How Life Changes After A Dog
Rusty graduated from Basic Obedience yesterday! We still have work to do on leash manners and overall responsiveness, but it has been amazing to watch him learn. Eventually, I'd like to get him certified as a therapy dog (to volunteer to help others, not for me), so our next stop is Intermediate Obedience and then hopefully passing the Canine Good Citizen test. In honor of goodboy's accomplishments (and to mark almost 2 months of having him!), I thought it would be nice to talk about life after getting a dog!
I love dogs, and animals of every kind, really. My previous dog was my first dog, and we were attached at the hip. After her passing, I knew it would be awhile before I was ready to get another — and thankfully, I had the most wonderful housemates and housemate's dog to help me fill that void. That's how Bird came about as well, and we were a big family for a while. I knew I would get another dog eventually — I joke that I was born to be a dog mom — but some things take longer to heal than you'd imagine.
Flash forward to May and seeing Rusty, and after we met him I just knew it had to be him. He's such a pure, sweet soul, and he has been the perfect match. Even still, I can't say that I was 100% ready. The first couple days were hard, but I think dogs are like people; you love each one in a new way, and while it's easy to compare them at first, eventually you learn what makes each one unique is what makes them wonderful.
Because Rusty is older (anywhere between 3 - 6, that is 😂) we don't have to deal with the every-hour potty breaks or destructive chewing. However, since he had an entirely different life before we got him, we do have to deal with showing him right from wrong in his new home and teaching him commands he's been widely able to ignore in the past. Puppies are still WAY harder in all regards, but adopting an adult comes with a different set of challenges for sure.
Our lives have 100% changed for the better after adopting a dog. In a lot of ways it has been seamless — our preferred activities are generally dog-friendly anyway (hiking, breweries, etc.), and he gets more exercise than he probably ever wanted from a new family. We get out and explore more than we used to, and we plan more adventurous, outdoor-centric activities so we can bring him everywhere we go. We have had to spend a lot of money — everything adds up, especially for a dog with skin allergies. But we budgeted for it before we ever started looking for a dog and have been overall well-prepared.
Personally, I love training animals. Watching him master new tricks, solve new puzzles, and develop his skills is the greatest of joys. Between the obedience classes and our extensive at-home work, he has quite a few tricks (and useful commands) up his furry little sleeves. It's been a great way for us to bond, learn from one another, and make sure he knows things we need him to know (such as heel...so useful!). It really doesn't take that much time — just 5-10 repetitions of each command per day — and it makes a huge difference in everyone's quality of life. However, you have to prioritize it if you're going to do it. Dogs need a lot of repetition to learn something, and even more to learn it in different scenarios. It doesn't take a large chunk of time daily, but it does require a repeated fulfillment of your commitment to train.
While our lifestyle overall hasn't changed much, our everyday routines definitely have. Rusty needs walks and exercise and supplements and training and grooming, and that's all on an everyday basis. It's not bad and it's not hard and it's certainly worth it, but people aren't lying when they say you have to start planning your day around your dog. We're very blessed to have flexible work schedules and be able to coordinate one of us staying with him nearly every day. Even in the easiest scenarios, scheduling conflicts come up — but when you have a dog it's an animal's well-being on the line. Planning for daily walks and care is something you have to center your day around (or hire someone to handle it for you!).
Overall, would I recommend getting a dog? Yes! As long as you're willing to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to keep up with it. Because pups can't advocate for themselves, they need humans who have their best interest in mind. But if you're already okay with your life revolving around a dog, definitely spend some time visiting your local shelters — in my experience, when you find "the one", you'll know!