For anyone who has not yet had the opportunity to adopt a newborn puppy, don’t expect to single-handedly pick out your pup. In fact, don't plan on picking at all. As past and present dog owners know, it is customary that your future friend picks you. You, personally, have no say in the matter at all. One little ball of fluff will take a special interest in you and from there you will melt into a puddle of gooey happiness and amazement that the most perfect pup from the litter has set its sights upon you. You will be its whole world and it will be yours. And I mean your WHOLE world. As you pack your little friend into your car, expect your time, money, and patience to stay behind as you dive head first into the shallow water that is puppyhood.
Stage 1: Cute and fluffy
At first, your new pup acts timid, maybe even nervous as you start on your journey home. The car ride may be traumatizing but it’s ok, you hold the little fluff in your lap in an attempt to comfort it, never considering that you may have just sparked a horrible and hard to break habit. But it’s all good, you’ve made it, and now it’s time for him to become acquainted with his new home! You show him every room and explain what happens here and there, and finally set him down so he may begin navigating on his own. Instantly, your new found bundle of joy squats and lays down a massive puddle of urine; then scampers away feeling refreshed and re-energized! You’ve met the first challenge of puppyhood: potty training; but it’s ok! He’s just a little guy anyway! You jump on the mess. You’re committed to your new friend and nothing can come between you. Once the little happy-go-lucky ball of fur falls asleep, you tuck him into his perfect, new dog bed. And now, if you’re like me, it’s time to settle in five inches away from the sleeping puppy and wait for his little eyes to open again.
"So help me, God, I will be the first thing you see when you awake," you think to yourself.
Stage 2: The Potato Days
There will be so many of the “Cute and Fluffy” days that you will feel a false sense of excitement as your puppy moves into what I call “The Potato Days.” Your little fluffy friend will finally begin to play and move about more comfortably than before. (You’re relieved, for a minute you were worried the little dude would never get up and play). Still rather small in stature, that luxurious puppy fur grows wild, and for a moment, your friend resembles more of a potato than a puppy. He plays in the flower beds. It’s cute when he digs and bites pant legs, fingers, and toes. He still potties in the house but you are diligently taking him outside every hour on the hour in an attempt to get a head start on the training. Meanwhile, he is developing his voice with little “yaps” here and there, oh how sweet! What a pokey little puppy! What a deceiving happy thought, but at least you can bask in ignorance for a while. What could ever go wrong between you and your best pal? The thought is inconceivable.
Stage 3: I’m fairly certain a tiny demon lives inside my dog.
Next comes an astonishing and unexpected transition. Your furry little friend went from cute and spunky to wreaking havoc upon your once perfect home. Hundreds of dollars go to pet stain remover, puppy pads, crates, doggie day care (because the thought of leaving him home alone sends shivers down your spine), food, treats, training classes, vaccines, grooming, and much, much more. He’s a money vacuum! How did this happen?! Every single shoe in your closet sports tiny pinpoint teeth marks and frayed edges. In fact, chunks of shoes, furniture, garbage, and excrement litter every room you so excitedly presented to your adorable monstrosity the first day he arrived. What happened to the sweet playful pup that was here for two weeks?! You’re ire grows and you almost resent your so called “best pal” as you clean up one mess and he has somehow found his way into another. This stage can be hard. Some handlers never make it through, but trust me, all this chaos will be worth it in the end.
Stage 4: Negotiating
Finally it seems like some of the puppy training classes you have so diligently attended are finally starting to sink in. Though the chaos around the house has hardly simmered, you are managing a little better. You two are figuring each other out and you’re developing a system. Every now and then (mostly when your pup is sleeping) you catch a glimpse of the moments that are so precious about owning animals. A real connection is forming and you realize that he picked you for a reason. He knew you needed each other and together you can be a family. It’s a process of give and take, pull and release, command and reward. Together you can figure it out and you both will be better for it.
Stage 5: The proud mama
Finally, things are working out. Your pal is still a puppy so you may still be dealing with the same problems but it’s all becoming much more manageable. You two can read each other’s thoughts and know each other’s facial expressions. You completely rely on one another. The most satisfying aspect of this stage is how you’re faithful friend stays right on your heels when you leave the room, they run to you when they seek safety, they may even run to tell you of the new friends they made in the dog park before they go back to running with the big dogs. You’re oh so proud of the little monster you have raised and if anyone were to speak ill of your baby then they would certainly feel your wrath. You belong to your dog and your dog belongs to you. You are one proud mama!
While raising a puppy you may wonder if you adopted a puppy, a toddler, or a demon, but it is an experience I believe everyone should have. Loving a pet is unlike anything else as respect, trust, honesty, and kindness play a surprisingly large role in training your pup. Don’t worry, take the leap, adopt the dog, stick with it and I can assure you, you won’t regret a single day.