I thought my life was going pretty well. My business was growing and evolving, I felt like I was really making positive progress with my clients, my adult kids have their life on track and I’ve been enjoying spending time with my husband. The last thing I thought I needed was a disruption and certainly not a puppy.

Four Things I Learned and Relearned about owning a puppy.

Then my sister called. She’s the foster mother to many animals and at the time she had this wonderful puppy that she was convinced I needed in my life. My sister was keen on telling me all the puppy’s wonderful traits. In addition to being the cutest thing since Baby Yoda, Rocky was already peeing where she was supposed to at ten weeks old! She was a genius. She was also kind, not aggressive at all, despite sharing space with a bunch of cats and two other dogs. She was cuddly, she sought a warm lap to curl up in and loved hugs. She’d be a great therapy dog when she’s older. I had to ask, “what’s the down side? She can’t be perfect.” My sister said, “Well, she’s a dog. And all dogs are a pain in the ass.”

Of course, she is right.

Four Things I Learned and Relearned about owning a puppy.

1. Puppy’s masturbate.

This surprised me and didn’t at the same time. I got Rocky a stuffed dog shaped toy almost as big as she is because it was sold as a “companion” to newly separated puppies. It comes with an insert that mimics a beating heart. “Your puppy will feel good left alone in her crate with this mommy substitute.”

That was the pitch but that’s not what happened. What happened was my four week old puppy promptly mounted stuffed Fido and went to town until she collapsed looking exhausted but satisfied. 

Wow. OK. I needed to make a bit of a mental adjustment.

Human babies masturbate. It has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with self-soothing. It feels good! As they grow up they just need to be taught that pleasuring oneself is an activity done in private.

So I keep stuffed Fido out of the public rooms of the house and let Rocky have her way with it in private without shaming, or judgment.

2. Puppies are a pain in the ass.

No matter how prepared you think you are to have a puppy, nothing can really prepare you for reality. The same can be said for having a kid, riding a horse or owning your own business. It looks all fun and cool from one perspective, but take a closer deeper look and it’s HARD! In part because all of these activities mean dealing with various forms of poop.

3. Cuddling with your puppy makes you dopey.

I noticed that I could sit with my warm, soft puppy in my lap in perfect bliss for a very long time. I am usually not sedate. I get antsy and need to get up, move around and do something after ten minutes. Was this what it was to be mindful, I wondered? Then I learned that cuddling a pet releases oxytocin in the brain (not to be confused with OxyContin, although I can kind of see similarities). Oxytocin is the “cuddle” hormone. It’s naturally released in the bloodstream of nursing mothers to keep them docile and help them bond with their baby. 

When I was a young mother I was not a fan. Nursing made me feel stupid, dulled my brain and made me the Stockholm Syndromed captive of a tiny infant. Now being older and way too stressed I don’t mind so much. In fact, it actually feels good, meditative, soothing to the nerves. I can feel my blood pressure breathe a relaxed sigh. If we were cats (god forbid!) my puppy and I would both be purring.

4. Puppies are the great equalizer.

Wherever Rocky goes people smile. She could be in her carrier, they smile. She could be tossed across my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, they smile. She could be barking at them ferociously, they smile. When I called to pick up an order at Panera, telling them I needed to dash in and out fast because I had a puppy in the car, they said, “Bring them in!”. I brought her in and people from behind the counter dropped what they were doing to come out to say hi, show pictures of their own puppies and ask all about Rocky’s origins. It’s like that everywhere we go. Rocky takes it in like her due, the star of the show, with patience and generosity. I am the support cast, quite literally since I’m holding her.

So much of being the guardian to a puppy is being OK with playing second fiddle. It happens all the time in life as an adult, by invitation or surprise. Sometimes circumstances enter our lives when we don’t expect them. Even planned change can be a pain in the ass. Then, once we get over being annoyed, we can be open to delight. It could be an addition to the family, someone moving back home, or a pandemic that changes everything. Happiness doesn’t normally present itself as perfect, sometimes it’s hidden pretty deeply, but once we decide to humble ourselves enough to embrace the change and accept the love that comes with it, life is so much sweeter.

Being humbled by Rocky, by the collateral goodwill of her admirers, the bounty of her unconditional love, the spontaneous smiles and laughter that fill my house, makes cleaning up the poop worth it.

dr aletta