Wednesday, January 18, 2012

to dog or not to dog.

TG and I are in the midst of discussions about whether or not to get a dog. When my sister and I were growing up, we had two cats, a gerbil, a rat, a guinea pig, and a rabbit. Not all at once. Come to think of it, there were never more than two animals in our house at the same time. Now we have two cats. And I have had sole custody for that past 3 years. Stefanie has her own dog now. Todd had two dogs (at two different times) when he was younger. I have never had a dog. (Did you get all that?)

Number one reason why I have always said I could not get a dog: I am not responsible enough. I am not responsible enough to take care of an animal that needs more from me than to put out food and water, clean its litter box or cage, and give it excessive snuggling (a la Elmyra from Tiny Toons). To be honest, it scares the bajeezies out of me.

But I'm not on my own anymore. We're a team. And getting a dog is important to Todd, which makes it important to me. I always thought that when we found the right dog, we would just know. It would be the right time, and everything would just fall into place. Well, two weeks ago we found a dog that I fell in love with. We had seen her on their site previously and when I saw that she was still up for adoption, I immediately thought "It's a sign!" She was a beautiful, small, chocolate and carmel shepherd mix. So we went to meet her at an adoption event. She was the perfect size and very playful. She was gorgeous and smiled all the time. But the rescue group, although they liked us very much, decided to place her in a home without cats. It's understandable, but still it broke my heart. I really thought she was "the one".

The rescue group kept us in mind though, and only days later sent Todd an email about another dog they have in a foster home. He is a little bigger, maybe 50 pounds or so, and could still fill out a little bit more. He's a total mutt... shepherd, rottweiler, hound, pitt bull. Who knows. We met him last weekend. He's very cute and brown with soft ears. His temperment is near perfect. He is mellow and smart and quiet. He ignored the cat that was also in the store. But he just didn't smile at me the same way. He's shy. And that's okay, too. All of the volunteers kept saying what a perfect "first dog" he would be.

So now the panic has set in. This is a life changing decision. Having a dog is not like having cats. It's like having a child. Are we financially able to support a third animal? Do our schedules allow for us to give him the amount of attention and care that he will need? I just don't know if I'm ready.

If you have a dog, how did you know it was the right time to get one? How did it change your daily life? Be honest, I'm not looking for blind encouragement. I need the cold, hard facts folks.

Many thanks.


Sarah Howard said...

Unless you have friends or a kennel that you trust, having a dog makes it really hard to travel. Especially if you have become accustomed to just packing up & going somewhere spur-of-the-moment. Having a dog forces you to come home from work at a reasonable hour (or else you have to clean up a mess because your pup can't hold it forever!), and it can also cut your fun short if you have to get home to feed or let the dog out. Unlike cats that you can just leave some clean water & food and expect them to use the litter box, dogs are much more dependent on you. That being said, it is so amazing how excited your pup will be to see you when you get home, no matter how long you've been gone or what kind of day you've had. We've had our dog for about 4.5 years, and while we shouldn't have gotten her when we did, I couldn't imagine life without her at this point. Good luck with your decision!

Alex Stark said...

We had three cats (the third was a moment of adoption insanity) when we made the very deliberate decision to get our big boy. He's 90 lbs - around the size of a large Golden - and really complicates our lives. We can't just up and leave for a few days and leave food and water out. We have to time our days so we're not gone longer than 6-8 hours, and of course, there's more vet bills and food to consider. All of that being said, he adds SO MUCH to our lives, and we can't remember what it was like before we had him, and truthfully can't even emotionally deal with thinking about how it will be when he's gone. Sure, there are days that we wish we were "fur child-free," but he adds so much more than we had to give up, so to speak. In addition, you would be rescuing him, which is so honorable, so not only would he be giving you something (unconditional love, etc) but you would give him the greatest gift of all - a home. Just my thoughts! Hope you guys make the right decision for you! ~ Alex

Ryan said...

I'm following the same thought-process as you but about a month behind. Keep us posted on what happens!

AImee said...

Hi Stacy! We got our dog Hawkeye in September. She is wonderful and kind hearted but A LOT of work. The two biggest commitments are time and money. First, time: We devote, on an average weekday, about 3.5 hours exclusively to the dog. She gets two hour long walks (once in the morning and once at night) and the rest of the time is devoted to training or play. We are able to do this because I am sitting at home all day studying for the GREs. When I get a full time job we will hire someone to walk her a third time at midday. On the weekend, Hawkeye gets two several hour long walks (of 5 miles or more). She also goes to obedience school (In my opinion, a novice dog owner must attend obedience school- it's less about training the dog and more about training the dog owners).It makes a huge difference in time commitment required if your dog-to-be is already housebroken. When we first got Hawkeye she was only 12 weeks old and not house trained. We had to take her out ever 1.5 hours. This would have been impossible if we were working full time. We got no respite-except (and we were lucky) between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM in the beginning. It gradually got better- she would sleep through the night without having to go out. Your social life goes on the back burner- always. Is is not fair to the dog to leave her for more than 5 hours. If we are going to be gone for more than 5 hours at a stretch we either put her in doggy daycare or hire a walker to come take her out. The biggest drag for us is that you have to take the pup out for walks every day. It doesn't matter if it's snowing, raining, a 105 degrees, etc... Money: Hawkeye had so many health problems in the first few month that there wasn't a week that we weren't in the vet's office. Those possible illness, plus spay/ neuter really add up. Obedience training, dog walkers, pet boarding all cost a pretty penny. Having a dog is a drag. A life altering time suck of a drag. That said, Hawkeye is possibly the best thing that ever happened to us. We go outside every day. we walk a million miles a week. She adores us and we adore her. My advice to you would be to read every book on dog training that you can get your hands on. It will give you a better idea of what you are about to face and what will be required of you and Todd. I'm happy to see that you are so seriously considering the ramifications of dog ownership! Drop me a line if you have any questions about anything.

TheCookieJarvis said...

I really agree with Sarah's comment. We now have 2 small dogs and they do complicate travel plans. You And Todd will also have wo work together to make sure the dog isnt alone for more than 8 hours or so. To me, this is just a way of life and I absolutely cannot imagine my life without my little furry buddies. Bottom line is that you ARE super responsible and already taking this into consideration which means that you would absolutely be a great doggy-mom!

As far as knowing when you find the right dog, I had a similar experience with my first rescue dog. I found "the perfect" dog but they decided to give her to a family with a huge fenced in back yard and stay-at-home mom. I was frustrated but then found a dog that fit with my life style and really needed a home (Pierre!). I do think you will still have doubts and be nervous but you will know if he is the right dog. I was very nervous to get a second dog; the timing is never quite right... But I fell in live with him right away, thought about it for about a week and just knew I had to adopt him.

Good luck and keep me posted!!