The Puppy Blues: Life with and without Harvey

Let it Go quote

Happy new year everyone! I hope you had a lovely holiday season, whatever that means to you. I’m going to start the year off with some real talk. I don’t get too personal on here because although it’s my blog it’s also a place of work and crying in front of your coworkers isn’t the smoothest move. But you know what? Sometimes you just gotta let that sh!t out.

Let it Go quoteConfession: I have a love/hate thing with the new year. I mean, of course I’m grateful to ring in a new year and for all the wonderful opportunities and experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have. But – I actually dread it somewhat because that virtual book of blank pages that lies before me freaks me out a bit. I may be horrible at goal setting but I do think of myself as very self-aware and believe in self-reflection and self-help and there’s a few things I should probably deal with before trying to leave 2016 behind and give’er in 2017. What better way to deal with something than broadcast it to the whole internet, right?! The main elephant in the room being my very short lived life with my dog Harvey.

Just be warned, I’ve already started crying so this may get a little dramatic. You can roll your eyes, I’ll never know.

If you follow on social media you may recall that I was over the moon to announce the arrival of my fur-baby Shih-Poo, Harvey, in late August. I was exuding pure joy in that photo above. I told EVERYONE. I mean EVERYONE. It was a decision that I didn’t make lightly.  I knew it was a huge commitment and would require a life change. It was something I thought about for about 3+ years and even after making the decision and leaving a deposit with the breeder I had 6 weeks before I picked him up to change my mind but I had no reservations. I was so excited. Everything started off great…until it wasn’t.

Surprisingly I got through the toughest part at the beginning fine. I was prepared for the middle of the night pee breaks, change of schedule, constant walks/breaks. Slowly something changed and as he got a bit easier every day, I got a bit worse. I started to feel extremely alone and isolated with my world revolving around this little creature as my doubt in myself and my decision grew. Basically I was suffering the equivalent of postpartum depression but with a puppy instead of a baby. It’s true, puppy depression or the puppy blues, is a thing. Of course it’s not the same as caring for a little human but there are very similar feelings involved and I don’t think people really talk about it because in either case this little adorable creature is suppose to bring nothing but joy. Right?!

Two weeks went by without so much as phone call or visit from any but one of my closest friends. Of course it was my decision to bring a puppy into my life but I would be lying if I said that the lack of support or interest from my friends didn’t disappoint me. Call me old fashioned (I am kinda old after all) but a text message saying “how’s puppy life?” doesn’t really cut it. This was a huge, life changing deal for me and I know everyone is busy but I thought that they would get that, the same way we all make a big deal of birthdays, engagements and the 101 events associated with a weddings followed by the 101 events associated with babies. I mean, let’s be totally honest, a puppy is cuter and way more fun than a sleeping/crying newborn baby. Unless it’s your baby, of course your baby was absolutely adorable!

Without the support I started to close up instead of reaching out for help. The few times I did try and share how much I was struggling, people just kinda laughed it off or told me it would pass. I started to confess my doubts and struggles to poor strangers, neighbours or people I was working with but one look at that insanely adorable puppy face and no one could imagine how I wasn’t over the moon with joy.

Four weeks in and I was feeling completely overwhelmed and alone. Until a puppy is fully vaccinated you can’t really take them around other dogs or public spaces so that’s really limiting when you live in a condo downtown Toronto. Also 10 out of the first 30 days I had him I had to administer medication after a case of worms and one day of non-stop vomiting. That alone can be dramatic for a brand-new puppy owner and brought me to tears a few times. I didn’t blame the little guy, forcing medication down your throat isn’t fun for anyone. I was seeing almost zero progress in the house-training department, which in reality reflects more poorly on me and my training than the puppy. But other than that he actually was very good. He didn’t bark, minimal chewing, wasn’t easily frightened and was extremely sociable. We even started puppy training school and he was better than 90% of the other dogs. So then I started to feel like as ass for not being grateful. I’m telling you, my emotions had me on an insane roller coaster ride. Oh, it’s probably also worth mentioning that I decided it was a good time to go off birth control after 20 years. Soooooo putting my body through cold turkey hormone withdrawal probably didn’t help. Sorry if that’s TMI but it’s the truth.

I kept telling myself I was a grown-ass independent woman who could handle anything, let alone a 7 lb furball, I just had to get through the first 6 months and things would magically get better. Well it might as well have been 10 years because that’s how far away 6 months felt. After about 8 weeks when I was home at my mom’s in Guelph for Thanksgiving and my neighbour picked up on my frustrations she told me she knew a lovely family who recently lost their dog of 14 years that would be interested in adopting him. The seed had been planted. It didn’t take long for the seed to grow and in my state of mind that I had no right to be making any big decisions and after a day where I had wiped up dog pee one too many times I caved and called the family to meet them. The rest happened fast.

I felt extremely sad but confident in the decision at first but almost immediately felt regret. I even tried to reverse my decision but made the whole experience even more dramatic as there were children involved. The feelings of regret I had were 10x worse than the feelings of doubt I had with him. I started to have anxiety attacks which I had never experienced before and I basically was a totally useless human being for at least 2 weeks. Here was three years of anticipation and so much time, effort, and love that I gave and then just handed over after such a short time. Feeling like a failure was an understatement.

I can see now that the dust has settled and I’m thinking like a rational human again that this may seem overly dramatic to some and that there definitely were other options I should have considered and that I was being way too hard on myself but trust me when I say that at the time I thought I was doing the right thing. I’m also ashamed to say that after way too much analyzing, there were many factors involved in how this story ends but I think the house-training (or lack there of) probably was the straw that broke me. I let some dog pee completely crush me when I was in a very vulnerable state of mind. I’m fully aware how ridiculous this is.

I can assure you that Harvey is doing just fine with a family of 5 and a fenced in backyard full of grass in the suburbs. With that being said, if I could turn back time or rewrite this story I would take him back in a second. I think about him a lot. It’s my official first regret in life. I guess at 36 I’m not doing too bad.

I know this opens me up to judgement and that’s fine, but I ask that you please keep any negative opinions to yourself. If you have your own story or support, feel free to share below. I’m sharing my story to help myself move forward and maybe in the process help anyone else who is/was experiencing similar feelings with a new puppy or baby and isn’t reaching out for the support. If that’s you, reach out to someone and let them know that you need help. Don’t let them brush you off. Even if it’s just for them to keep you company while you’re basically trapped at home with your 2/4 legged peeing machine.

I’m also sharing this story for those that are considering getting a puppy. Of course there’s a million reasons to and everyone’s experience will be different but if you’re going at it solo and already anticipate some of the similar feelings that I had then maybe it’s worth a little more time to think about, or perhaps consider a dog that’s a bit older who’s habits (good & bad) you already know. Ironically just weeks after all of this my neighbour asked me to dog sit for her dog that’s the exact same breed as Harvey but 7 years old. It was a test, that’s for sure! But the weekend was great and dare I say more what I originally imagined my life with a pup to be. It did make me wish I could’ve stuck out that trying puppy stage and think about the life with Harvey that I would never have. It also made me realise that I’m not totally damaged goods in the dog dept. and that I am (more than) capable of caring for a fur ball. 

If you’ve got puppy brain at the very least, talk to every.single.person. you know with a dog and ask them to be 100% straight up with you about their puppy experience – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Phew, ok well now that’s out in the world. Let’s move on…..

Dear Self inspirational quote

13 responses to “The Puppy Blues: Life with and without Harvey”

  1. Oh M your story broke my heart! I’m so sorry that you went through all that. Hormone withdrawals and a puppy are a LOT to take on individually, let alone together. I so wish I had been one of the more supportive people in your life. Having a puppy is so so so stinking hard and I can say that confidently after also having babies! It’s part of the reason we rescued a dog that was already somewhat trained, though that also comes with its challenges. I hope you won’t regret your decision for too long, knowing Harvey is happy and healthy, and I just know you’ll take 2017 by the balls and kick some ass (that sounds a little graphic. Yikes!).

  2. I experience something verrrrry similar with our dog Bruce when we first got him. I had been moved half way across the country, new no one, my husband left for 6 weeks less than 10 days after getting our puppy, and I had never raised a dog before. Oh and we were broke, and it was my husband’s idea to get a dog. I was happily a cat owner.
    Those first months are super tricky, and very alienating. He ate 16 pairs of shoes (all of them mine), ruined my bed sheets, and totally f*cked with my schedule and life. I threatened to give him up at least a dozen times, but each time my husband changed my mind and convinced me it would be different in a years’ time.
    You want to talk about your dog as if they’re your baby (which they are) but no one takes you seriously because it’s a dog. Also, people don’t like it when you compare their kids to a dog (lesson learned!)
    That being said, I made some great friends at the dog park, and enjoyed all the outdoor time I was now getting.
    Sure, that first year was hard as f*ck not knowing anyone, and having a dog that tethered me to a certain schedule and ultimately took away the one thing I loved at the time (going for 2hr workouts).
    But, I am immeasurably happier with him in my life now. Granted, I had someone else along for the ride (my husband) and he vowed to replace all the shoes Bruce ate (still hasn’t). We also had a lifestyle that allowed us to get him to the park, get him dog walker, and replace all the things he hate.
    Life changing decisions and events are hard. It’s why they’re life changing.
    Puppies are the worst, thank god they’re cute.
    It sounds like you made the best decision for Harvey in the end, and that – like with anything important – is all you can ask for.

  3. I’m glad you shared your story, because it encourages people to really think before they get a dog. It can be really difficult and I would think living in a condo by yourself and without outdoor space would make it even more so. We had a dog when we lived in an apartment but we had her for years before that (when I was living at home with my parents) and I had my husband to help with walks at night, etc. One of our dogs now is very high maintenance and still years later gets into chewing things she shouldn’t. My recommendation is fostering or fostering to adopt because you really get a chance to live and interact with the dog without the expectation that you HAVE to keep him/her. We did this with our last dog, although not intentionally. We fostered him with the intention of finding him a new family, but we fell in love with him. :) It’s something you can re-think in the future but you should rest easy knowing he is safe with a loving family.

  4. I am so grateful for your story. I am currently going through the same thing with my 12-week old puppy. He is by normal standards an easy puppy so far, but the sleep deprivation has left me feeling defeated and severely depressed. I keep trying to reach out to my SO for comfort, but she makes me feel even more guilty for having the feelings I do. Coincidentally enough, I just started myself on birth control pills, so that may be affecting my emotions.

    Reading stories like yours help in rationalising my own feelings somehow. So thank you. I hope you are able to move forward from your experience with Harvey, and accept that you made the right decision.

    • wow! Thanks so much for the note Andi. Sorry for the delayed response. It means so much that my story somehow helped you deal with your similar situation. I hope things have taken a turn for the better on your end. I would most definitely factor the hormones into your feelings. In hindsight I would say it was the biggest factor for me. I’ve accepted my decision but I definitely still have moments of regret. Knowing he’s in a great home makes it easier. Wishing you all the best!

  5. Ive had my dog for 1.5 days and I know its not going to work
    I want to return him so badly, I feel depressed and super anxious since I got him. I feel terrible because its only been a DAY but something in my heart tells me its not right.

    • How did this turn out for you? I had a panic attack the day I brought my puppy home and felt like I needed to rehome him. It’s been a roller coaster, most days are good, but today is one of those days that’s really challenging, which is how I ended up here.

      • Oh gosh – I’m here – we got a rescue dog a week ago and it’s just not sitting right with me at all. My family are all delighted. I haven’t stopped crying all week as I just know having a dog isn’t right.

        and I drove it all. I found her online and showed her to my husband (who really does want a dog). and here we are. I thought I’d never be ready so maybe I’ll get over it (same way as I did children tbh) but I have a pit in my stomach that I never had with the kids. I wish we could be ‘fostering’ and I want to contact the rescue to let them know. I feel such a failure.

        • This is such a relief to read. I am in a similar situation. I wanted a dog for over a year. I researched. I prepared. I read a book. I also had a dog for 13 years that I raised from the time he was a puppy, so I’m not new to dog ownership. Now, I am feeling anxiety and depression that I can’t even pinpoint because our puppy is a good, sweet puppy. I know it is not sustainable and I have felt this way for a full two weeks. Luckily, I have a very supportive SO and we are going to give it another week and I am really going to try to work through what I am feeling but if nothing changes, we know the breeder has a good home ready for such an adorable little puppy.

  6. This was super helpful!!! I’ve wanted a dog my entire adult life., having had one as a child. I finally convinced my husband during quarantine, found exactly what I wanted a male cavapoo. We have had him 2 months now and I speak about rehoming him often. My husband didn’t want a dog so he’s supportive but doesn’t want to hear about it constantly and my 3 kids 16, 14, and 12 are very helpful and are over the moon. Their hearts would be broken and I would be so selfish. I have so much anxiety over the pup and being able to train him properly that I obsess over it!! It’s legit all I think about!! It’s nuts. He is now 4 1/2 months old and has 1-2 accidents a day in the house still. We are really working hard on training him. Your candidness about letting Harvey go has helped me. I know I will immensely miss him and just need to get past these months. I just have to figure out what to do for my own mental status!!! Thank you!!!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m having hella puppy blues today and occasionally consider rehoming my guy. I appreciate you sharing what it is like on the other side of that decision. You helped me today. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story! I wish I knew about Puppy Blues and how it effects our thinking. I too rehomed my wonderful puppy very early on. He was an energetic, oh so cuddly and smart, typical 3.5 mo old Doodle I adopted from the SPCA. In hindsight, the sleepless nights that first week kicked off the dark depression so many talk about. By the end of the first week I felt I was not the right person for this job, and it was too much for me. It felt as if the walls were closing in, and I was crying, overwhelmed and exhausted. I kept hearing “hang in there it gets better” but 2-3 more months sounded like a lifetime. I rehomed him through the SPCA and it feels like I will never stop grieving him. I keep thinking of what I could have done, should have done. I fully believe pamphlets should be handed out when people adopt puppies under 1 yr old..a ‘Beware The Puppy Blues’ so that us novice puppy owners would know what to expect. (Fyi I am a long time dog owner, but I learned in this journey that DOG and PUPPY are two entirely different things). Healing love and light to all of you who have crossed this incredibly difficult bridge. LA