Raising a puppy is a wonderful and also challenging experience. It requires a commitment of time and effort almost akin to raising a human baby, if you want to really lay a solid foundation so you have an enjoyable and well behaved pet at adulthood. It’s rewarding, difficult, adorable, time-consuming, anxiety-provoking, precious, an endless new discovery, and a lot of work.
Since fostering Baxter I have found myself in a very strange mental space about puppyhood. Before him, I thought I’d like to stick to fostering (and eventually, adopting, if the right dog came along) adults only. Right now, our lives seem so complicated. I wanted any dog around to come pre-equipped with the emotional maturity to roll with the punches a little more. But now thanks to him I’m stuck simultaneously thinking it is really too much for me at this time in turning in my life to take on a new puppy (or to foster endless successions of puppies) and also that I would love the challenge of raising a new puppy and seeing what kind of wonderful adult I could nurture them into.
It’s easier to understand the nuances of this particular puppy puzzle with some details that are more personal in nature. Fitting a dog to a household depends on the dynamics of a household, and ours is a household that I suppose I could describe as a “bachelor couple.” Davy and I both deal with the challenges of anxiety and depression. We are both artistic, sensitive folks and the more like us I meet the more I become convinced that this form of mental illness is practically a packaged deal– no angst, no creation. With that on our plate, sometimes just keeping the flat clean and ourselves and pets cared for seems overwhelming (the hamster, and now Baxter, are always clean, fed, and amused… don’t ask about the laundry pile though). At the moment, however, I am also currently: teaching myself html and css and creating graphics and writing the code files for my up and coming website, reworking my CV for display on said website (which is meant to be a creative portfolio of sorts), working on about 5 different writing projects (you will notice how sporadically the blog updates– this is why), researching freelance work, doing some drawings on commission, drawing a comic for publishing on the website, learning how to sew better to help with the Etsy business that I manage for Davy and I where we sell our art and crafts, and oh yeah, handling said Etsy details. *gasp pant wheeze* He has nearly as many projects. Some of them are things we both work on together.
It’s a lot on all at once and our inner resources fluctuate in the best of times, so every little bit of stability and relief helps. For me, having a dog around is something of a need, because of how much my anxiety is a problem for me, especially when it comes to getting things done, and the fact that my dog Eppy always helped me out in that regard. And dogs are good at reminding one to take a breather every so often (have you ever been meaning to go to the bathroom for two hours but keep forgetting? or wondered why you were suddenly so hungry only to realize you said you were going to cook dinner hours earlier but never actually did? yeah). I have Davy, but he’s pretty much it for me. I don’t really know anyone who is local, so, it gets kind of lonely. To top it off, Eppy helpfully alerted me to my anxiety attacks, frequently in time enough for me to curb them before they got really bad. In lieu of that assistance I find my symptoms are often pretty bad.
Some people are really in the camp that if you have anything at all going on in your life it’s rankly irresponsible to get a dog, and your desires for companionship or a jogging partner or a best pal for the kids like your memories of dear old Bruno or whatever you wanted a dog for to begin with will simply have to be sacrificed until you are retired, preferably if you also plan to retire rich and do nothing thereafter but sit in your garden. But life, like those who live it, is nothing if not resplendent with variety and complexity. In my case, while it’s important to me to try to analyze carefully and plan ahead, the question of whether or not a dog or puppy is a better addition now or later is complicated by my needs with regard to the ratio of New Stress Added to Stress Relieved. Namely, while it is certainly more work to have more pets around, I could sure use the companionship and steadying affection provided by my much-missed dog. And basically, I wonder if, once I feel the time has come where we are ready to be a dog always house instead of a dog halfway house, it is wiser to try to limit myself to dogs who seem to already be a solid fit for the household (i.e. older and perhaps more steady and sedate) and then hope one of them clicks with me on the anxiety alert level, or see if I could train or nurture such urges in if I start young, and ride through the puppy trials and tribulations with the promise of eventual payoff.
Of course there is always the chance that we’ll just have a foster fail somewhere along the line. But basically, watching a puppy has given me puppy fever like nothing I ever thought possible, because they are certainly a handful, and a handful I thought wasn’t going to fit in these hands. I’ve been proud to discover how well we are able to manage a puppy and curious if we could do it all from start to finish, but also thinking it might be awfully nice to skip those stages and start with a more “known quantity,” as a friend of mine put it in regard to adult dogs. But somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I will admit that I wonder at the sheer mathematical probability of a suitable dog landing on us and feel a little twinge of despair. It seems like it’d be far too good to be true.
For now, the fostering gig is quite ideal for our situation. Which was why we went with it to begin with of course, but it is a side effect I should have been expecting that caring for dogs would prompt a lot of soul searching about finding a successor for Eppy some day. It has made me more lonesome for her instead of less. Thanks to Baxter though, my dreams of patiently waiting for the perfect adult to land at our feet are somewhat shaken up with little “what ifs” about some tiny but troublesome scrap of infant doghood being a possibility for fitting the bill. My original plan was to tell the rescue “no more puppies after Baxter, I made an exception for him because I knew he needed somewhere to go but he’s confirmed they are too much for us at this time.” But now? I might just keep my mouth shut, and let who comes along, come.