“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.
“Even longer,” Pooh answered.
- A.A. Milne
I have a lot of people ask me about getting a dog. I try to answer their questions as best I can, but it’s not always easy.
What kind of dog? The canine kind.
Are certain breeds aggressive? Really?
How do I pick out the right dog? You do your research, and then do your best.
Along the way, however, I realized that there needed to be some kind of “Doggie Code”, or “Doggie Commandments”. Something. Not quite an instruction manual, but something to cover the blank spots between Piloting your dog and feeding your dog. I guess more along the lines of What to Expect When You’re Expecting….a dog.
So without further ado, here we go.
You’re going to fall in love with every dog at the shelter and feel guilty as hell for not rescuing all of them.
I know. I’ve been there. I walked out of a shelter 18 years ago with Darwin almost sobbing because there were other dogs there scheduled to be euthanized later in the week. But here’s the thing: I saved one. If we all saved just one, what a difference. Each according to their ability, and that’s exactly what I did. Darwin has since crossed that damn Rainbow Bridge, and I’ve added Sparta and Orion. I did the best I could within my means. The problem is that those flippin’ dogs are like potato chips. Once you open the bag, you never want to stop. Keeping the mindset of “within your means” implies both mental and physical. Remember, those terrible animal hoarding situations all start out somewhere.
The honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever.
I wouldn’t have a job if it were all sunshine and lollipops forever. You really didn’t think it would last….did you?
Your dog is going to do something stupid. Take up barking. Attempt to digest revolting things, and then void the attempt…right on your pillow. Get sprayed by a skunk. Just remember, you adopted a dog, not a human. Dogs don’t do things to get back at you, or to punish you. They have separation anxiety. They have boredom. They have needs for activity. They will ask questions, and need to be Piloted. Address these situations when they come up, or it’s going to be merry hell for the next 13 years.
You’re going to think of them as human…don’t.
Yeah, Darwin and I would hang out on the couch together and watch tv. I’d talk to him, offering my opinion about what was on. Asking him if that dress made my butt look fat. I’d tell him about my boy troubles, my car troubles or my leaky faucet. He was my date for many parties, and three weddings. In short, I treated him like a human…until I didn’t. I was always his Pilot first and foremost. I tell my clients that once you give your dog the Piloting, Activity and Work that your dog requires, you can do whatever you want. Ignore them (but really, why?). Talk to them. Dress them up (Darwin worked a bowtie like a Chippendale). Do whatever you want. Give them their needs as a dog, and only then can you treat them like a human.
They are not an impulse purchase.
I had a frenemy in my 20′s. She adopted a dog after her boyfriend broke up with her. She even named the dog “Re-bound”. Yeah. It worked out exactly as you thought it would, with my helping her find a new home for the poor dog after she “moved on”. Your dog isn’t there to take the place of something. Or fill some hole in your heart. And contrary to popular belief, it won’t enlarge any body parts by their bad-assedness.
They will absolutely break your heart…but only once.
The ultimate paradox is that the only creature who loves you more than they love themselves, who would give their life for you (so long as no vacuum cleaners are involved) will actually destroy your life when they do finally find their end. If it’s one year or 12 (like I had with my Darwin), it’s always too soon. Do yourself a favor. Have a plan. Don’t wait until Fido develops cancer to try to figure out when it’s time to say goodbye. You will not be logical. You will be emotional, like I was. Truthfully, I should have taken Darwin to that Rainbow Bridge months before I actually did. By trying not to betray him, I absolutely did. I was emotional. It took someone who was removed from the situation to show me how sick Darwin actually was.
I take a lot of pics of Sparta and Orion. I can easily compare how they are now vs. how they were at this time last year. Facebook helps with that. So does Instagram. Have a hashtag with your dog’s name (for ease of reference), and start taking pics, and then compare them. If your dog is diagnosed with something wretched, take a pic every week. Compare them to the previous week. Do right by your dog. Do the heavy lifting so they don’t have to. You’ll still be traumatized when they go, but you will know you made the best decision you could, with all the information necessary for such an action.
And then get ready to do it all again. Because you will.