Why you should get a puppy

Remember when I told Robb he shouldn’t get a puppy?

Please stop taking my photo, and let me sleep.

Please stop taking my photo, and let me sleep.

Well I did promise on Facebook and in the comments to talk about the pros of puppy-hood, and then I sat down to write it and it was hard. I have disdain for expressions of affection.

It hasn’t always been that way, but lately I don’t like, “honey,” “sweetie” or “babe.” There’s just no way to say them and not somehow come across as patronizing and condescending as though the person I am talking to, however dear to my heart they might be, is a small child.

So yes, I don’t usually use terms of endearment. Hell, I struggle to express positive emotions. I’m comfortable with anger, fear, regret, annoyances and negativity. But throw me some happiness; and fuck all if I know what to do except smile stupidly.

However I am endeavoring to change this with the cutest puppy in the universe with a face that just says, “baby talk is appreciated.” So after much struggles to get in touch with loving emotions, I bring you reasons to own a puppy. (Or other cute cuddly critter of your choice.)

He likes to lay on legs and feet when he's extra tired.

He likes to lay on legs and feet when he’s extra tired.

1. The snuggles

When Zed is not around, he has a replacement. The puppy!

Truthfully even when Zed is around Archer gets loved on an awful lot. He is great at cuddling and loves to nap with me. The best feeling in the world is watching TV with a dog curled up on my feet. So comfy, so cute!

There’s something super sweet about knowing every time I come home a little fur ball is excited to see me. (Even if it does mean he pees everywhere.) It’s nice to have something to take care of, to throw all my nurturing, mothering instincts on to all the time. And he can’t complain! I mean he probably thinks he’s freakin’ go it made what with the regular food, walks, play dates, snuggles and snacks, but as the giver it’s pretty satisfying to watch a little thing grow up.

Even if it is just a dog. Conveniently I am way more comfortable with rolling with the punches when small children are around now. As an exercise in patience, raising a puppy has done more to calm me down than any other life activity.

Although I still struggle with calm, patience and routine, the pup is a good reminder of why it’s nice.

How can you resist this face?

How can you resist this face?

2. The people 

I don’t know what exactly it is about a dog that makes people better. (Or makes me like people more.) On our walks, Archer is the harbinger of conversations.

“Oh, look at that puppy!”

“Can I take a picture?”

“What kind of dog is she?” (They always think the boy is a girl. It’s white fur, peeps, not genitalia.)

Strangers are pretty comfortable with trying to pet him, even though his default is to hide behind me. At the dog park, waiting for a light to change, hustling him to finish his business, it really doesn’t’ matter where my dog is or what he is doing, people want to talk to him.

But dogs can’t talk, so they are stuck talking to me.

And dare I say, it’s…nice. I’ve met many more of my neighbors since I’ve started dragging Archer around. I’ve met a lot more dogs too. For the most part, it’s a positive experience, the chats bring a little moment of human connection. While I’m slightly embarrassed by Archer’s shyness, I’m thankful for the opportunity to just talk to other people. For the most part, they’re pretty nice guys and gals with their own dog stories to share.

When you put the phone down, can we run?!

When you put the phone down, can we run?!

3. The activity

I am not by nature a particularly healthy person. I’ve been blessed with skinny genes and high metabolism. Occasionally I do yoga, Pilates or go for a run, but none of it is regular activity. Even now I’m doing my best to devour a pound of pretzels as I type this.

However a dog that must be walked means a human must walk, too. I do my damned best to make sure we don’t do much more physical activity than the minimum required, but just being outside more often is invigorating. I love the discovery of the neighborhood and the city our wanderings have taken us too. Without a pup, I wouldn’t know how close I live to Memory Grove, City Creek Canyon or the Children’s Museum.

(I also wouldn’t have a chance to keep tabs on the neighborhood real estate which is a slightly different obsession.)

I totally get why dogs are an outdoor persons’ thing now. And I think my 40-pound pooch was a nice compromise for my inner couch potato who needs an ass kicking out-of-doors every once in a while. And maybe someday, he’ll be well enough trained we can even try some off leash adventures.

Scratch! Go? Scratch! Go?!

Scratch! Go? Scratch! Go?!

4. The structure

There is something nicely reassuring about knowing each day the dog will wake up with the dawn and need to wee, walk and eat all before the sun is fully over the Wasatch Mountains.

It’s not as though I can’t live with routine, but the dog has forced me to figure out a schedule. It keeps him happier (and asleep at night) and keeps me more productive. Although I can’t control a lot of aspects of my day to day, like when sources can interview, just having a bookend to each day is really nice. Our morning routine and bedtime routine are pretty set by now. I honestly think the morning and evening walks make it easier for me to take care of myself.

Maybe that’s silly or immature or whatever, but I’ve always struggled to stick to a schedule on my own, with a dog around it’s easier for me to heft the responsibility of regularity.

As I said the cost of loving Archer and living with him is extremely high and sometimes much more difficult than I anticipated, but I’m not ready to trade him in. I love my monster.

I mean look at those goddamned ears! And that face! It’s like a bat, cat, doggie baby that just needs to be squeed over!

You are totally missing the people watching!

You are totally missing the people watching!

Isn’t that just the crux of human-ness though, “Fuck all logic, it feels nice to have this thing to take care of, so I will.” Well played evolution, well played.

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Dog days of summer

If only, Archer would sit this still in the car.

If only, Archer would sit this still in the car.

With the weather warming up, I’ve got summer travel on my mind. One step to making this summer more adventurours is taking the dog along. I haven’t traveled with a pup before, and I’m a bit nervous. What is the safest way for him to be in the car? Will he get car sick? How often will we have to stop? What if it’s too hot and he gets sick? How much water does he need? Will he ever learn to stay still during a car ride? Do they make doggie diaper bags for all the crap I’m going to have to pack for a puppy?

Seriously hard questions to dwell on.

And find workable answers to.

Did you know there is pet insurance? And a whole network of people dedicated to returning lost dogs (and cats) to their owners?

What?!

There is a strange world out there of dog obsessed owners. And I am one of them. Kind of. I thought I was, and still think I am whenever I’m looking over my bank statements. But then I saw National Geographic’s “Spoiled Rotten Pets” and realized I have managed to keep some semblance of sanity. (The show has seen been on hiatus after six episodes.)

Traveling with my pup may be a bit on the extreme side, but good Jesus, he is not ever going to have a bachelor party. Actually he most likely won’t ever have a party at all. As much as I want to dress him in cute little hats, I will resist the urge as long as possible. Because I can’t be that crazy dog lady.

Okay?

So yes, he will go on the road with me at least once. (Although Zed has pretty much forbidden Archer from our anniversary trip.) I think I’ll just stick with crate, regular food and water and plan on lots and lots of carsickness from the pup. And maybe plan on drives taking extra time with frequent stops along the way for him.

Maybe it will be nice to have a ready-made excuse to stop every couple hours. Although it’s already feeling like an exercise in extended car travel. This is one five hour drive that’s going to take seven, I suppose.

Suddenly sleepy snores

Sleeping Archer

After a morning of beef tendon chewing, puppy chasing and running away, Archer decided to pass out next to my desk.

He snores in his sleep sometimes. It’s cute. So of course, I had to film it. He wakes up a bit when I turn the camera on him, but around the 40 second mark he lays back down and gets his snore on. Apologies for the shakiness and low quality. Next time we’ll get fancy. And maybe catch the monster chasing birds in his sleep.

Since last week’s ode to non-ownership, I’ve decided to focus a bit more on the pluses of puppy love. And the cuteness factor is a huge part of it. The most adorable times are the sleepy times sometimes.

Why you shouldn’t get a puppy

My new baby boy from New Mexico. An adorable red heeler/lab mix.

“Aw, he is so cute! He can’t possibly grow up!” I stupidly thought.

My friend, Robb has a bit of a pet obsession.

He doesn’t own a pet. His complex doesn’t allow for any. But he and his girlfriend are cuddly, snuggley animal starved. He really, really wants a pet. He posts lots of cute pictures of fluff. He has even mentioned he may need an intervention.

As much as a I love the cuteness of puppies and kittens he posts on his dash, I can think of a million reasons why no one should get a pet. Robb, here’s your intervention. It’s also called reality.

If you don't see dollar signs when you look at this photo, you don't own a dog.

If you don’t see dollar signs when you look at this photo, you don’t own a dog.

1. Monetary Cost

Owning and caring for any pet is going to cost a bit of money. Obviously a goldfish is cheaper than a puppy. But I own a puppy so I’m just going to break down the cost of Archer in my life.

Food: $30 a week (Admittedly I could buy something cheaper, but I spoil the hell out of the monster.)

Treats: $15 a week (Right now this includes special treats for training as well as chew toys which he goes through at an alarming rate.)

Adoption: $250 (Yes, that was the cost to bring him home. It did include his vaccinations, neuter and microchip as well.)

Training: $80 (For one six-week course. I’m paying $100 for another eight-week course at the end of the month.)

Dog stuff: $100 (This includes two beds, toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, a few toys and leashes. I’ve only included the cost of one of his three crates since I was given two for free. The final crate runs about $120.)

Rent: $100 deposit, plus $25 a month (My lease mandated a pet rent as do most apartment/condo/houses. My rate is quite low for the area although many places are pet friendly.)

Additional costs: I haven’t included the cost of the clothes, shoes and furniture that has been ruined by excrement, biting, clawing or other puppy behaviors.

Total Cost Over Four Months: $950

When I think about how much money I’ve spent in the past four months on this pile of shedding white fur, I get a little misty eyed for the alcohol, movie tickets and restaurant meals I may have bought. Hell, I probably could have a plane ticket at the going rate of owning one puppy.

Admittedly cost of ownership will go down as he graduates from training and he stops outgrowing everything. But still so. much. money.

"You will never leave me and not feel guilty."

“You will never leave me and not feel guilty.”

2. Time

Personally I wanted a dog for companionship and to force me to create more structure in my day. (The bane of self-employment.) No alarm clock will ever drag me out of bed faster than a puppy’s bark at 6 a.m.

However I never considered the cost in time each day it takes to care for a dog. Admittedly Archer’s breed mix is much more active than many others out there. Nonetheless, each morning we spend 30 minutes to an hour eating, walking and training. In the middle of the day, I take him for another shorter walk of about 15 minutes. If he is still excitable, I will ask the neighbor dog to play for 30 minutes or so, or I will play with him until he mellows out enough I can get back to work. Then again in the evening, he needs to be fed, walked and trained. Typically this takes an hour to an hour and a half as this is the most active part of his day and ensures a slightly later wake up call.

Total Daily Time: 3 hours

That’s about three hours of my day given over to puppy care. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it sure feels like a lot when I’m planning interviews, social events and dates. A number of my social activities have become dog social activities so I can pair dog care with human interaction time. I don’t mind the change as it’s healthier for me to, but it’s been a huge adjustment. Dog park friends at 8 a.m. is a little different from drinks at the bar at 8 p.m., y’all.

3. Training

A puppy must be trained. Archer has gone from adorable sleepy pile of fur to energetic, lively pup who must chew everything. As cute as he is, working out his energy is a daily chore. I have spent money on training lessons which I desperately needed. The lessons take about an hour a week, plus the hour or so drive time to get there. I spend time each day practicing commands with him. However any dog/human interaction often necessitates further training.

For example when a niece or nephew visits, Archer has to be reminded constantly that children are not puppies. They can’t and won’t play with him like dogs.  Any time I’m cooking, cleaning or eating, Archer has to be continually reminded not to jump on counters, legs or steal whatever is in my hands. He is slowly learning to wait patiently for his turn. But it’s a hard-fought and ongoing battle.

Anyone with a dog will tell you consistency and boundaries are key to a well-trained dog. I struggle with consistency all the time. There are moments, like when I’m watching “Game of Thrones,” I don’t want to play with the puppy or discipline him for getting into the bathroom trash for the millionth time. But I have to or he will continue to get into the trash. It’s an ongoing war.

Total Daily Training: There are not enough hours in a day to quantify this.

Of course, I work at home. My puppy and I spend far more time together than I do with any human. If I had a job outside of my house, I would most likely enroll him in doggie day care which costs about $200 a month in SLC. The other option is to keep him at home. For Archer this means he would spend roughly 16 hours a day in his crate, since non-crated alone time results in destroyed furniture and decor.

Speaking of destroyed things, let’s take a moment to remember a white rug, black couch and clean floors. Archer has poohed, peed and vomited on nearly everything I own. Sometimes it will clean out, but not always. He has peed in stranger’s houses, family members homes and even in training class. He is definitely an excited pee-er. I have also become obsessed with excrement as will any dog owner. Here’s the thing, a puppy can’t talk. So about the only way to check his health is to look at his doo-doo, observe his behavior and give him a good once over during brushings. The pooh is disgusting. I have to clean it up, so I will notice when something is amiss. Trust me when you’re in the middle of the conversation about Fido’s shit and the rug fibers you discovered as another dog owner relates finding jewelry in a pile of pooh, you will wonder where you went so, so wrong in life.

You got a puppy.

Before anyone adopts a puppy, think long and hard about the costs of ownership. It’s a huge cost. As my brother in-law says, “It’s as close to having a kid as you can get.”

Truthfully there are several times where I have thought about returning Archer. I love him, but the cost of loving him is incredibly high. My life before him was much simpler. However my commitment to the rescue, him and myself, keep me in it despite the hard times.

Despite the negatives there are positive times, like how he loves to curl up on my feet and sleep. Right now, those quiet, peaceful moments are more meaningful than ever before. The first time he “stayed” when I told him to for more than about three seconds, I was so excited he thought he won a marathon. Compliments from strangers on how well he “heels” for a puppy are the highlight of walks. We’ve come a long way, me and the puppy. I wouldn’t trade him, but damn if I could go back to February, I’m not so sure I would adopt him.

Shh…don’t tell him. 

Archer has no interest in anything I have to say when birds are present.

Archer has no interest in anything I have to say when birds are present.

So lucky he’s cute

After the "big trouble"

There are rare moments in my life where something happens, and the event is so clear, sharp and crisp I know I will always remember it. These events are not always positive, a few are terrifying, others hilarious and some fall in between. This morning was one of them.

Archer decided 4 a.m. was an acceptable time to wake up. He made his “I need to wee” whine; so I obliged and let him out. We settled back down for a few more hours of sleep. Then at 7 a.m. we did our usual breakfast and play time routine.

Once he was settled in with a chew toy, umm…adult things started happening away from the puppy. He decided to investigate what the people were up to. I felt some licking on my feet. Zed asked me what the pup was doing.

“If we ignore him, he will leave.” I said trying to focus on the naughty business.

Archer barked loudly over and over again. His barking set the neighbor dogs off and soon the entire building was awake and annoyed. Eventually Archer quieted when he decided he had mine and Zed’s full attention. He was handed a bone and sent on his way.

Then things heated up again.

However Archer was not to be left out of the action. Suffice it to say the scenario (sexy times-dog bark-end) repeated itself at least twice before Zed and I gave up. My dog is the worst cock blocker in the world!

He was in big trouble. We suffered through the usual disciplinary actions “Stop!,” “No, Archer!” and even a few smacks. He was temporarily banished to puppy prison as well. After all the trouble-making, Zed left. I made coffee and tried to plot revenge against the pup. Is it a crime to kill a puppy?

He is killing my love life!

I can’t live life as a nun because of a dog. My patience is over; and Archer knows it. He has spent most of the morning slinking around, under and behind furniture.

He’s lucky he looks so adorable and apologetic when he’s hiding under my chair.

What is that?

This is what happens when a curious pup meets a camera.

This is what happens when a curious pup meets a camera.

Eee! Archer is getting so big! And loud! I introduced him to my camera yesterday. The end result was an awful lot of close-ups as sniffed and snuffled at the black box making noise and flashing lights at him. He was not a fan.

Of course, he’s generally not a fan of anything that takes my attention away from him. This has led to separation anxiety as I mentioned on Facebook. Luckily tons of people have put forth lots of helpful advice, so hopefully this problem will be fixed quickly and effectively. (You guys are awesome! Thank you so much for all the help!) Soon the neighbors can have their peace back, and we can go back to quietly hating each other without the intervention of the landlord.

Ah, silent hatred…it sounds so utopian.

Stay tuned for training updates! I know you’re dying to hear how well mirrors, music and crate-training work to keep a pup quiet when I’m away from home.

Wish us luck! And thank you, thank you for all the advice!