Raising Puppies and Babies – Part 1

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series.

But too soon I was tearing my hair out. Yes, she had accidents, but more than that, I couldn’t get the hang of what a puppy’s schedule should look like.

Almost two years ago this November, we knew that our beloved dog, Fable, was literally on her last legs. A second tumor had appeared on one leg, and we decided not to operate a second time. We debated when to put her down. There was no good time with my husband’s heavy overtime schedule. Ultimately, she just succumbed on the landing of the stairs in our basement in early January 2013. That evening, in the dark, we lovingly buried her on our almost-frozen land.

A month or so later, my husband had a semi-serious auto accident. He went through rehab and six weeks of disability. Our winter blues were chased away, however, when we learned that we would finally be grandparents! Two babies were on the way to two daughters in different states. During that year, we took a nice vacation out west, participated in baby showers, and arranged schedules to be with our daughters for/after the big events. All good reasons to put off getting another dog.

Still it was always a backdrop to our conversations and thoughts. What kind should we get? When? A puppy or an older dog, already trained? We went to an animal shelter twice but learned the older dogs were frequently aggressive around cats. Not good, since we had two of them. We also didn’t want to purchase a dog, when there were plenty of dogs just looking for good homes.

The first week of October, we checked the local newspaper and sure enough, someone was giving away puppies. We called, drove to their farm, and fell in puppy love. On our drive home, puppy in arms, I felt like a new mother riding home from the hospital: blissfully in love with our new little darling. (Only, babies do not ride home that way anymore!)

We had about one afternoon of new puppy paradise. We played in the grass with her, noted how well she listened, and praised her for going potty. We posted a picture of her and asked for name suggestions on Facebook, and were soon flooded with ideas. We settled on Velvet, for her smooth short black hair.

But too soon I was tearing my hair out. Yes, she had accidents, but more than that, I couldn’t get the hang of what a puppy’s schedule should look like. She seemed hungry all the time, so I fed her frequently. So of course she went to the bathroom frequently. Ugh, no fun. I couldn’t remember the specifics of dealing with our last puppy—no surprise there because two of our teen/young adult daughters were living at home that summer, and promised to take over all the “puppy work.” Their dedication that summer made up for the years their pet hamsters interrupted my sleep too many times by escaping their cages.

Having just come through, vicariously, our daughters’ first year with their real human babies (born last year in September and November), I found myself comparing the new puppy phase to the new baby phase. Your routines are totally turned upside down. I didn’t feel like I could take a shower for fear the dog would get into something. I didn’t want to go to my early morning exercise class because of leaving the dog alone in the house for an even longer day, so I dropped out. I even drove home at lunch—a 16-mile drive round trip—to check on the dog for the first week and a half.

I thought about keeping track on paper of when she eliminated, as our daughters did with their newborns (keeping up the hospital routine). Eventually, I decided Velvet could eat just twice a day, morning and evening, about 12 hours apart, with tiny dog treats between meals to reward her or keep her hunger at bay while I worked in the kitchen.

We were harried and disappointed enough at one early point to consider taking her back, or find a new home for her. The animal shelters are too full of such “failures.” Were we cut out for parent puppyhood anymore?

A dog is a big decision and I will never again chide older persons who say, “We think we’re just too old to get a dog”—especially a puppy. Having a baby is an even bigger decision—no one should try to talk a reluctant participant into it.

I’ll have more on the topic of raising babies and puppies next time.

I’d love to hear your comments or experiences with puppies! Send to Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802 or. Or comment on the Facebook page for Another Way Newspaper Column.

Posted 11/6/2014 7:00:00 AM

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