You’ve had your new Christmas puppy about, what, a week now? His puppy breath still smells delicious and he’s small enough to pick up and carry around like a baby, for just a little while longer. But you can say it, to me, because I already know. Your puppy honeymoon is over. His adorableness is now measured with mild aggravation because he is essentially a 10-pound wrecking ball. I get it. I’ve been there many times.
I’ve been on vacation, so my own dog Scout (7 years old, Yellow Labrador) and I have been spending a great deal of time together. It’s what I like to call too much togetherness and in those less-than-endearing moments, I think about you folks who just got a puppy for Christmas, and I worry about what’s going to happen once you find out that it’s not always easy and funny, like in the movies.
You have some hard years ahead.
For example, did you know that…
Being barefoot is dangerous from now on, forevermore. Your puppy will learn to stand impatiently beside you and beg in the kitchen as you cook, he will try to cross through doorways with you at the exact same time, and he will cross in front of you at the precise moment you lift a heavy basket of laundry, at which point, even after he weighs 60 pounds or more, he will step on your foot and break all your toes. You will trip and stumble through your house, just trying not to die. He won’t even be sorry.
When you are feeding him, great diligence must be taken to hold his food bowl (or your own chicken drumstick or spoonful of ice cream) with both hands and an iron grip. Pay attention. If you aren’t careful, a reckless jump into the air will send all of his food (or yours) airborne and then right underneath the refrigerator. You’ll then spend your weekend pulling out appliances and sweeping. Two minutes of nothing that turned into an hour’s worth of housework. Dogs!
Speaking of breakfast, just try on any Saturday, any Sunday, any holiday or day off, to sleep in. No chance. Your big baby will stand next to your bed and pant his bad breath into your face until you get up and feed him. Flu? Who cares. Is it still only 5 am? Psh! I once tried to retrain Scout to eat in the afternoons instead. He rewarded me by ruining the area rug in my kitchen.
Dogs are unusually inconsiderate and needy. I bet you purchased a nice fluffy dog bed and toys for the little rascal too, didn’t you? Won’t matter. Your dog will lay right at your feet, right up the hell underneath you, leaning against you, instead of on his dog bed. Then, on a random scratching mission he will sit up just long enough to smear his butthole right across the top of your bare foot, like Scout did to me today. Dogs have no concept whatsoever of “spreading out” or “personal space.” I literally wanted to cut off my foot.
Smell something highly offensive? It might be straight up dog fart napalm, and that can clear a whole room, trust me. Dog intestines commit the worst assault on a person on God’s earth. But a dog fart is unmistakable. Instead, that lingering, unrelenting, more subtle stench might be your rugs and carpets. Perhaps your new Lazyboy. The dog very likely ruined them all simply by sleeping there. Anything not tile or concrete has no place in your house. It will stink like dirty feet and pond water in a matter of weeks. I had two rugs, less than 6 months old each, and they had to be demoted to the back patio. In spite of that brand new dog bed I’ve already mentioned, your new puppy will sleep on your carpeted floors not meant for animals, and if they’re sneaky like mine, will mischievously recline on the nice couch when you’re not home, and then your whole house will smell like gym clothes.
No amount of time frolicking outside is too much, and whether it’s ten minutes or two hours, he will not tire. Ever. No amount of exercise will stifle those leaps into the air, the drifting across the floor, the click-click-click of his walking in endless laps around the house. You can scream “lay down” a hundred times and your puppy will still want to go out and play.
Buy all the toys you want. Spend thousands. It won’t matter. He will find your favorite pair of designer shoes. If he’s like my dog, he will also have a thing for eyeglasses and sunglasses too, or books, or monogrammed lunchboxes. No hiding place will outwit the Master. He will destroy the things you love (and need) most in the world. It’s so rude.
Have you ever been about to climb into bed exhausted, only to see your pristine white sheets have dirt and hair all over them? I have! No, of course I don’t let my dog sleep on the furniture but he makes his own rules. He crawls up in my bed or onto the couch when I leave for work like he owns the place! When I come home in the evening, guess where he is? On the floor, where he’s supposed to be. But he can’t strip the beds, now can he? So yes, I know what he was doing all day. Lying around like a king.
You shouldn’t own anything expensive or not easily cleaned. Let’s just say for argument’s sake that you take my advice (see #4) and rid your living areas of rugs and carpets, like I did. Then, let’s say you decide it might be nice to give your little guy a break from the monotony of dog food everyday by serving him up your almost-finished bowl of leftover chili. It’s Christmas, right? Well, I did this and Scout rewarded me by leaving alllllllllll the tiled floors downstairs to go to the carpeted ones upstairs to throw up everything he’d ever eaten since he was born. Not sure how he even made it all the way up there before he barfed, but he did.
Finally, dog owners are hostages. I’m a hostage. To go out of town, I have two choices: (1) take him with me or (2) leave him here with sitters. Both are not suitable. One, he can’t be trusted with others. Labs have too much energy to even think about taking him to someone’s house with me. But I live in terror that he will drag my poor mother to her death if she tries to take him for a walk. It’s safer for everyone if he and I just stay home. Be reminded that other people don’t love your dog as much as you do and won’t be inclined to put up with his needy dog nonsense. I repeat, NO ONE loves your dog as much as you do. No one forgives him of his eccentricities, or his bad manners. If you have someone else taking care of your dog, I swear, they will talk about your dog and your poor dog parenting behind your back, even though it might not even be your fault he’s so…so…so like a dog. I know this because I do it myself.
I tell you all of this out of love.
Not so much my love for people as my love for dogs. It comes from experience. Scout Quarles is, in fact, the most mischievous dog I’ve ever owned and also the last dog I will ever own. Trust me when I tell you that I am going out of the dog-mom world with a mic drop and a bow. Good Night, everyone. Thank you, thank you very much. He’s a sweet boy, the second best dog I’ve ever had after Boo (2000-2014), but he is so much of a handful that I need a new word for handful. Still, he’s mine and I love him. He’s my best friend. But dogs are a ton of responsibility and there are a great many frustrating days, trust me. You should know this.
To me, the only thing worse than having a dog smear his butthole across your bare foot is seeing people start giving their puppies away to strangers on Facebook or to animal shelters in February when they realize, casually, that they’re not dog people after all.
I hope, instead, you’ll start to see your new Christmas puppy as one of your children…a new baby who regrettably poops in your clean car, vomits on your Calvin Klein dress and destroys your tv remote. Like teenagers, your puppy will misbehave and make terrible decisions. But like our 16 year olds, we must not give our puppies away just because we are really, really mad at them and they stink. You also can’t banish your children to the back yard when you’re sick of them. The same should go for your dogs. It’s no kind of life for a creature who is programmed for companionship.
Worst of all is when people say, “We just don’t have the time to spend with him.” Lame. If you say this, you’re lame. And it doesn’t really work like that. You have the time for the things you make the time for.
Dogs are the only creatures – on the planet – who are always glad to see you. They are the only ones who never judge you, criticize you or say hurtful things to you. They will never betray you (unless you count sleeping on the couch while you’re at work). They are the most perfect companion, much better than any human you know. I promise you this. So give your dog a chance to be your best friend, like that best friend you had who was nothing but trouble. Yeah, that one. What happy memories you had, and you will make the same kind with your dog. All the laughs, all the wonders, all the beauty of a truly selfless, unconditional love.
That’s what a dog will bring you if you will just hang on through the tough days.
Merry Christmas! Woof!