Pet Parenting
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My New Year’s Resolutions to My Dog

This year, I vow to be a better pet parent -- and that includes kissing my dog's head every time I put his leash on him.

Wendy Newell  |  Dec 30th 2015


As 2015 comes to a close, I’ve decided that my New Year’s resolutions will focus on my dog, Riggins, and how I can be an even better mommy to him as he gets older.

I’m no good at annual resolutions. Usually I don’t pretend that they will stick and don’t waste time making them, but last year, I actually did think about what I would like to do differently and came up with three health-related ideas:

  1. Drink alcohol only on weekends and when out with friends.
  2. Cut out sugary desserts.
  3. Cut out Diet Coke.

No. 3 got broken first. It was changed within the week to “have only one Diet Coke a day.” It didn’t take long for that to morph into “whenever I feel stressed,” and then it went out the window altogether. No. 1 and 2 went to hell in a handbag during a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. It’s impossible to celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans without a drink in one hand and King Cake in the other. Did I give myself a good talking to about getting back on track when I got home? I did not.

wendy

Riggins and me. (Photo courtesy Wendy Newell)

This year, as my 10-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer mix is solidly in his senior years, I decided to evaluate our relationship and focus my resolutions on being a better caretaker to him. There is a much better chance of me sticking to Riggins-related goals than the whole “not drinking” thing!

Here is what I came up with:

1. Make more Mommy-and-me time

Cuddling with Mommy on the sofa. (All photos by Wendy Newell)

Cuddling with Mommy on the sofa. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

As a dog sitter, I rarely have just Riggins in the house. Usually I have one, or two, or three four-legged friends following me wherever I go and happily plopping down at my feet or in my lap when I sit down. Riggins usually just watches this parade with a “you have got to be kidding me” look. He doesn’t see the need to follow me around like, well, like a puppy dog.

I have carved out Riggins-and-Wendy snuggle time early in the morning each day, but I need to add more. I don’t want to look back and think I spent more time cuddling other dogs than my own baby boy! I recently tried to make the living room a “dog-free except Riggins” zone. Then I got tired and didn’t have the energy to put up a fight against those pups who thought they needed to sit around and watch TV with me. I’m going to go back to making that a Riggins-and-Wendy room, one where my sweet boy and I can cuddle and hang out together — alone.

2. Cut down on the adventures

Riggins on the trail.

Riggins on the trail. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins, the pack, and I head out on an adventure every day. Usually this means hiking one of the trails in the area. Riggins is getting older now and has slowed down a lot over the last few months. When it is time to go hiking, I usually let him decide — I’ll ask, “Do you want to go?” It’s rare that he doesn’t make a beeline for the car and jump in. He doesn’t want to be left out!

I tell the parents of my guest dogs that it is on the third day of adventures that I can really see a difference in their pups. They go from crazy, out-of-control balls of fur to more well-balanced (aka tired) creatures. Imagine if your mom was the head counselor and you had to hike every day!

Although the outdoors fun is good for him, I don’t want to push Riggins past his senior limits. He isn’t going to stop himself, so I have to do it for him. Starting this year, I’m going to cut back his hikes to no more than three a week. For the days when he gets to stay home and hop back into bed, I’m going to have some of his favorite treats stocked just for him. He may be a little bummed at first that he isn’t going out with us, but I can guarantee that once he gets a treat in his mouth, he will forget all about being ditched!

3. Keep his weight down

Riggins getting ready to steal food from his human cousin, Logan.

Riggins getting ready to steal food from his human cousin, Logan. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins has always been too muscular for his breed combo. Between the human-food-heavy diet and his daily exercise, he has the build of a linebacker. He was named after a running back, John Riggins, so I suppose he is just trying to live up to his sports-themed moniker. It isn’t the healthiest weight for him, though, and the past 10 years have been a constant battle between his nonstop hunger and food drive and my wanting to keep him slim and trim.

I’m afraid Riggins isn’t going to like this resolution very much, but it has to be done. No more human food. Oh, who am I kidding? That isn’t going to happen! I need to at least make these resolutions real enough to give myself a fighting chance at keeping them. Let’s say I only give him doggie-approved human food like chicken, carrots, apples, etc. That will just have to be good enough this year!

4. Buckle up

Riggins NOT buckled up.

Riggins NOT buckled up. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Once again, this is for Riggins’ own safety. Riggins has always worn a doggie car-restraint halter, and after doing research for a story about the safety of these products, I upgraded him to the safest one available (per third-party crash tests): the ClickIt Sport by Sleepypod. When I have just Riggins in the car, I don’t hesitate to buckle him up, but when I’ve piled the car full of dogs, it is just an extra step I don’t make time for. That isn’t right. I need to make time for the safety of my baby boy. Going forward, Riggins is getting back into the habit of buckling up!

5. Kiss on the head

Smooches on Riggins head.

Smooches on Riggins’ head. (Photo courtesy Wendy Newell)

I used to give Riggins a kiss on the head every single time I put his leash on. It didn’t matter if we were just going for a walk around the block or if it was after an epic hike, he got that kiss. He seemed to like the attention. Of course he did! Riggins likes any human attention.

As my pack grew, taking the time to kiss Riggins’ head just went away. I’m not very happy about that, so I’m bringing it back. Watch out, Riggins — I’m coming to smooch you!

I consider myself a good dog parent, but I admit there are things I can do to get better. These New Year’s resolutions should help push me toward epic doggie-mom status!

Do your 2016 resolutions include your dog? Tell them to us in the comments below!

Read more about Wendy and Riggins:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.