Theoretically, I’d wanted a dog my entire life, but it wasn’t until the beginning of last summer that I suddenly realized that, maybe for the first time ever, there wasn’t anything stopping me from actually getting one. I worked from home, rarely traveled, and with the help of my therapist came to realize that a dog might actually be really good for me.
Of course, once I started telling people about my decision, the opinions and advice flew freely. “You’re getting a puppy?” people said. “You should really get an older dog. A puppy is a lot of work.” I explained that I actually wanted to do the work and was looking forward to the training process, but still, people pushed back on me. “It’s worse than having a baby,” they said. “You’ll never sleep,” they warned. “Just make sure you’ve really thought it through,” they insisted.
What I realized, however, once I was living with my puppy was that though people had aggressively warned me about how “hard” it would be, that was really the only “advice” they gave. All of the real stuff that went along with having a dog for the very first time — no one thought to give me a head’s up on that.
I’m not complaining. Bringing an eight-and-a-half-week-old Saint Bernard puppy into my life has been maybe one of the most exciting and rewarding things I’ve ever done. But the learning curve has been fast and crazy. Monkey’s just seven-and-a-half-months now, so I know I have a lot more learning to do, but here are just a few of my biggest discoveries thus far.
I didn’t think that having a puppy would be free, of course, but I also didn’t realize quite how expensive my little guy would be the first few months. Just getting set up — crate, toys, bowls, food, collar, puzzles, collars — cost hundreds of dollars. It didn’t help that he outgrew his first crate, leash/collar, and toys so quickly either, meaning I was buying another bigger set of everything after only a month or so. Then throw in the vet bills — shots, heartworm medication, and one emergency visit after a very bad bout of diarrhea — and suddenly my savings account had several thousand dollars less than when we started. All this before Monkey was even potty trained.
Part of the reason I got a dog was to help get me out of the house more and be a little more social. But, ohmygod, I had no idea quite how social I would have to be. It’s tapered off slightly now that Monkey is a little older, but in those first months, 95 percent of people who saw Monkey wanted to play with him — and in most cases, also get a photo. I literally had a woman tell me she saw Monkey and jumped off of the train, four stops before she was supposed to, because she just had to meet the little guy. The thing is, I actually love how happy Monkey makes people. He’s super friendly and it’s fun to have people tell me their whole day just got better after spending a few minutes with him.
BUT (and sorry that there’s a but) sometimes I actually have places I need to be. Or I’m just taking him outside so he can potty and I don’t actually want to stand there for 10 minutes in the freezing cold. But mostly it’s frustrating that people don’t seem to care if I’m trying to train him or get him to potty outside. But that, I learned, is on me. It’s my job as Monkey’s mama to tell them that he’s in training. That he has to sit before they can bombard him with kisses. And that if they really want a picture, they’ll get a much better one if I hold a treat just out of view of the lens.
It’s actually shocking to me how many strangers have given me unsolicited advice about how to train my dog. From what kind of collar/harness he should wear to who should eat first, I’ve gotten an earful from people who probably wouldn’t go into a McDonald’s and lecture all of the parents in there feeding their kids Happy Meals.
Unfortunately, the opinions don’t stop with training advice, either. There’s a lot of judgment — A LOT of judgment — about the fact that I have such a big dog. According to a large subset of the people who stop me to meet Monkey, I’ve done zero research about Saint Bernards, but not to worry: They know everything and they’re happy to tell me all of it.
Monkey and I don’t sleep in the same room, but that’s about the only thing we don’t do together. If I’m showering, he wants to lay on the floor and occasionally stick his head behind the curtain to make sure I’m still there. If I’m watching TV, he can’t bear to anywhere but within slobbering distance. If I go on a walk or to run an errand, there’s no point in leaving him behind as it’s just a wasted opportunity to get him exercise. And because I watch him when he goes potty, he insists on … well, some things can be left between me and Monkey, I suppose.
But sometimes he drives me bananas. It’s a lot to have a puppy. He takes time, energy, money, patience. As I type this, he is sniffing at my computer looking at me with those big brown puppy eyes just begging me to play. And there are certainly instances when he’s incredibly annoying (like last night at 4 a.m. when he just had to go outside to poop), but mostly I love him with every ounce of my being. My brother says a dog can’t be your best friend because a best friend should be able to talk back. I say Monkey’s the best friend a girl could have and I can’t imagine my life without him. Plus, let’s be honest: Monkey may not “talk,” but he’s never failed to get his point across.
And that’s the thing. When people said Monkey would be hard work, they meant it and they were right. What they forgot to add was all of the stuff above. And the hard work? They never said that it would be so very, very worth it.
Did people give you advice when you got your dog? What did they say? Talk to us in the comments!
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