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.
Confession: 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…..