I said yes to getting a puppy.
Yes, I finally capitulated, after 4 years of harassment, to the begging eyes of my husband, son and daughter when they showed me a picture of the cutest beagle puppy anyone had ever seen, all alone without any brothers or sisters in the big scary Puppy Prison. Can’t you just see their lower lips quivering?
I’m far too sensible and old for this kind of behaviour – I already have two feisty little beasts who require constant attention and a grown up version who’s not much better. My writing career is starting to kick off and I hardly have time to brush my hair anymore. Why oh why would I want to introduce another personality, another responsibility, and 20 other jobs into the mix?
I refuse to take full responsibility for the complete decision-making process, mind you. I caved in to those pleading looks of my little family and the ongoing barrage of benefits… #1 son will stop being scared of animals, we can take her sailing with us, we’ll be better parents (???), the kids will learn about responsibility (????), we love dogs and are dog people, and the one that sold me completely… It will make us all happier, darling.
Maybe I was feeling unhappy at the time and I wanted a little ray of sunshine to brighten up my life… What on earth was I thinking? When do I EVER listen to them? Never! So why now?
When I said, “Oh, alright. I suppose there’s never a good time, is there? Let’s do it today”, I could not believe the words actually came out of my mouth. Like those little cartoon bubbles that you can’t take back because they’re already out there and everyone has see them.
It’s not like I’ve just done the other unthinkable act, and cancelled TV for a week as a behavioural consequence – heaven knows how often that one backfires on me so I should have learnt my lesson by now.
No, it’s much more serious than that.
A dog is for life, not just for a whim Christmas.
This time, I’ve committed myself to at least 15 years of a new relationship. One that starts off very similarly to the newborn baby phase. Only this time, there are no nappies and blackout curtains do not work, so my our daily routine now starts at 430am.
And the worst of it is that I actually knew what I was in for AND it is much worse than I expected. WHY DID NOBODY WARN ME?
So here goes. I will take up the mantle on behalf of all the people who are suffering, or who have suffered from, PPD. Post-Puppy Depression.
IF YOU ARE THINKING OF GETTING A NEW PUPPY, THINK VERY HARD AND THEN THINK AGAIN.
They wee on your new floor boards and expensive fake Persian carpets that you used to love lying on. Sometimes you can’t see the wee because it’s the same colour as the floor or because you’re my husband. So sometimes it seeps UNDERNEATH the three coats of laquer you’ve just been assured will seal the oak boards and stains the wood. At the front door. Where everyone can see it.
They poo a lot and if you’re not as fast as lightning, they eat it too. And then they want a kiss and wonder why you’re screaming away from them at breakneck speed. Which then turns into a game and they rip your new dress with their cute little paw nails. That need clipping professionally so you don’t make them bleed.
They want to chew your new shoes. Your only pair of glasses. Your 80 year old copy of Little Women that belonged to your great Grandmother.
They cost a lot of money. ALL THE TIME! Vaccination, $250 and a failed upsell by the vet for pet insurance. Sore bottom, $250 and a smirk from the vet because you still haven’t bought pet insurance. Ate your child’s neon glow stick and is foaming fluorescant blue at the mouth. $250 into the vet’s hands that are rubbing together with glee because you STILL haven’t got that insurance. And now it’s too late, because your 14-week-old puppy has pre-existing conditions.
Drugs for dogs cost at least 100 times more than drugs for people. Maybe even 1000.
And that’s before you pay $100 per bag of food that only lasts a week. THAT’S MORE THAN I PAY FOR A FAMILY OF 4 PEOPLE WHO EAT STEAK!
Did I mention that when you lock them in their pen while your race to the shops, they howl and bark and cry and jump on their hind legs a lot, which the neighbours will tell you about every time you see them. This strenuous activity is even more terrible when they do a stress poo and run it up and down the veranda where you left them to keep safe. You decide the guilt is too great and the cleaning fluids are too expensive, so you start ordering food online because you feel terrible about leaving them alone.
Then you have to really go out one night. Just for three hours while you celebrate your birthday. You leave puppy in the bathroom where it won’t wake the neighbours. It still wakes the neighbours AND it paints the bathroom with poo, which is just what you need to clean when you come home after 27 cocktails in your new Sacha Drake dress. Then 43 years of age is not the new 30, people. It’s the new 75.
Did I mention that puppies get up for a wee at 430am, a play at 5am and a poo at 530am. Then they race past you into the kids room to wake them up too, so the whole family is sitting there, staring into space over the breakfast table two hours before they normally are, while the puppy decides it’s finally time for its morning nap.
Oh yeah, and how could I forget? You find out that the beachfront apartment your father-in-law has recently bought DOES NOT TAKE PETS! So you say goodbye to all those wonderful weekends away you’d been planning with the family. For the money you pay the pet hotel, you might as well stay and pay at the pet-friendly apartment next door to your father-in-law.
ARE YOU GETTING THE PICTURE?
Now, I’m going to be a bit more serious, which should scare you because up until now I’ve been nothing but serious.
I am starting to love this puppy, there’s no doubt. She’s getting better trained every day, and my stress levels have dropped significantly. The children adore her and laugh more than ever. The husband loves her too and particularly enjoys falling asleep with her draped across his neck.
I am the one who does the majority of the work and care. Even though I grew up with dogs and can happily call myself a dog person when I’m patting somebody else’s, it was really my own mother who did the majority of caring for the animals in our house.
IF you decide to get a pet, please remember all of the above. Yes, the love will come, and yes, they are very cute. But if you are not ready for the time and responsibility it takes to bring that pet into your family as a valued member (albeit the bottom of the pack), then wait until a time when the responsibility can be shared between all members of your family, or when you’re in a quieter place.
It will save your sanity.
Millicent, our 3 month old beagle puppy has been watching me with eager, brown eyes and droopy, flopsy ears the whole time I’ve been writing this.
Sigh, here come the guilts again.
Come on dog, let’s go for a walk.
Caylie writes weekly essays on her blog, Distractions of a Busy Mother, to help people feel less alone through shared laughter, tears and inspiration. She works to transform everyday events into vivid sketches, showing an understanding of what parents, women and people in the community are going through.
Her first book, Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers, is now available for purchase online, at selected books stores and via her website.