A few months ago, while waiting in our laundry room, I saw some magazines left on the table. I picked one of them and started flipping through. Being in a not so very happy period of my life, one article drew my attention: Give yourself a happiness makeover. Beneath the title: Longevity expert, Dan Buettner traveled the globe to discover what makes people happiest. This caught my attention more than the title itself.
Essentially it was an article about how to improve your happiness in 10 steps. I normally don’t read that crap but then I thought: what the heck, it won’t hurt me.
So here are a few steps listed in this article:
- “Make the most of your mornings.”: CHECKED. Two kids (one newborn), three if counting husband, four if counting a recent (at that time) addition of a high-maintenance puppy to our family. I didn’t even remember my mornings…I didn’t even remember my name!
- “Stop spending; start saving.”: Don’t have much to spend or save, I thought. CHECKED.
- “Get a daily dose of friends.”: Well, I have 303 friends on Facebook…CHECKED, right?
There was even advice for those who don’t go to church: “Start going.” Duh!
Anyway, the list went on, and then, there it was, the golden advice: “Gain Peace With a Pooch.” Now it got more interesting!
It said that when some smart woman with a PhD “studied 240 married couples, she discovered that the presence of a pet was more effective than a spouse or a friend in easing the effects of stress.” The conclusion was that pets foster self-esteem, calmness, soothing and feeling of acceptance. To sum it up, the author said, “so visit your local animal shelter and consider adopting one (pet).”
And I say STOP WHERE YOU ARE. Getting a dog (puppy or a rescued shelter dog) is a huge decision which could shape your life, your relationship, your child(ren)’s attitude toward pets, and your character (the most). Of course those who have no problems with their puppies or adopted dogs are very lucky. I envy you.
I am a dog person, always have been. When I met my husband I instantly fell in love with his dog. I am not really sure which was first: love for the dog or for her owner…
The thing was that when we first met she was 6 years old and so well trained I felt sorry for her. She was too good to be true, and I felt like she was not allowed to be a dog. There would be a bowl full of food standing in front of her and she wouldn’t touch the smallest crumb of it until she was released to do so by an “ok”. She would sit there all day waiting for the release command. Then I came along and life changed for her. She was allowed to sleep on the bed with me. She was allowed to be in the kitchen with me. She was allowed everything. I spoiled her rotten. Today I know I did wrong, but this piece is not about her.
Anyway, about a year ago a decision was made. My husband decided he was ready to start his business and that required buying a new dog. He decided to get a pure bred puppy from a breeder. We’d talked about it, and I’d expressed all my worries in this matter. At that time I was in the middle of my second pregnancy and the vision of having to take care of one more baby was terrifying. I was afraid that at some point I would be left all by myself with all the responsibilities that are attached to having a puppy.
I didn’t really want another dog. I wanted her even less when it appeared that we would have to give our old dog to my husband’s parents for at least the first year of the puppy’s life. When that came out; I already hated the new dog.
My husband assured me he would take care of the dog. He picked the breed and he picked the breeder. When the puppy was ready to be picked up we packed both our kids (the youngest was 4 months old) and in one trip we said “see ya later” to our old dog, and we picked up the puppy.
During the first several months after the puppy came into our lives, we suffered terribly. My husband is the mentally strongest person I have ever known, but this puppy drove him to the state of depression and resentment. I was, not intentionally, forced to take the lead and take care of the puppy, plus the baby, plus the two year old.
She was picked to be a good working dog, but at the same time she was the last breed you would want to pick if you have small children around and no time to take care of her at all. She was a crazy, high-energy, kicking, pushing, scratching, biting dog. And she was aggressive towards people (not towards us, but towards other people and their dogs).
I could barely manage her. I did some basic training with her but that was a drop in the ocean. She needed way more than I could give her. We did not have the space she needed and we did not have the time to take care of her needs. She did not seem to get the idea of potty training what so ever…and the truth is, neither of us had the patience or energy to manage another child.
After-pregnancy shape – forget about it! I lost it all within several weeks of the puppy being with us.
Baby finally sleeps through the night. Well, there is puppy that just pooped in her crate for the 3rd time this night, so you better forget about sleep, get on your knees and scrub.
I did not remember my name or what day of the week it was. I cried a river because that dog made me feel like I was the worst person on this world just because I didn’t like her and didn’t want her. I wanted her to be gone so bad like I have never wanted anything else in my entire life. How can you not like a puppy, a dog? How?, I was asking myself. So many times I sat down to write about my feelings and the whole situation, and the only words that came to my mind were: “I hate her, I hate her, I hate her.” It came to a point when I was ready to give my husband an ultimatum: me or her. I thought I could not go on a day longer.
Our relationship suffered terribly; I was depressed, exhausted and angry. Angry at myself and angry at everybody around me. My husband was depressed and frustrated with me because he thought I didn’t understand. He thought I was being impatient. Our kids, but especially the youngest, hated this terrible creature who scratched her, pushed her, and kicked her all the time. Our first child was raised to love dogs because since she was born, she was around a very calm, loving and submissive dog.
Our second child was on a path to become a person who hated and/or would be afraid of dogs, and I hated myself for that too. I saw that happening and I didn’t know how to change it or fix it.
The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that at some time in the near future, the puppy was going away for training. She would be gone, and when she came back she would be different; she would be trained and she would have a purpose in her life – and in ours.
Today, we have our two dogs back. It’s crowded in here, but we are happy and looking forward to what the future will bring. We have (barely) survived one of the life’s lessons. Now, when somebody says: “If you are bored, or want to be more active, consider getting a dog.” I know what bad advice that is. I know that because of articles like the one I read, people make decisions to get a pet and there are more and more abandoned dogs out there. Shelters are filled to their limits. People seem to think of dogs like toys (like a new elliptical), instead of kids.
So, if you consider getting a dog, please think twice…and then one more time…and then once more. Think of all the consequences of bringing a dog to your home. Do a research about the breed, or if you want to adopt, get to know that dog first. Learn about the dog’s past and all his/her potential problems, and think about whether or not you can deal with them. Don’t play a tough cookie by saying: “Oh, we’ll be just fine, it’s just a dog.” Be honest with yourself. The dog deserves that, because the dog is not just a dog, it is a family member who will need the same, or even a greater amount of love, acceptance and work than your own child or human partner.
Are you a pet owner? If yes, what’s your story?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer Ewa Samples “Mom Photographer” from California.
The photographs used in this post are attributed to the author.