by: Dr. Vedrana Rakocevic
Those of you who know me, know that I LOVE puppy appointments. This isn’t just because your puppy is the cutest puppy I’ve ever seen –well, it is –but because I love the eagerness of a new puppy owner, and all the things we get to talk about. Usually new puppies are healthy, so we get to talk about training, socialization, diet, preventative care etc. –it’s all great fun! My clients are sponges, and I get the privilege to educate. Basically, I thought puppies were all sunshine and flowers.
Then I got a puppy.
My whole life, I begged my parents for a dog but never won that battle. So when I finally graduated veterinary school and had been working for a few years, and had my own place, I decided this is the time!!
I spent hours researching breeds, breeders and after the most rigorous interview process I have experienced in my life (seriously), I was blessed with my lovely German Shorthaired Pointer–Leia.
Being the type A personality that I am, and a veterinarian, I figured I had this down. I made a list of all the things I needed and bought everything ahead of time. I signed her up for puppy classes before I even got her (socialize, socialize, socialize!). I felt completely prepared on that Saturday morning I picked her up. She slept on me the whole way home, and I fell in love instantly.
I had NO idea what I was in for. Leia needed to be let out every 15 minutes, or she peed on the floor. This meant getting fully outfitted in the rainy fall weather and walking down the condo stairs every 15 minutes that she was awake.
There was also not one minute of the day where I didn’t have an eye on her –anything she could find was immediately in her mouth or chewed. I had to plan my showers and mealtimes around her naps, so that they could even happen.
The first night (and the next three) she spent about an hour screaming so loud, I was pretty sure that I was going to get kicked out of my brand new condo. So the next day, all the neighbours got profuse apologies followed by bottles of wine. In addition the screaming keeping me up, I misunderstood the breeder’s instructions and was getting up every 3 hours to let her out in the middle of the night. Then, I sat by her crate until she fell asleep, before I went back to bed. I was exhausted, and by the third night was seriously questioning my sanity in getting a puppy.
These are just a few examples. I did so much “wrong” in those first few weeks.
Luckily, as she grew older, all of this got easier, and I was constantly in awe of how much she could learn. She also had more love to give than I could have ever imagined. That first month seemed to last forever, but I’m glad I made it. I am also so very grateful for it, because it gave me a much-needed perspective in my interactions with new puppy owners. Nothing is simple. It’s important to recognize how much work is being put in, and that sometimes it is just plain exhausting and overwhelming. You cannot be perfect; you can just do your best. I now have true empathy and understanding for new “parents.” These days I am even more excited when I see a new puppy on the schedule for me, because we’re in it together.