I fear that I have become a bit of a cliché. My third child starts junior kindergarten and suddenly I am walking to school leash in hand, fluffy miniature furball behind me. There are a number of mothers who got puppies when their last child started school as some kind of salve against empty nest syndrome (as if that precious two hours a day is really an empty nest) and now I have joined their ranks.
We are on Day Two of living in the puppy-hood and I was planning on writing a post on how much work it to have a puppy and how it’s just like having a newborn but without the pain and the ability to eat whatever you want, but really he has been pretty easy. Of course, as soon as this post sees the light of day, I am sure I will have a mini-Cujo on my hands.
There are definitely some similarities between having a 10-week old Shi-poo and a newborn. I am completely housebound but instead of having to feed a baby every three hours I am standing outside in the slush every 45 minutes. (Though, I just realized that today’s outfit of sweatpants and ratty sweatshirt are from my new-mommy days.)
Just like toddlers, puppies seem to be programmed for suicide, they are constantly underfoot, chewing things they shouldn’t and have no sense of safety when it comes to ledges or sidewalks. Luckily, it is socially acceptable to keep a puppy on a leash.
People keep warning me that if we don’t start our puppy off right then we will end up with a disaster on four legs. My friend who is also in the first few days with a new puppy is so wound-up about the schedule that she is reliving her anxieties of being a new mother. My husband and I had a new parent déjà vu last night when we woke with a start at 4 a.m., realized that the puppy hadn’t woken up and started debating if we should check on him, just to make sure he was still alive. Then our seasoned parenting inner voice spoke up: never wake a sleeping baby.
Puppies, like new babies, attract old ladies, teen girls and preschoolers like flies to honey. Weary mothers of multiple kids just look at me and ask why I would do such a silly thing as add another needy being to my household. To which, I have no good answer. Just like the desire to have another baby, adding a pet to the household is one of those emotional, no-good-reason things to do.
There has to be a prime mover when it comes to getting a dog, and in our house it was definitely my husband. Having a dog is part of his “have everything his childhood lacked” moves; kind of like colour television, a car with automatic windows and no formal religious training. Despite my reluctance, when my hubby looked at me with his puppy dog eyes and said, “I just always imagined that we would be a family with a dog…” How could I say no, or at least how long could I say no for? (about a year, it turns out.)
My husband is continuously trying to channel Cesar Millan from the Dog Whisperer. I find him muttering “calm, assertive energy” to himself and me at least 100 times a day. He has taken Cesar’s Way to heart and he is becoming very knowledgeable about pet theory, I am hoping that he puts it into practice on the kids too, because any calm energy is greatly appreciated around here.
I think that when we pictured bringing a dog into the house we pictured the family would rallying in a after-school special kind of way. And it has, but I forgot to add into the fantasy the sheer competiveness of siblings as they each jockey to be the puppy’s favourite. But we operate on the theory that the more love and joy there is in the house, the better. And a dog will definitely bring love and joy (along with poop and vet bills). And we all look forward to the funny stories, the comfort and the cuddles because just like having a new baby, having a dog brings out the best (and worst) in everyone.
And by the way, we haven’t settled on a name, any suggestions? (He came with the name Joey and his brother was Chandler and Joey is starting to stick.)