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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

5 Things My New Puppy Is Teaching Me

Ann and I just moved apartments so we could get a dog, because our old place didn't allow pets. During the week of our move, we went to volunteer at the Animal Rescue League, where we saw an adorable black cockapoo puppy named Roo. He was in a two-dog household, but the owners decided they could only afford to keep one dog during this down economy, so Roo was given away.

After thinking it over, we decided to adopt him, even though we'd always presumed we'd adopt an adult dog from the ARL instead. It's turned out to be a great decision, because Roo -- now renamed Rufus -- is a wonderful puppy with a great attitude and a temperament that complements our lifestyle. (It'll be even better once he stops mouthing everything in sight and can be alone for longer than 5 seconds, but hey, we're all learning...)

In that vein, here are 5 Things My Puppy Is Teaching Me:

1. Being Responsible for Others Comes Naturally

My long-standing objection to having a dog was that Ann and I lead fairly active, freewheeling lifestyles. She's never sure when she'll be home from work, and I tend to zip all over the city during the day. Having a dog would require us to be home more often, stick to a schedule, and spend valuable amounts of time training him -- even moreso now for a puppy.

Despite the fact that my autonomous days have been disrupted, I find that I've almost automatically adjusted my daily routine to accommodate the dog. I'm always hyper-aware of where he is in the apartment, I strive to make sure he's content (and not chewing on something he shouldn't), and I even take faster showers (so he has less time to steal the bath mats).

It's a sobering moment when you realize you could probably add a child to the equation and still maintain your sanity AND productivity (or most of it).

2. Success Isn't Dependent on a Schedule

These days, I definitely lose time during the day due to potty walks, playtime and training. And yet, I've managed to keep up with all of my freelance work and still engage in (slightly fewer) social obligations. How?

Part of it is adjusting the schedule that had been working for me to a new one that works for all of us -- even if it does include an early AM potty walk. The other part is realizing that I *have* to get things done in the time I have available, which means I spend less time on meaningless fluff during the day and more time plowing through to-do lists while the dog is asleep. Had I not been willing or able to adapt my workday, I'd be miserable AND unproductive, while the dog would still need his potty walks.

3. Always Plan Ahead

When I do go out, I usually have to bring the dog with me, which means I need to pack everything he needs in advance. This means I need to keep everything in an orderly place, so I can grab it and get out the door with minimal hassle.

Oddly, I've found this observation is starting to trickle into my daily workflow too. For example, if a client needs a video edited differently, I find myself providing two or three versions of the change instead of just the one I like best. I find it saves time to give them choices up-front, rather than making each possible change one-at-a-time and slowing the review process to a grinding halt.

4. Cleanliness Is Crucial

Puppies will eat almost anything, so we have to keep our floors clean of debris - food, trash, shoes, fabric, etc. Fortunately, we were already clean people, so this isn't an issue -- although you never realize how messy or disorganized you are until you notice how many things you've naturally left laying around for your dog to get into. (Couch cover pull-strings, anyone?)

A clean apartment also helps me notice when something is out of place or missing -- and helps me discern whether this was something Ann moved, or something Rufus moved. (One of those causes is preferable to the other, because it means I may need to do a mouth sweep to pry loose some plaster / caulking / sandal straps...)

5. Never Stop Adapting

Since we moved apartments, we're also still in the unpacking stages, which means our place looks slightly different almost every day. That's something both Rufus and we are adapting to, as we collectively decide where the best "home" for everything will be. Sometimes what works best for us humans turns out to be a bad idea when the dog is involved -- like noticing his habit of eating through the cell phone charger when it's (conveniently) left plugged in.

Likewise, every day has been a cavalcade of new experiences for Rufus. We don't want him to get mired in a routine that robs him of interest in new places / people / experiences, so we try to introduce him to someone or something new several times a day. This, in addition to traditional training and play, keeps him active and alert, and ensures that he'll always be open to new people and ideas.

How many of us can say the same thing for ourselves?

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10 Comments:

  • aww, he's adorable!

    6. never get angry at your dog. Just divert his attention. He's a baby.

    7. you can never have too many kisses or back scratches.

    and taking him out in any weather so he can play with his buds will keep you healthier and more trim. I lost 20 lbs the first month I had my first dog!

    and my dogs have introduced me to the most wonderful people i know. and those people tend to have dogs too. :>)

    By Anonymous BL Ochman, at 12:07 PM  

  • He is very very cute.

    By Blogger Teresa, at 12:42 PM  

  • Jelly is looking forward to being completely petrified of Rufus in the very near future.

    By Anonymous TheJim, at 8:06 PM  

  • He looks he could be a cousin of our Chuckly!

    It's true what they say- you don't pick the dog, the dog picks you. We went to an adoption event thinking we were not ready to get a dog- it was just a preliminary look. But Chuckly sort of found us, and even though she seemed terrified, we decided right then and there that she was the one. And she is!

    Enjoy every moment with Rufus!

    By Blogger beckydoshi, at 8:36 PM  

  • Love the name. I named my favorite stuffed animal dog Rufus as a kid. I grew up with dogs and miss having one...maybe I need to get a new apartment too.

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