Petey was our family dog for 15 1/2 years. When he died, we all took it pretty hard, worse than I expected. In fact, I’m getting all choked up again just writing this. I don’t know how it happened. I was never a “dog person.” But this animal was, and still is, a part of me. The ache inside was exactly like losing a human family member. In the late stages of his life it was so similar to what I had experienced when my grandparents passed. We were all desperate, doing anything to make him comfortable and each day longer we had him, it was emotionally gut wrenching. Until finally, it was time to let him go. He snuggled up in my husband’s lap and closed his eyes. His work here was done.
When he was gone, we all cried a lot. However, it wasn’t long before our twin 10-year-old boys started hinting for a puppy. My husband and I kept saying we needed some healing time, when in reality we’d been secretly scouring rescue websites like Crossing Paths and the Sato Project for our new family dog. Without our pet, the energy in the house was different. Something important was missing. So we pulled the trigger and applied for a puppy.
We didn’t tell the kids until we were on the way to pick him up. We couldn’t bare anything going awry and having to assuage more tears. Upon the reveal they were beaming with joy, I mean really gushing. We were convinced we’d made the right decision. This new puppy was going to make us all happy and healed again. And he did—at first.
He was cute as a button, snuggly and right away slept through the night. Then it quickly took a turn and thus began the biting, scratching and maddening high pitched barking. The worst though was the creeping silent resentment between my husband and I. Like with anything new—a baby, a house, a career change—you think you’re on the same page, but then you’re both overworked, tired, stressed, irritable, and more than anything want the other person to acknowledge that, and be the one to make it better because they love you right? And here is the root of the problem. You forget you are both experiencing this. It is not just you.
Somehow, I had forgotten that 15 ½ years ago when we brought home our first puppy, Petey, my hubs wanted to return him after only a few sleepless nights of puppy walks and whining. Just like with a newborn, we block out all the hard stuff and only remember how precious they were. It’s a trick, a mind game most parents fall for and end up going through again, in some cases multiple times over.
So with each inconvenient walk, feeding or chewed something or other we start to inwardly blame each other’s incompetence. If you can relate to this you need a reality check—PRONTO. If not your marriage will suffer.
Here’s what we learned (though it was harder and took longer than necessary):
1. First off, it’s the puppies fault—not anyone else’s. Like with kids—it’s you against them. Just because someone’s eyes weren’t glued on the dog it does not mean they shoved the shoe in his mouth and made him chew it. With a new pup you need a united front and all hands on deck—kids included.
2. Second, talk to each other about what you expect and want so you aren’t fuming inside if it doesn’t happen. If you still want your morning run make arrangements, or if neither of you want to leave a neighborhood party to go let the dog out—take turns!
3. There will be accidents. They are accidents, that means not on purpose. You are dealing with a newborn animal. Be mad about the accident not at the people around it.
4. Split the work. Because that’s what it is—extra work. Right off the bat decide who is doing what. That way everyone gets a say in what works for him or her.
5. Most importantly, remember you’re all doing your best. Hopefully you entered into puppy parenthood with a full and open heart. For us, we had never just let each other down. We had to remember our intention was to bring more love and happiness into our home and this puppy phase was not going to break us.
6. Remember it’s just that—a phase. A year from now things will be so much easier and much more fun.
Our puppy, Bowie, now almost 7 months old, has stopped running away, is house trained, is mostly past the teething stage, and he loves his crate. All of that helps us get along. He still however barks incessantly, jumps, unintentionally scratches us with those sharp puppy nails, and chews our stuff, but day by day it does get easier. Amongst the chaos this new puppy brings daily our marriage is surviving, and believe it or not yours will too.