This is my dog, Winston.
I adopted him a month ago, but this past month wasn’t filled with rainbows and sunshine to be completely honest. There were a lot of ups and downs that made me question if I was cut out to be a dog owner, given I had little to no experience. I didn’t want to break my commitment, so I took a hard look at how I approached the whole situation in the first place. It didn’t take long for me to figure it out, and from that point on I started to understand why so many people loved their dogs.
Looking back, I was in over my head thinking that my dog and I would ride off into the sunset as soon as I picked him up from the shelter. Sure, dogs are the best at relieving stress but they can also get stressed, and that can cause you to feel more stressed. This turned out to be a good thing for me though, because a little bit of stress and responsibility is actually good for strengthening the mind and structuring your day.
Getting Rid of Expectations
When I first moved to Austin I thought that adopting a furry companion would help fill this void that my family and friends used to fill when I lived closer to them. I later realized that this was a lot of pressure to put on one dog. In reality, Winston was more than just a companion; he was a big adjustment to my daily routine, as I was to his. Dogs also depend on you a lot more than you depend on them, so a lonely state of mind was not a great place to start off my relationship with him.
For this very reason, I recommend letting go of idealistic expectations altogether. It’s more important to not let your frustrations get to the better of you. In other words, it’ll be harder for you to enjoy the benefits of canine companionship unless you are:
- Patient: My dog was having a hard time adjusting to our home. It was even more difficult for him to adjust to the food, which made him vomit and have diarrhea for a good while (this is also a sign of stress). He was also not very obedient, so it was harder for us to train him. Slowly but surely he is starting to get the hang of his new domestic life (did I mention he used to be a stray?).
- Accommodating: On our end, it was hard to get used to a new schedule that required taking him out for walks. It was also hard for me to get used to hearing him make noises in the middle of the night since I’m a very light sleeper. You either get used to it or find a way to make it work.
- Loyal: Even if his lack of obedience made me want to scream, I knew that it wasn’t his fault. Even if he woke me up at 3 a.m. for nights on end, I knew that he didn’t have bad intentions (this problem eventually went away). This is the kind of mindset that makes you into a better dog parent after all.
- Consistent: Since my boyfriend and I were fairly new dog owners we failed to maintain a strict eating and pooping schedule for the first two weeks. We were also not very consistent with our house rules. We noticed this was not making Winston’s adjustment any easier. After some research and trial and error, we came up with a schedule and a set of rules that were easy for us to remember and easy for Winston to follow.
- Confident: I’m going to be honest and say that it felt like I didn’t have anything under control for the first few weeks. I knew perfectly well that in order to earn Winston’s respect, I needed to remain calm and learn how to be a better leader. It doesn’t happen overnight, but once you get started you will feel better about yourself than you did before.
Am I Ready?
Being a new dog owner is not only a huge learning process, but it’s also a matter of being in a stable position where you can easily accommodate a dog into your life. Do I have enough money? Do I have enough time? Do I live in a pet friendly neighborhood? These are all basic and important boxes to check off, but none of it really matters unless you check the box that says: am I willing to put in the hard work? I think it goes without saying that once you show your dog your loyalty, your dog will show you their gratitude right back.
Just for fun, here are some of my other favorite things about Winston so far:
- He’s very affectionate
- He looks like a fox (and the fact that he very rarely barks confirms that this is a viable possibility)
- He looks like a puppy even though he’s 2 years old
- He is friendly toward cats
- He will stare at you until he gets your attention
- He loves car rides (or just being outside in general)
- He loves to sleep on your lap while you watch Netflix
- He has the patience of a saint
Are you considering getting a pet? If so, let me know in the comments below!