I’ve lived with a new puppy three times in my life. The first one Janie, a Collie-Corgi cross I remember choosing from the litter when I was about 7 – she looked so sad squashed in the corner of a box in whoever’s garage we went to pick her from; I’m a sucker for the cliched runt. And she stayed with us until I was late teens/early twenties when she was laid to rest due to age/kidney problems.
The second puppy came about just after the Girl and I had invited my boyfriend at the time to live with us. A Bull Mastiff (the pup, not the fella) called Duchy because we bought her from York Street, if you get the connection, and she stayed with us for 6 months because by that time the b/f was on his last warning and the dog had grown into a small horse. I was also working 2 jobs and coming home to a trashed house downstairs and a drunk/hypo-ed b/f (he was Diabetic) upstairs, so my nerves and patience were in shreds. I decided (again with the help of my doctor at the time) that they both had to go – and got a better return for the dog than I did for the b/f. Afterwards, the Girl and I decided we were more cat people and so adopted the infamous (to us, anyway) Ant and Dec rescue kittens. Sometimes referred to as the guilt-kitties because of selling the dog without telling the Girl first.
And then – bang up to date – Eight weeks ago we met our next puppy-to-be as a result of my doctor’s suggestion that having one might get me out of the house more; help alleviate my social anxiety. Because since I left the paid job nearly a year ago now, my fears over leaving the house have only lessened in so far as I don’t now NEED to go out so I’m more than content to stay in and do my coursework/write every day. Which has led to me pretty much sitting down most of the time and broadening not my horizons but my girth.
We did our homework, we found out which type of dog would best suit our needs, budget, energy etc and decided on a Cocker Spaniel-cross-Poodle, commonly known as a Cockerpoo, or in the 1970’s, a nice, cheap Mongrel (re-branded as Designer Dogs and now far from cheap. But this is my mental health we’re addressing and you can’t put a price on that.) So, after weeks of trawling internet sites and keeping our eye out locally at the vets and pet stores, we finally found a place who had a 6-week male Cockerpoo left from a litter of seven, 15 minutes up the road. The lady, a professional breeder of over 25 years was delightful and introduced us to both ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ before showing us the little bundle of fur who’s now known as The Chipster (officially ‘Chippy’ because hubby is a carpenter).
We made 4 visits back to him during the 4 weeks we needed to wait for him to be ready to leave his first family. Sensible. Get him used to us and vice versa. In the interim we read up on things, bought all the paraphernalia including crate: where did THOSE come from? I’ve never seen a puppy in a crate in my life but we were assured this was correct procedure nowadays – the puppy’s safe place – and a place to reassure you of his safety in your absence – kind of thing. Puppy pads: and yes, I seriously did think these were dog nappies until I saw the size of them and realised they didn’t have sticking tabs to secure them. Toys. Food bowls. Bedding. Toys. Food. Toys. More Toys. And, of course – toys.
And then we brought him home. Wrapped tightly in two blankets the lady had given us with the scent of his first home, and his favourite toy, a leggy giraffe (now called Mr G. Raffe) who remains his go-to toy of choice. I sat in the passenger seat of the car with this furry bundle on my lap and I couldn’t help comparing it with the time I brought back the new-born Girl from hospital, 23 years ago now. I had the same (slightly diluted) worry that I might have done something I wasn’t wholly prepared for; panic that I wasn’t going to be good enough and fail spectacularly at providing and caring for this tiny creature; and fear that I’d just made the worst move of my life.
Again, as with a new-born human, you can read as much as you like and listen to as many other owner/parents’ stories/advice but nothing… NOTHING prepares you for when it actually happens. I was lucky that Hubby, being a self-employed carpenter, was able to take time off/be flexible with his work for the first few weeks (this is still slightly ongoing) because I am here to tell you that I was seriously at my wits end at the beginning. We’d heard, and even the lady had told us, that if he howled at night in his crate, to leave him be; after three night max he’d be fine, get the message and desist. On that third night, as we lay gripping hands in bed and refusing to ‘give in’ to plaintive howls and cries until it went quiet then we worried he’d died, or worse. So we turned to the God of Google for further advice. Which revealed that sometimes puppies don’t like to defecate within their crate, even though we’d arranged a puppy-pee/poo-pad area inside it for him – so after that hubby started getting up to him when he cried, let him out of the crate, waited for him to do some business and then put him back inside, whereupon he’d eventually fall back to sleep and let us snatch another 3 or so hours’ of our own.
When we took him back to the lady for his final vaccination the following week, I was in pieces. She spent more time hugging me and passing me tissues and reasurring me it would all slowly start to get better than she did with the jabs and the worming and reasurred me what I was feeling was entirely normal. Which was so comforting to hear that it made me cry even more. She even said that if it did turn out to be too much for us, then she would be happy to take him back; she’d had to do this with a few pups in her time when new owners hadn’t been able to cope with the demands these pets make on your life. I’m one of those people who like to know there’s an Exit door, me, and so this came as even more of a comfort. And my counsellor would probably assure me that it wouldn’t mean I’d failed, more that I’d bravely admitted defeat.
Upended. Overturned. Fractured. Cracked. Misshapen. These are some of the words that describe how I feel our life – MY life – has turned out since we brought The Chipster home. I can’t now just get up when I’m fully rested (‘rested’? what does that word mean again?) and woken by the sun rising, move gently around the place gathering breakfast and taking a leisurely shower before retreating to my Writing Room to spend 6-8 hours studying and writing, and I can’t just pick up a book and read it during the times I’m not at my desk working because now I have a leaping little creature forever at my legs demanding attention.
Our downstairs is diminished under the weight of dog sleeping areas, the crate and an obscene amount of toys. The floors have never been so cleaned, so often, so thoroughly because of the amount of ‘puppy spillage’ and we now have to hurdle a gate to go upstairs – the cat/dog demarcation line. And that’s another thing we didn’t bargain on. Okay, we knew little Miss Piddles (aka Panda) wouldn’t like the introduction of a new species into her home, but we didn’t expect her to become quite so vocal in her indignation (if it’s not the dog wailing at 5 am, then it’s the cat’s turn – and very often with a dead mouse in her jaws which she takes under our bed and crunches as a breakfast-starter). It seems our nice, ordinry, sedentary life (or rather, mine) has suddenly become the complete opposite of whatever ‘calm is. Maybe ‘frenetic.’ And I’m still not sure I’m coping with it.
You’re expecting me to round this all off with a nice: ‘but I am getting out of the house more; walking 30minutes each day and feeling less out of breath than I used to. I’m learning to love the madness of running around after a furry little fun bundle and finding that I’m resenting his upheavel less and less as time wears on….’ aren’t you? Well, I’d LOVE to be able to say these things. But hand on heart? I’m absolutely not there yet. I’m deferring coursework deadlines, haven’t had a single original creative idea for over a month and am so sleep-deprived my pupils feel like they’re made of sherbert.
My gaze also still falls on the Exit door and if it weren’t for sites like these two:
then I think I’d have definitely opened that door already.