counts, too.
The anticipation feels a lot like waiting for a baby, for impending chaos and disruption along with joy. I’m elated and filled with trepidation. Last night Katie and I spent a chunk of time at PetSmart buying things we’d never had to buy for a dog before – a dividable crate, puppy chow, puppy treats, a tiny food bowl, a tinier collar. And I know I’ll be back a half a dozen times for all the things I didn’t realize we’d need until we were actually living with a puppy, just like with a baby. At the end of our spree Katie chose a bright purple stuffed hippo toy made of a fleecy, nubby fabric similar to the fabric of her Magic Sleepsuit. She said she thought it would be comforting to the puppy, just like her suit. This puppy, nameless still, is reported by her foster family to sleep through the night and otherwise be pretty mellow. But, if not as advertised, maybe Maureen would consider developing a canine version of the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit? She saved me once…
Along with the elation and trepidation, the distraction I’ve experienced this week is also common to late pregnancy and early motherhood. Unwashed dishes and unfolded laundry are piling up around me as I watch endless YouTube videos on crate training and comb the internet for unique female dog names. This morning I got halfway downstairs before I realized I’d forgotten to put my contacts in – something I’ve done every stinking morning for the last thirty years. And we don’t even have the puppy in the house yet!
I think all these familiar feelings are due to more than choosing names and new supplies, and knowing I might be up a lot at night for a few weeks (months?). This will be the first time I get to do this dog thing from scratch, which is great, and also nerve wracking. What if I mess it up? With our other dogs, I could blame their bad habits on whatever they’d experienced before they were part of our family. This time it’s going to be all on me, and I don’t want to mess it up. Sound familiar?
On a follow-up note … It’s now been almost seventy-two hours with a puppy in our house. We’re all are in love, even though I still feel like we’re not totally sure what’s hit us. Our great name debate continued the night we brought the puppy home. We studied her movements and little personality and pronounced her Mabel, which means “loveable.”
About our Blogger:
Elizabeth Dougherty is a freelance writer in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her blog, Plan Q, chronicles real, everyday experiences and viewpoints — funny, stressful, tearful, mundane — and how they all tie together to define our lives. She aims to make her readers laugh, cry, feel, think, and wonder. That’s what writing and reading do for her, and if she can pass on any of that, then all the twists and turns that whip her right past Plans A through P and land her at Plan Q are more than worth it! Visit Plan Q at www.elizabethdoughertyfreelanc ewriting.wordpress.com or connect with her on Facebook.
If you’re reading this in the early morning while trying to rock your baby back to sleep, then parents: we stand with you. We’ve all been there, trying to figure out when our restless munchkins will let us catch a few more Z’s. While you can’t predict the exact timing of when your baby’s schedule will normalize, it can be helpful to get a sense of how long most babies sleep, why they wake up, and how to help them.