I apologize for the radio silence in the past few weeks. Dave and I added a new furry family member to our household — Alfie, a black terrier/lab (we think?!) mutt who has completely taken over our lives and our hearts. So far, rescuing a dog isn’t exactly like I thought it would be. As much as I furiously researched and read everything I could get my hands on, nothing really could have prepared me for the overwhelming gravity and responsibility of taking on his guardianship. I guess, in some small part, this is what new parenthood feels like. You think you know, but you have no idea until you’re knee-deep in it. It’s a process of doing and learning and growing together with your pup; all with patience, the virtue I have the least of, and which I’m still learning every day.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog of my own. I spent years biding my time, knowing I was not ready for the responsibility; that my freewheeling lifestyle could not support the stability and attention a dog needs. But a huge piece of my heart, a piece that only a canine companion could fill, called out to me every time a dog would walk by. For the past year, Dave has dragged me away from the dog beach and Yappy Hour (a daily event at a local bar where dogs run around a fenced-in area while their owners drink) more times than I can count.
So when our day finally came, I was filled with anxiety, excitement, anticipation and the weight of what this decision would mean for me; for us.
Here are my observations on dog guardianship so far:
1. My lifestyle is already improving. Beginning my morning with a walk rather than scrolling my phone is a much more efficient and healthy start to the day. Also, it just plain feels better. And I am still able to get to my desk by the same time each morning. Even our short potty breaks are a nice way to get me away from my desk and moving every few hours. I’m taking more steps and feeling better than I have in months. Each evening, Dave and I leave our phones at home and take Alfie to the beach, where we play fetch while the waves crash. Not a bad life!
2. Just because your puppy listens to you and takes commands today does not mean he will listen and take commands tomorrow. Puppies are unpredictable. One day, they’re walking perfectly on a leash, coming when called, and sitting on command, and the next day, they’re overwhelmed with energy. Adjusting and training are ongoing processes with no short cuts. “Patience, consistency and positivity” is basically my new life mantra with Alfie-boy.
3. I’ve met more people in my town in the last 10 days than I did in my entire first year here. Having a dog in my tiny, canine-obsessed town has completely legitimized me. I’m amazed to find myself yukking it up with other dog-parents while our “kids” play. I still sometimes feel out-of-place or like a fraud, but I assume this will lessen over time.
4. Sometimes, it still doesn’t feel real and Alfie doesn’t feel like my dog. Sometimes this whole adjustment is just really hard. Sometimes I feel depressed and trapped, followed by guilt for feeling depressed and trapped. I know these “puppy blues” are normal, and that they will lessen with time, but every now and then I think, “OMG WHY IS MY PUPPY PUPPY-ING SO HARD?! I AM GONNA FREAK OUT. PS: I CAN’T DO THIS!” Instead of freaking out, I gather myself, because puppies need calm leadership and stability. I remind myself to remain kind and patient, which brings me to my next point…
5. My relationship with my puppy will change me. I am changing already. He is giving me more purpose in my life. Let me explain: Before I got Alfie, I read “The Art of Raising a Puppy” by the Monks of New Skete. In the book, the monks talk a lot about the spiritual aspect of the human-canine relationship; how as you raise your puppy, your puppy actually raises you. The monks posit that your dog is a mirror reflecting back on you — showing you the person who you are projecting. As someone who has always struggled with patience, staying present and keeping control of my emotions, I must remain vigilant not to let these characteristics seep into my relationship with Alfie. I must keep a sound mind to be a good guardian. So Alfie is my ultimate lesson in patience and mindfulness. Yes, I will raise him to be well-socialized, have good manners and to be happy and healthy, but I will also raise myself up to a higher standard. I will be a better, more fulfilled person. I already am, and I have his furry little face to thank.
So, that’s what’s been floating through my mind in my first 10 days with Alfie. I’m SO looking forward to seeing more of his personality emerge, and for both of us to start feeling more comfortable with one another. In just a little over a week, he’s already taught me so much, and given me an incredible amount of love and companionship. I can hardly wait for our bond to deepen, and to see the amazing dog he will become.
Sure, there are moments of frustration and anxiety, but the overwhelming sentiment is one of pure, deep love.
Woman’s best friend, indeed!