Adjusting to the Dog Life

Adding a new member to your family is always an adjustment. New babies bring sleepless nights, new feeding schedules, and some pretty spectacular messes. Plus lots and lots of new ‘gear’ that takes over your house.

It turns out that adding a dog to your family follows exactly the same patterns.

For the few first nights that he was with me, Buddy woke in the early hours of the morning and whined to be let out of his crate. I would obligingly stumble outside with him, then stagger back to bed, and attempt to reclaim my sleep, an experience that brought back blurry memories of nighttime feedings with my children. It wasn’t until I touched bases with a kind soul at the humane society that I realized I was being played. She gently reminded me that, whilst living at the prison in the Mutts with Manners program, neither dogs nor inmates were permitted to go wandering about at 3am, inside or out.

Well played, dog. He knew a sucker when he saw one.

He still wakes me promptly at 6am on the weekends with earnest demands for breakfast but I don’t hold it against him. That’s our normal weekday wakeup time and he can’t be expected to know when it’s Saturday.

Other life adjustments have been more positive. I’m easily hitting 10,000 steps most days and have dropped a couple pounds through regular dog-walking. The trade-off has been risking shoulder dislocation on those daily jaunts as Buddy is very strong and very keenly interested in squirrels, cats, other dogs, shadows, leaves, and pick-up trucks. My kids keep asking if they can walk him, and while I admire their interest in taking responsibility for the dog, I just laugh hysterically when they ask.

But what of messes, you ask? The biggest advantage to adopting an adult dog rather than taking home a cuddly puppy is that you can skip the whole housebreaking step. There have been no accidents inside, but there are other kinds of messes to be made. We learned quickly that Buddy hates to be left alone in his crate and will enthusiastically shred any soft object he can get his teeth and paws on, including blankets, sleeping mats, and the flannel sheet I had lovingly draped over the crate to make it feel like a snug and cozy “den.”

So we installed an outdoor dog kennel – 10 feet by 6 feet – which he likes much better. At least until the rain moved in last week. The silly creature refused to retire to his doghouse and instead spent an entire day lying forlornly in the rain, a situation relayed to me by a kind neighbor who keeps an eye on him.

But never fear. I devised a plan.

Single-handedly draping a large plastic tarp over the top of a six-foot-high chain link enclosure is a little tricky, however. Doing so at dusk in a steady drizzle while your children pop in and out of the house asking when you’ll be done, if they can have (another) snack and whether you’d be willing to pause for just a moment to download a new game onto their Kindle is noticeably more difficult.

However, I am a strong and confident woman and thus I finally managed to rig the plastic tarp over half the kennel, securing it was plastic cable ties. I tested the runoff potential by heaving the dog’s water bucket onto the tarp. I don’t think I even need to tell you that the water immediately poured onto my head because that’s the kind of story this is.

Also, it hasn’t rained since. Of course.

So we’re adjusting to life together. I’m learning to avoid stepping on slimy, drool-soaked tennis balls and Buddy is learning not to chew on my daughter’s stuffed animals. I’m learning not to leave food sitting on the kitchen counter and Buddy is learning that it pays to gaze lovingly at the children while they eat. There’s give and take, but I think he’s a keeper.

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