It’s been a while since I’ve had a puppy in my life! 5 years ago in fact! I’ve invited fellow blogger Chloe from Mesmorisingme to share her compelling and heart-touching story about the lessons she’s learnt since welcoming a new puppy into her life. I can certainly relate to a lot of what Chloe is saying and I’m sure you guys will agree.
My last dog, Kiera, was my heart and soul. She was my 7th birthday present and I adored the bones of her. Blind and deaf but always there, snoring away or wagging her tail at your scent, she made it to the ripe old age of 15. When her kidneys failed and we had to put her to sleep it broke my little heart and for the past year our whole family struggled with coming to terms with a household without the patter of friendly paws. Empty, is what it is. And unfriendly. And no longer a proper home.
So in June, after having moved out and lived with my boyfriend, Tom, for several months (he’d lived with us at the family home previously so it felt like longer!) we decided that in the spirit of making this new place, our first place, a welcoming abode, a canine companion was exactly what we needed. 15 years of raising and loving Kiera had me a little dog-obsessed, I’m not going to lie, and Tom’s family similarly had always had a pup about the house. We thought we knew it all. We had this down. We were PROS.
We were wrong.
Here’s just a few of the things I’ve learnt over the first few months…
New Puppies Never Do What You Want Them To Do
This seems obvious, but it isn’t in practice. When you are used to having a grown up dog, you fit into each other’s routines and learn what is expected of each other. Kiera was allowed on the furniture and pretty much anywhere in the house because we trusted her implicitly. We knew she wasn’t going to chew anything or randomly pee or poo anywhere, and that if no one was paying her any attention she’d just curl up and go to sleep.
Enter Ayra, our very cute bundle of 8-week-old spaniel, who knew NOTHING about any of these expectations. Sure, you know that a new puppy is going to teeth and chew things – it’s a given – but the idea is VERY different from the reality. The panic when you see their mouth go for your phone charger. The hysterical laughter that accompanies them getting caught up in the wire from the lamp and knocking it over – it’s fine, ha ha, no one got hurt, it’s just a lightbulb anyway, ha ha! The frustration when you’re trying to answer emails and they’re trying to destroy the carpet or the edge of the sofa – because they don’t yet understand the concept of “NO!” and even if they do, they frankly don’t give a damn.
It takes patience on a level you don’t think you have. My friend has two toddlers and looked after a puppy for a week and told me that the puppy was harder. A baby stays put in its bed even if it is crying or pooping. A puppy will poo all over your carpet, run through it, trail poo-prints around the house and chew the door frame before you’ve even blinked. And that’s a good day.
The key is to have patience. To understand that they are a baby, that the world is new to them, and that they, like babies, discover the world with their mouths. It is not their fault. They do not mean to be naughty – they are testing the boundaries and discovering the world.
Also, puppy crates are a thing these days. They weren’t really used much fifteen years ago when Kiera was a pup and I can’t remember exactly what we did when she went mad, but they’re a thing now. They contain pup while you clean up the devastation. They are the time out zone or the safe haven or whatever else you need them to be. Use them.
Every Dog Is Different
Again, obvious, right?! But it was still a surprise to me!
Ayra is so different to Kiera in ways I didn’t even think of, and therefore she presents a whole new set of challenges on the rollercoaster ride of following her ascent into adulthood.
Kiera was totally human-centered – she wanted to say hello to people and was not at all fussed by other dogs (in fact in her old age she got quite cranky with them), and was particularly protective over our immediate family. She’d plod after us from room to room, happy to be wherever we were as long as we were there.
Ayra, although desperate to say hello to every single person in the street she ever comes across, and very attached again to me, Tom, and our immediate families (she will cry if any of us leave the room and try to scratch the door down) is super duper dog-centric. She will pull and pull and try to leap across roads to go and say hi to another dog. She LOVES them. She will ignore every shrill command, every offer of treats or cuddles or toys if another dog is in sight. She absolutely adores them which is something Kiera was just not as fussed by.
She also digs. Kiera only ever dug on sandy beaches which was hilarious to watch. Ayra digs everywhere we go. And I mean everywhere. There are so many dog-holes in my parents’ garden thanks to her. When she was tiny it was cute. Now, it’s very frustrating. I don’t know exactly what to do to stop her as Kiera was never interested in it before. It’s an aspect of puppy-ownership I simply have never experienced, so a challenge I am new to approaching. My fifteen years’ previous means diddly squat.
She’s also a leaper. It doesn’t matter the surface, how high, or how loud we yell “NOOO, AYRA!” She will leap as if she’s a giant or a bird with wings, and we are forced to watch, our hearts in our mouths, as she puts her life on the line time after time. The scariest thing Kiera ever did was chase after rabbits with aplomb, and a worrying amount of success.
Heights don’t scare Ayra, loud noises don’t, new people and new situations don’t – whereas Kiera could be skittish. I put this one down to experience. We learnt from our first dog where we failed in the socialisation window. For Ayra, knowing that I needed her to be a much more flexible, adaptable dog due to me and Tom’s work commitments, I printed out a list of situations I needed to expose her to and made sure I ticked off those suckers ASAP. We went to country fairs for the crowds, screaming kids, and miniature train rides. We met people in wheelchairs, with limps, with walking sticks. She stayed over at friends’ houses from nearly day dot so we were sure that she would be happy away from home if we ever needed a pup-sitter. Her confidence is a testament to that. I think we’ve done a better job this time and I’m kinda proud of that.
They Will Make You Cry
I don’t remember Kiera’s puppydom being very stressful and I put that down to it being 16 years in the past, but also because when it boils down to it, I was a kid. I loved her to pieces and she was my dog, but my parents were saints, and they were the ones who did the hard graft. They quietly got up at 5am when she couldn’t hold her bladder, they braved the pitch-black 6am mid-winter walks, they disciplined so when I got home from school we could just play.
Now, with Ayra, I am the adult. She is my dog, not the family pet, and I am responsible for everything she does. When you put your all into raising something, and do your best, follow all the instructions and attend puppy classes weekly, and they are still tearing around your home and ripping it to shreds, nipping at your hands and growling in defense, it’s hard. It’s hard to know what to do next when you’re stressed and sleep deprived and have a mounting pile of work to get on with. When they won’t listen. When you love them so much and sacrifice your social life and your sleep and your free time to raise them right, and they’re still being a pain in the butt. It’s hard.
I have stood in the middle of my living room and cried as Ayra bites my ankles. I have cried at my friend’s house when Ayra went mental and ran rings around their garden and destroyed half of it whilst everyone else was out picking up our pizza. I have cried when she has growled at me or gone for me in her puppy-defensive-way when I am trying to pick her up when she’s got herself into a situation where she could get hurt. I have felt frustration, and despair.
But every battle I have cried over, we have later overcome. With time, and patience, and with her simply growing up, the puppy nips have stopped. The mad half-hours have lessened. I have learnt to read her better and she has learnt my limits. I feel a deep, fierce pride when I see her behaviour, which I think is pretty good for a 5-month-old if I do say so myself.
Kiera was my tissue for many an angsty growing-up problem, the secret-keeper for many frustrations and fears. I have never cried like I did when we were told we had to have her put down. It was the worst day of my life.
At first I felt guilty for getting a “new dog”, as if we were replacing her or forgetting her. But Ayra is so different from Kiera I know now that we didn’t do that in the slightest. We were simply trying to ease the aching gap she left behind in our lives.
The other day I found a video on my computer of Kiera, walking slow and steady in her old age around the lake, that I had never seen before. I didn’t think any video of her existed; it was a different time when she was a pup. My dad must have filmed it towards the end, knowing we didn’t have long left. Seeing her there in full, multi-colour movement, seeing all those small head tilts and movements that I knew so well and yet had so unthinkingly forgotten already… I burst into tears. I just couldn’t believe it. Seeing her there, living, was just so, so sad.
But then…there was a whine in my ear, and a tongue licking at my salty cheek. Ayra did not want me to be sad. She needed me to be strong for her. She would be my shoulder to lean on from now on, as well as the thing to drive me crazy in the first place.
They will make you cry, but they will also make you happy beyond words. Their loyalty will leave you breathless if you just keep at it through the tough times.