Monday, July 1, 2019

What They Don't Tell You About Getting A Dog

This past April, after a work trip to Panama, I was at my local brewery (because that’s a thing now) with my friend, Kathy and my sister, Betsy. I don’t really know how it happened, but I was in a great mood and the beer was flowing and the next thing I know, I was applying for multiple dogs.

In the first four months of 2019, I traveled four times. Twice internationally and twice domestically. In 2018, it was a lot of the same. Lots of international and cross-country travel. I was so exhausted by it all, so I guess I thought, “Maybe if I get a dog, I’ll have an excuse to not travel so much!” 

I was also going through some personal stuff and was craving a change. It’s funny because if I compared my life right then to my life a year prior, it was SO different. Yet there I was, a restless millennial, craving something more.  The grass is greener or something.

Normally, I would wake up the next day after drinking and doing something so committal and FREAK OUT. I’d either not respond to follow-up emails or say my situation had changed and I wouldn’t be pursuing dog adoption. But I didn’t feel that way at all. I went back on Petfinder and applied for MORE dogs! 

While I waited, I wrote names down in my phone. I applied for mostly male dogs, so I had a lot of male names like Sirius George, Grover Winston, and Seamus Patrick. I started looking up items I’d need for a dog. I got really excited. I figured I had the means and I had the love, so it was my DUTY to rescue a dog! That honestly took away a lot of anxiety I thought I would feel. 

Within a week, I had been approved for a dog. Not just a dog, but a puppy!  I was avoiding puppies, but she was seven months, so I figured it’d be okay. I thought it was a boy, but her foster told me that was a mistake on the posting. I had only one name for a girl written down and it was Billie. (Which is funny, because it’s a boy’s name… but it felt right.) It was a two-week process from application to picking her up.

[If you’re curious, I went through PAWS New England and they had a very thorough process. They were awesome! I had an initial call with the adoption coordinator in Massachusetts, a call with the adoption coordinator in Texas, a call with the foster, a home visit, and a reference check with my vet, my landlord and friends. Once I was approved, they had a transport truck with several PAWS volunteers bring the Southern dogs up the coast. I met them in Connecticut and the truck was full of dogs! The volunteers all said Billie (then Harley) was their favorite. I could tell they weren’t lying because they handed a particularly yappy dog over to their new owner and said, “Good luck with her!”]

I got all the necessary things, did all the research and was READY for my new life with Billie Jean Margaret Barrett. I was told about the 3-3-3 rule with new dogs. It would take three days for her to adjust to her new surroundings, three weeks for her to feel comfortable and show her personality and three months for her to fully ingratiate. 

Right now I’m at two months… but SO FAR, SO ACCURATE. It’s been a stressful time in my life, but now that the dust (or FUR) has settled, I can’t imagine life without this crazy thing that wakes me up every day at 5am. But, I want to share some of my experience that NOBODY told me about getting a dog. Or, as Adam Sandler profoundly says in The Wedding Singer, INFORMATION THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION YESTERDAY!

Even if they’re potty trained, they’re not. She was potty trained, but that all went out the window when she got here. She went to the bathroom in the apartment ONLY. She would not go to the bathroom outside at all. I would be outside FOR HOURS and she wouldn’t go, then we’d go back inside and she’d pee in the bedroom. Several nights that first week, I was outside until midnight SILENTLY CRYING so I wouldn’t showcase my stress and stress her out more. 

New environments are scary, particularly for rescue dogs. For the first week, I had to carry her in and out of the building. She didn’t want to leave the apartment, or get in the elevator, or walk down the stairs. She’s 30 pounds so that was fun. She also wouldn’t leave the parking lot for a while. I would literally walk 10,000+ steps a day IN THE PARKING LOT ONLY. We’d get a little further every day… and then she’d turn around and run back to her safe space with her tail between her legs. The first time I took her in the car, she peed… twice. She still hates the car. 

I have to be SOCIAL. I often joke that my biggest fear is being in an elevator with someone I kind of know. You know? Because then you MUST talk to them but you only know each other enough for small talk. (“Nice day, huh?” “Yeah… the weather is perfect.” “Do anything fun this weekend?” Kill me. The worst.) Well now I do that all the time because Billie is the friendliest dog in the world and wants to see every dog, be pet by every human and literally walks ME to the dog park every single day. So now I have a collection of neighborhood “friends” whose names I don’t know because I only ask the pet names. But Jackson’s dad, Simba’s mom, and Bunny’s parents are thankfully easy to chat with.  

But I also have to be LESS social. Meaning, all my plans revolve around Billie. I can’t really be spontaneous and grab drinks or dinner after work. I can’t take day trips or stay out longer than anticipated. I can’t do sleepovers. There are ways I can accommodate for all these things, sure, but it requires far more planning.

Anxiety gets worse. Now it’s better, but at first – I was sure she would be timid and scared forever. Everyone always says how dogs make people feel less anxious or depressed, but my anxiety soared those first few weeks. I was constantly worried about her and stressed out about the impact she was having on my life. I really thought I made a huge mistake, and I felt that I wasn’t equipped to handle it. But, turns out she’s great and I love her and I can handle anything. ANYTHING!

Everything is up for grabs. Things that have been destroyed by Billie: FOUR area rugs (by chewing them, not going to the bathroom!), my beloved heating pad, three phone chargers, throw pillows, A WINDOWSILL, a remote, a throw blanket and Ruthie’s sanity. Oddly enough, she doesn’t care for shoes. Basically, nothing is safe when I leave her uncrated.

And toys are pointless. She loves toys, but they last about two days before they’re chewed to oblivion. She even EATS tennis balls. Like takes bites of them and eats them. Even “durable” toys aren’t safe. The only things that have lasted so far are a few Kong toys and one chewy squeak ball. But somehow, they’re always under the couch and she can’t get them, so I have to get them all out with a broom multiple times a day.

Everyone has an opinion. I've heard new mothers feel this way when they have babies, but I never thought it'd be the same way with dogs! Everyone has a fucking opinion and loves to tell you what you're doing wrong or what they did that's so much better. Let me live my life and search the internet in peace!!!

Apparently, it’s strange for a woman to do this alone. This has been an odd thing I’ve experienced multiple times. When I ask about their dogs, men always respond with, “we”. “We got her back in March” or “We got her from a rescue” or “We just took her to Petsmart training…” and then they assume that I’m with someone as well. “When did you guys get her? Where did you guys get her? Do you guys live in that building?” 

I know it’s very innocent. But no, I got her all on my own, thank you very much. And this shit is HARD to do alone. And, I’m not hitting on you! Do you know how hard it is for me to make small talk with a STRANGER? You're making it worse! 

So, yeah, I just thought you should know. If you're thinking about getting a dog, I highly recommend it. Also, I think you should avoid it at all costs. You do you!

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