Jim is a dog person. His family are all dog lovers. They treat their dog as part of their family. They have conversations with them. They get them gifts. They take them on vacations. Dogs are indoor dogs that are well taken care of and loved.
I, on the other hand, am not a dog person. I grew up with dogs as pets for most of my life, yet there are only a few that I really remember from my childhood. One was my older sister Wendy’s mean, vicious poodle-spaniel dog, Lady, that snapped and bit me anytime I went near her. I eventually got fed up with it and asked my mom why she was keeping a horrible dog that kept biting her children. Shouldn’t she be protecting us, instead of continuing to put us in harm’s way?
She got rid of the dog the next day.
The other dog I remember was a smelly, slobbery, wonderful black lab named Tar that I absolutely loved. He could play fetch for hours, knew how to sit (none of our dogs knew how to do tricks), and he had a really sweet personality.
All my family’s dogs were outside dogs, and I don’t remember ever paying them much attention other than having to chase them down when they got out. We didn’t take our dogs on vacation with us or let them curl up with us on our laps.
I have never had a strong desire to own a dog, or any animal for that matter. I never wanted any birds, rodents, fish, or snakes. Cats were not an option because of family allergies. Realistically I would be perfectly happy to live my life with out any pets.
Jim was the opposite.
He NEEDED a puppy.
Our battle over getting a puppy started years ago. Every time he brought up the subject, I would roll my eyes and tune him out. “Doesn’t he understand that all the work will go to me? I’ll be the one taking care of the puppy, not him. I have little kids that are constantly in to everything. If I wanted to potty train something I’d rather potty train another baby, not a dog!”
After being hounded about getting a dog from all corners of the family (the kids + daddy) I finally relented and said that once we bought a house we could get a puppy. At the time we were aggressively paying down debt, student loans, and our van. We wanted to wait to get a house until we had worked for a company for over a year and had paid off a lot of our debt. I figured I would have plenty of time.
However, things changed quickly for us pretty soon after I committed to getting a dog once we owned a home. Within 4 months we went from having a nice job, to being jobless, to being homeless (AKA-staying with family for the “holidays”), to moving to a new State mid-way across the Country, to being in a city-wide rental shortage where there genuinely were no inhabitable homes to rent, and eventually having no other realistic option but to buy a home.
Jim waited a few months before he started bringing up the “dog issue”.We moved into said house the day after we got home from the hospital after having our newest baby, Bella. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. But eventually the conversations started happening again, with soft reminders that I promised we could get a dog once we had a house.
Again I found myself annoyed, rolling my eyes, and quickly closing any links Jim emailed me to for pets to adopt or buy. I didn’t want a dog, and I didn’t really care what I said before. Things had changed. Circumstances were different. He needed to give me time. The stress of life with a new baby + him never being home was enough to set me on edge. Even considering the thought of getting a puppy made me cringe.
Things escalated quickly during labor day weekend. He really wanted to check out a beautiful husky that was up for adoption near my sister’s house where we were visiting. Huskies are those big dogs that look like wolves that pull dog sleds. Jim had spent a long time researching dog breeds, and really fell in love with huskies.
I went to see the dog with the family, but dragged my feet the whole way. I was not happy about it.
And a surprising thing happened. I saw a glimmer of hope.
Huskies love the cold. This husky was beautiful, and that was saying something since he was shedding his summer coat pretty bad. He was amazing with the kids. He had gorgeous blue eyes. We would have a fenced yard big enough for him as long as we took him out on walks…
And huskies were good outdoor dogs, since they love the cold. And outdoor dog, to me, sounded so much better than an indoor dog.
Maybe I could do it.
I told James my thoughts, and I was quickly shut down. That wasn’t what he had in mind at all. I felt sick thinking of a huge husky running through my house, peeing all over my house ‘marking his territory’, needing attention from me constantly since they were pack animals and needed a lot of human interaction. I felt suffocated.
I couldn’t do it.
I said no.
We were visiting my sister for a baby blessing, so all but three of my siblings were there for it. I tried to ask their advice on the dog situation. I asked my mom why she ever got a dog. I asked my sister-in-law and brother what they experienced living with a dog now. (They are currently living with my sister-in-law’s parents while they finish up school).
Most people agreed saying that it was a lot of work for the mom. If the dog isn’t well behaved and trained well they can be a huge headache. I heard stories of dogs peeing all over the carpets, chewing through shoes and carpet, and more. Realistically it would be me who would be spending 12 hours a day with the dog. Jim is still working 2 jobs, so I knew the majority of the responsibility for the dog would fall on me. It didn’t sound fun.
My mom did say something that wormed its way into my heart, however. She asked if I had really, sincerely listened to Jim explain why he needed to have a dog. She gave me the challenge to actually listen to his point of view instead of just thinking of myself, and see if that would help.
So I tried.
I found out that Jim wanted an indoor dog because he thought that way he or she would be cared for more and feel more like a part of the family. He wanted a dog to be a best friend, not just a dog you feed. He grew up always wanting a puppy when he was a young boy, but family circumstances didn’t allow him the chance until he was a teenager. He felt like by then he had missed out on a fun part of childhood, and had always had the goal to get a dog for his kids while they were still young and could really enjoy it. He didn’t want an outdoor dog. He wanted the dog to be cared for, talked to, and played with – and he wanted them to be able to chill in the house.
I told him if that were the case, a husky was too intimidating to me to own. They are dominating, big, and need a real leader. I just wanted something simple, and didn’t want a dog big enough to walk through the kitchen and grab food off my table and counters. It took him some time, but he eventually agreed.
I think after that conversation my heart changed a little bit. I started listening when he talked about dogs. I actually clicked on the links he sent me of possible dogs that were available. I still said no to them all, but at least I looked at the links. I even started to do a little research on my own to decide what kind of dog breed I wanted. I turned to my amazing mom for help. She loves researching things, and before she got her dog Prince a few years ago I remember she had researched a lot about what type of breed to get and how to train them. She sent me some of her materials, and we talked quite a bit on the phone talking about dogs and what to look for. She researched it so much, in fact, that she and my sister got bit by the “puppy bug” and ended up buying their own puppy, a cute little cocker spaniel they named Lady. (Like from the movie “Lady and the Tramp”)
I took a lot of quizzes online. I researched for fun. I took time finding out the top ten dogs for things – whether it was top family dogs, top inside dogs, top dogs that don’t bite, top breeds that do bite, most aggressive dogs, and more. I even asked friends on Facebook if anyone who wasn’t a dog lover ever enjoyed the experience. (Basically, if you don’t like pets already was there a chance for a happy ending if I decided to get a dog?) There were a lot of people who told me I would make a huge mistake if I got a dog. Others told me that they didn’t particularly like dogs, but they did once they got one. I went into this decision with my eyes wide open, and tried to hear the pros AND cons.
From what I could gather, most people didn’t like dogs because of all the work. But it seemed like, the more work you put in to it at the very beginning, the more wonderful the outcome at the end. I thought about that quite a bit, and knew that I could handle a lot of upfront work now if the rewards were a happy husband and kids, and a dog that would obey and not destroy my house.
My favorite dogs were golden retriever, King Cavelier Spaniel, and cute little poodle-mixes.
I was leaning towards the poodle-mix because they supposedly don’t shed as much and are more hypo-allergenic. The cons were they require more grooming, but I knew I would just tag that along to Jim’s responsibilities. Poodles were also supposed to be good family dogs, be smart and easy to train, and have good behavior. I also liked that a lot of the poodle-mixes, the dogs stayed adorable even as adults. I wanted a dog that I would find cute no matter what age, because I felt like maybe that would make dog ownership easier on me.
I had looked at a lot of dog rescues, but eventually made the decision that with my first dog I would feel more comfortable training my dog from the very beginning. I wanted the dog to know right from the start how to behave around kids, and me, and my house. I wanted a puppy.
The problem? Cute Goldendoodles (my favorite poodle-mix choice), Schnoodles, and other cute poodle-mix puppies are expensive. Like I’m talking thousands of dollars. $$$$. I looked up all the dogs in the area (even looking for rescues just in case I changed my mind and one spoke to me), but everything was way far away from where we live, or it was way over our budget.
But I told myself that wasn’t my problem. That would be Jim’s. I had a price-range I was comfortable with paying, and if it was above that we would just have to wait and save up for it.
So on our anniversary I gave him his wish. I told him we could get a puppy, and I wanted him to find me a cute, little poodle-mix that could be fun for the kids but also be a lap dog when I wanted. I showed him some pictures, told him his price range, and let him go to work.
And would you believe the next day he found our Maltipoo puppy?
He was within our budget (He asked them to take $50 off so it would meet my price-range.). The puppy was living with a family and had lived with little kids from day one. He was used to being handled by kids and was use to their noise, and was only located a few hours away.
All week I went from “Yeah, let’s get him.” to “No, I’m sorry Jim. I just am not ready. I can’t do it.” A lot of ups and downs later, we drove to my brother’s house and spent the night, and the next morning brought home this little guy.
We decided to name him Strider.