When I decided to finally adopt a dog after years of living in a cat-only household, I didn’t even consider getting a puppy. Even “adolescent” dogs who no longer looked like puppies, but were bouncing off the kennel walls, still full of puppy energy, seemed like more than I was willing to take on. In the end, I adopted Maybelle, who was estimated to be about four years old and who had already had many puppies of her own.
My choice, in part, based on my deep sense of social responsibility. I know that puppies are easier for shelters to place, so I figured it was my duty to adopt an older dog. I also have this feeling that, no matter what, you never really know what you’re getting with a puppy. When you adopt an older dog, you can find out what their issues are, for better or worse. Beyond that, I look at my friends who opted for puppies — from rescues as well as breeders — and the damage those puppies inflicted on their homes, and I think, “Nah, not for me.”
But the other day, my boyfriend said something that got me thinking: “You know, Maybelle has such a sweet disposition, and she’s so good with everyone, it’s too bad she’s spayed.” At first I didn’t understand what he was saying. Somewhere in Georgia, there is a county likely filled with speckle-coated, bat-eared dogs who Maybelle gave birth to — and even if she hadn’t already been a puppy-making machine, I wouldn’t want to contribute to the overpopulation problem. But what he was really saying is, “I wish we could have another dog just like her.”
It’s been a very long time since I’ve lived with a puppy. When I was about 11 years old, my family got a little fluffball who would one day grow up to be a German Shepherd. We already had an adult Shepherd, Bear, who we had rescued from an abusive situation. Like so many rescued dogs, he was instantly grateful, and other than a few weeks of excited peeing every time we came home, he was never destructive. The puppy, of course, was a different story.
Initially we tried to keep him in a corner of the kitchen at night, but his pathetic little puppy cries were too much for me. More often than not, I would sneak into the kitchen and sleep beside him, which earned me even more love and loyalty than what he showered on the rest of the family. Luckily, though, those nights didn’t last for long. It only took a few weeks to house-train him, but that was mostly thanks to the guidance of our older dog. The puppy had a role model, and that made everything easier. In comparison to many puppies I’ve known, his reign of terror was brief and relatively tame. We have Bear to thank for that. So I often wonder if — someday — I should get a puppy for Maybelle to help train.
There are also times when I look at Maybelle and some of her more stubborn behaviors and think, “Maybe if I’d gotten her as a puppy, I could have prevented this.” Other times I think, “She is a remarkably confident, friendly, loving dog, and maybe if I’d gotten her as a puppy I would have messed her up.” After all, whatever her life was like before I adopted her, it produced a wonderful dog. Could I have done as well?
The truth is, though, I have the perfect life for a puppy. I work from home and can easily stick to a potty-training schedule. If I had a puppy, I would, very quickly, sign up for a puppy class (or two because, c’mon, puppies are cute, and I want to see as many as possible without actually having to live with them all).
But there is also the fact that puppies are, generally, a giant pain in the butt. A few years ago, when I was volunteering at a shelter, we ended up with a very young puppy. I showed up one day to walk a couple of the older dogs who called the place home and ended up being sidetracked by the adorable little guy in the office. After 15 minutes of his puppy biting and obsession with my shoelaces, I was glad to get out of there and take one of the mellow old guys for a spin.
I can just imagine sitting at my desk, trying to get work done with a puppy trying to eat the slippers off my feet. It’s hard enough with cats lying on my keyboard and Maybelle staring at me — her way of reminding me it’s time for a walk. Adding a puppy into the mix seems like it would definitely tank my productivity, but I still can’t discount the idea completely. They’re just so irresistible!
Do you dream of having a puppy around the house, or are you happy to be living with a mellow old dog? Tell us in the comments!
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About the author: Theresa Cramer is a journalist and editor by trade, an NPR addict, and an avid gardener. She blogs at Writer on the Prowl, where you will find pictures of her garden, her pets, and musings about whatever is on her mind. She is working on a book about content marketing and how to make the transition from journalist to brand journalist.