Wanting to fit into our neighbourhood and being far too selfish to have children, we decided that adopting a puppy would be the appropriate recourse to earn our Roncesvalles stripes. We couldn't help but fantasize about weekend runs in High Park, Sunday sleep-ins with pup squeezed between us and throwing a Frisbee, a freeze frame of our new best friend jumping into the sunset to retrieve. It would be ideal.
The hunt began. We spent hours surfing the web for the perfect breed to fit our personalities and even going so far as to hang around off-leash dog parks. We were convinced we had it all covered. Even professing our full understanding of the lifestyle change and the realities of how much work it actually takes to raise a puppy. We'd seen all of our friends go through it, (some less capable than others) and they appeared happy, praising their puppy months as 'a walk in the park;' their Instagram littered with Three's Company pictures. But when that puppy came in our front door, my rose tinted glasses were nowhere to be found and I struggled to catch my breath. The one-story jump from the top floor to the door was looking more desirable than a decade of commitment. I knew I was in for something.
I'm not just talking chewed up shoes, pee on new hardwood or playing tug-a-war with the missing sock that only your puppy knows how to find. These are just by-products. I'm talking about how it truly tests you: your will power, your patience, and even your sanity.
After my partner found a kitchen painted in pasta sauce, me sobbing on the floor; Janie, our pup sitting calmly with a clueless expression, I knew I was hitting a serious low. It was time to use a lifeline and call friends who had recently passed their puppy years, to my surprise, nearly every one of them answered with the same sentiment; "it was the hardest fucking thing I've ever gone through." One used to call her Australian Shepherd, Osama Bin Laden. Another contemplated leaving her Doodle at the park after he dragged them through the mud ten times. The more I asked the more people opened up, making me question why the topic of puppy blues was such a taboo.
No one tells you just how difficult it is and how owning a puppy makes you 'act a fool." Are we putting our sanity at risk all for the hopes of maintaining appearances? Screw appearances because it gets lonely and dark pretending, when trust me you're not alone. So, I share with you my no-holds-barred, pitiful, yet laughable experiences of raising a puppy. Yes, I have a tendency to allow my mental foibles to take over, and perhaps you haven't experienced everything or anything on this list, but I don't think you need a psychiatric diagnosis to find that puppy rearing is a serious test of wills.
...to lose all dignity. As you chant an unapologetic broadcast of "good pee pee," after your puppy makes a successful release on your neighbour's peonies.
...to have your threshold for filth increase. As your pup's interest in used Kleenexes, rotting corpses and somebody's previous night's regret grow, so does your willingness to shove your hand in their mouth to grab their sidewalk afternoon delight; even if it happens to be a used condom.
...to feel guilt like you've never felt before. Sure, The Dog Whisperer says you have to be an assertive alpha, but after growling in your dog's face, your attempt at top-dog, makes your puppy walk away with her head down and you spend the afternoon breaking down, proclaiming that you're ill fit to ever be a mother. There's a reason why the show opens with 'do not try this at home without the help of a professional.'
...to be on panic mode as a default setting. A smelly fart and increase in appetite provokes you to perform a google search, which turns up a handful of possible diagnosis, including an incurable pancreatic disorder. You've convinced your partner that your dog is going to die so you both go into panic mode and head to the vets.
...to have a lot less sex. Feeling a bit strange to romp right next to your innocent onlooking puppy, your sex life shrivels away. If the moment arises and it happens to be while feeding your pup, take it. Grab that special toy to distract them and find the closest surface to get it on. There's a reason why everyone has that one special toy.
...to have bi-polar waves of emotions. After your pup choked on a wood chip, growled at you and refused love all before lunch, you decide they're the devil and that you'll never be able to love them. An hour later puppy is in your lap, the two of you having an obnoxious instagram love session.
...to be judged as ridiculous by your friends and family. Instead of being at the movies you and your partner spend the night at home trying to ease your puppy's coughing underneath a blanket with a bowl of hot water.
...to be the most patient you've ever been in your life, even when you're justified to lose your cool. After two weeks without incident in the house you let your guard down and allow puppy on the bed for a late night cuddle, only to find that your side has a huge yellow pee stain on it, your puppy next to it panting in pride. You swear they're doing it to taunt you.
I remember wishing for the puppy months to pass quickly, but now, despite how foolish I've become and how I sometimes contemplate leaving her at the dog park after she's ignored me 50 times, I can't help but want it all back. For those of you thinking about getting a dog, be prepared to become a slightly more manic, exhausted, yet better version of yourself.
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