If you are thinking of getting a dog and your spouse is not as into the idea as you are, my two cents would be: don’t get the cute puppy! I’ve made this mistake myself and as much as I love my pet, some days I wish I could go back in time and prevent myself from visiting the adoption shelter.
The ironic side of the story is that, when it was my better half rooting for a pet for the kids, I found all kinds of reasons not to do it: The children would not be the ones caring for the animal, dogs are expensive to take care of, and it would always be a problem if and when we traveled for business or pleasure. But then three years went by, our kids had blended extremely well and all I felt we were missing to be a picture-perfect family was a cute, fun-loving doggie that would help us all bond even further.
PINING FOR A PUPPY
Enter visits to the local pet store with the kids, reading up on dog-rearing, and eventually making weekly trips to adoption shelters in search of the perfect K-9 companion. At first, my significant other tore down (as I had previously done to him) every reason I gave for getting a dog, and his arguments were vaguely familiar as I had wielded them myself, but he presented a couple of extra ones: we would need to check the yard to make sure the fence was insurmountable, and that I would be the one to take the pup for walks.
As most women, when I get something into my head, it pretty much stays there until it becomes a reality. So, for my birthday last year and after becoming terribly upset at my boyfriend for saying no to the perfect puppy a few months earlier, I decided I would forge ahead and get the family the pup I thought we all needed but that most of all—I wanted. And this time, he didn’t say no. But, I found later, not saying no didn’t necessarily mean yes.
THE DOG COMES HOME
Once my beloved Toby (the name he was given at the shelter) was home, I realized I was going to have to make up for my one-sided decision by taking full and sole responsibility for the animal. And luck had it that, at 6 months old, my already loyal mutt came with mange, digestive problems and well, the playfulness one would expect of a 50-pound puppy.
As much as I wanted him to be a part of the family and roam free around the house, he couldn’t. In under a week, he had chewed shoes to bits, torn apart underwear and dug holes in the yard. He ripped apart every doggie bed I bought for him, he tore through his special toys faster than his doggie treats, and my relationship grew more strained than if we’d just had a baby. Because, after all, it was my dog—a dog that barked, pulled on the leash, ran out the front door as soon as it opened, jumped on people, and felt quite at home on the furniture I had vowed I would teach him not to climb on.
In the manner of a frazzled working mom whose relationship was becoming strained and perhaps, really did not need one more commitment, one more responsibility on my already overflowing plate, one day I said: “Well, maybe I should move out with the dog and my kids.” And of course, in the manner of a guy who thankfully gets me, he said: “It’s not about that. The dog is here already, so let’s find a solution and make it work.”
Read Related: Why Pets Are Great for Kids
And the solution was…training. As much as I’d read books on dog training every night and promised myself I would practice with him daily, what good was it that he knew how to sit, lie down and give his paw on command if Toby wouldn’t come when called and tore apart the sofa cushions. It also didn’t help that I would use one command and everyone else would say something different. No wonder the dog was confused and acting out!
DOG TRAINING 101
So I signed up for dog training lessons, where I was going to be taught how to walk him on a loose leash, have him come when called and stop any unwanted behavior on command. By the time I arrived at my first training class I felt defeated, guilty and exhausted but hopeful for some changes. Just three one-on-one sessions later, Toby was like a new dog. I also made sure I took the whole family to the third training session, so that they would hear the instructions from the trainer. You know how it goes with families: if mom or spouse says it, it doesn’t hit home, but if a paid professional explains the same thing, it seems to make sense.
Well, things are still far from perfect on the dog ownership front, although he’s been with us for eight months now. But, he’s my running buddy, the kids’ playmate (when they aren’t irritated by him and lock him out of the TV room, that is), and my significant other’s companion when he’s sitting at the keyboard, writing. I still need to go back to training sessions to find out how to stop him from digging holes in the beautiful flower beds my boyfriend plants or from pawing his way out of the yard into someone else’s. But when I catch my partner petting Toby or sweetly planting a kiss on his head—I’m glad I rescued him from the shelter, giving us all the chance to learn from each other and grow together.