16: How Dogs Have Changed My Life
Updated: Dec 4, 2021
Howdy! While growing up, I moved a lot, changing guardians on occasion. I didn’t consistently have the same pets throughout my childhood, but I usually had pets. As an adult however, I put off getting a dog for years. First, I don’t know how to drive and until moving to Texas, we, the fiancé and I, didn’t have a car. We didn’t need one in Albany NY or Philly PA. Second, we travel often, and planned to move frequently. Dogs aren’t super conducive to travel. Third, money. I had concerns about the costs of keeping a dog in good health. Full disclosure, I have not had a regular doctor since I was in high school. I’m 31. If I can’t justify the expense for my own health, how would I properly care for my dogs? All valid reasons. But, having a dog has been on the fiancé's bucket list since forever. Now that he has a decently well paying job, we decided it was time.
First we adopted Samwise, a six month old dachshund-German shepherd mix. I spent a month training him every single day. We followed Zak George’s youtube videos and subscribed to his Perfect Puppy in 30 Days ongoing tutorial, following the steps provided. I really liked Zak George’s positive reinforcement method for helping Sam to learn tricks. I don’t think Zak George’s methods for curtailing bad/harmful/annoying behavior was as effective. Turning around has not taught my dogs not to jump, for instance. And it’s a fine idea not to use the dog’s name while chastising them, so they don’t associate negative emotions with their name, when there is only one dog. However, a month or two later, we fostered and eventually came to adopt our, then, ten month old Chihuahua-pittie mix, Sonmi.
For Sonmi, we followed the Zac George method again, daily reviewing what Sam already knew. It mostly worked. Training her took longer because she and Sam didn’t get along as first, and they were prone to distracting each other during training sessions. Now they're about 2 years old and they love each other. They know sit, stand, stay, down, jump, shake (paw), other paw (switch paws and shake), orbit (walk around my legs), leave it, Samwise knows Bang! (play dead) and Sonmi knows bunny (sit pretty). They won’t do tricks unless they’re offered treats but they absolutely know them. Yeah, they jump on everyone who gets close to them, bark at anything that dares inch too close to our apartment, and Sonmi plays tough on leash when she sees another dog/cat/squirrel, but they’re dogs. Aside from the jumping, I’d argue those other behaviors aren’t an issue. At 30lbs each , the jumping annoys some guests, and I have to stay on top of their nails or they’ll claw the crap out of my legs every time they greet me at the door. We are working on the jumping.
How have they changed my life? Well, I suffer from social anxiety which was exacerbated by working home in 2019. In case I wasn’t awkward enough when I saw and spoke to the same peers everyday, suddenly I was only speaking regularly to my fiancé. You can imagine how my lackluster social skills declined during that period. Then I got the pups and started going to the dog park sometimes as many as 3 or 4 times a day, at least once every day. Turns out, the dog park isn’t just great for socializing my pups. It also forces me to interact with my neighbors. This also led to the generally non confrontational me arguing with neighbors. One guys’ dogs are aggressive and he brings them to the dog park, meaning we have to leave whenever we see him coming. One guy started throwing out dog park toys claiming concern for animal health, when really, his dog has toy aggression and he didn’t want to have to put toys away every visit. So that’s some drama I wasn’t expecting. Not only do I have neighbor friends, but I also have neighbors I wish would move. Pros and cons I guess.
My fiancé and I travel less now. We have to plan ahead and have a dog walker scheduled if we want to take a day trip out of the city. We have to book a boarder (at their house, not a kennel) if we plan to be gone for more than a day. Sonmi has epilepsy and receives Phenobarbital every 12 hours. This means I have to be very careful who we hire to board them. The dogs are too big to fly with unless we are willing to stow them and we are not.
Sonmi can't miss a pill or she might have a seizure. We are very on top of their vet appointments. Both dogs have health insurance and are up to date on their vaccines. When they get sick, we go to the vet right away, or as quickly as the vet will let us. Recently Sonmi got ringworm from the dog park. Aside from putting her on another pill, while she had ringworm, I was bathing the dogs every three days with antifungal soap, washing the laundry daily, and vacuuming. I’m not generally a clean freak but ringworm, which is contagious to dogs and humans, stressed me out.
Before Sonmi was diagnosed with epilepsy, I wasn’t a morning person and didn’t live by a set schedule. Now, I do. I wake at 8-8:30am on weekdays, feed the pups, medicate Sonmi, walk them, work, make & eat my lunch, feed them, walk them, work, walk them, make and eat dinner, feed them, medicate her, walk them, and do whatever I want for the rest of the night. Walks take up a lot of my day which takes from work time but means I’m leading a less sedentary lifestyle than in 2019.
In short, the dogs have made me more social, more active, forced me to be responsible about time management, but we have to travel less frequently. We’re considering buying a house in the next five years, something we didn’t want before as buying a property means being stuck in one place, but the pups need a yard, and it’s hard to find rentals with yards. Also, of course, the pups are very sweet, fun, funny, and we love them. They absolutely spark joy.
Thanks for stopping by! I put out a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!
TL;DR: Dogs have made me more social, more active, forced me to be responsible about time management, but we travel less.