“When are you going to blog about the puppy?” my friends ask every time I see them, which isn’t very often because he cannot be trusted around people with nice things and a full set of fingers.
Bandit’s almost 11 weeks old and can’t yet be put on the ground when out in public, plus he doesn’t have any control of his back-end and likes to leave people presents of the most unwelcome kind. This makes him hard work. I’ve realised that saying ‘awwwww, look, he’s leaving you a little puppy present’ doesn’t make the result any cuter, nor the clean-up, especially when it’s on their mother’s cream rug.
This has been a life-changing four weeks in which I’ve lost numerous important things; patience, sleep and definitely a few layers of skin around the ankles. But it’s been a month that has taught me more about myself than any other.
I’ve split this post into two halves, starting with some things I wish I knew pre-puppy. It may break hearts, it did mine, but it’s something I hope will help others through the first few weeks. It was a big shock to me to have my absolute dream scenario turn into a bit of a nightmare but keep reading to the second part, where I share some things he’s taught me about myself (other than the fact that I’m clearly very delicious…) and hopefully he’ll win back some puppy points.
What I wish I knew that:
I wouldn’t ever be prepared – I am the nerdiest, squarest, revision-obsessed, OCD, Wikipedia worm. I study on Friday nights and have the biggest collection of ‘….for Dummies’ books, with ‘Puppies for Dummies’ being my most recent acquisition of course. But no amount of puppy-prep will be enough. I asked friends what I could expect, I watched endless YouTube videos, I read numerous articles about training tips and I read this ‘how to’ book cover-to-cover. The book said he would be terrified of most things, the videos said he would love his crate, and friends said he would be toilet trained within a week or so. Wrong, wrong and oh my God so wrong. He is fearless, he screams bloody murder in his crate and, although now it’s week four and he is a lot better at squatting in the right places, he still has at least three accidents a day. Usually on the one bit of carpet we have in the entire house.
Pig’s ears and Kongs would be my new best friends – Have you seen what a Kong looks like? It looks like some kind of sex toy and nobody wants to see a puppy burying one of those in your garden. If someone had told me how much time it would buy me, I’d have used it from day one. It’s a hollow rubber device that you can fill with chicken or peanut butter or cream cheese, which he will try to climb inside to find every last bit of whatever you put in it. Precious minutes of my day now slowly drip back into my life while he’s awake, which is essential when I’m in my Writing Zone (very similar to Top Gun’s ‘Danger Zone’) where I can’t have anything disrupting my concentration. I think Jack Russells especially enjoy pig’s ears (these seriously grossed me out at first because they’re kind of sticky and veiny and have little hairs on them) but he actually prefers them to my fingers! Which was a major breakthrough. Buy a whole bag. Or fifty.
Earlier is not better – I was so impatient for this puppy. I first met him when he was just three weeks old and immediately started counting down the hours until we could bring him home. I thought that the earlier we got him, the better our ‘bond’ would be and the faster he’d learn from us. WRONG. Puppies don’t even have the brain development to learn things until they’re ten weeks old. If I could go back in time, I’d wait as long as possible before bringing him home. They need to learn simple things like discipline from their mother, she will automatically teach him what is too rough when playing, what kind of bite is unacceptable (he draws blood quite often) and how to behave emotionally in different situations. We’ve had to learn how to act like dogs which isn’t as easy or fun as you’d think. Also, bringing them home later means you can go for walks sooner!! And that, my friends, is something you will also count down to; I am dying to leave the house and let him release some energy, somewhere other than on the curtains…
If you’re going to have a bad accident, do it before 9pm – Yes, I know, I broke him already. It was 9pm on the second Monday that we’d miraculously survived on very little sleep and food, and we’d just sat down to eat dinner. Bandit was happily trotting around the room, behaving…ish, and then one of the cats came in to see what we were eating. Bandit decided to chase her and back her into a corner and in an attempt to escape she leapt up the wall, closely followed by Bandit who was soon left screeching underneath a heavy picture frame. Flash forward to sitting in a emergency vet’s waiting room, crying so violently you’re mostly just inhaling your own snot, and you don’t even care that you’re scaring the nice receptionists. Just to see a vet after 9pm will cost you £170, and that price goes up after 11pm. Bandit now goes in his crate whenever we eat, primarily for his own safety and our sanity but also so that I don’t have to share my sausages. He’s all healed up now and even better than before, but annoyingly just as eager to chase cats.
I shouldn’t just hope for the best – I know this sounds a bit depressing and naive but bare with me. I was all like ‘my puppy is going to be the best and so well behaved because I work from home and can watch him all day and teach him right from wrong straight away.’ I was a moron to think that. Don’t be a moron. Puppies don’t understand, even when you say a word in slow motion and literally act it out in front of them, they just look at you like you’re mental and hilarious. If you pull something out of their mouth, they think it’s something you want, which gives it value and so they try harder to get it back. If you shout ‘no!’ they think you’re barking and try to start a game. If you wipe up their mess in front of them, that’s giving them attention so they do it again. All you can do is constantly encourage them to chew and pull on the right things. I carry a toy on me at all times and the only words I say all day are ‘This, this! No! This, yes! Good boy! Yes! Good boy. No! This. Over here! Sit!! Good boy. No. No. Yes! No…Yes!’ It’s back to square one at the start of every single day. Even the most intelligent breeds and the most committed owners will have a slow start. And I still have to remind myself not to take his misbehaviour to heart because it really does feel personal sometimes.
What he has taught me:
Forgiveness – I’ve always been bad at this. Whenever he’s physically hurt me (it really does hurt!) or kept me awake all night, sometimes I find it really hard to get out of bed at 6am and start the day all over again. I’m still mad and tired. And even though I know he doesn’t mean to upset me at all, it’s so easy to take it personally. Some days you can’t win, he bites you when you’re there and he screams when you’re gone. Forgiveness is something I have worked so hard at this month and it’s made me a much better person to just let it go.
Self confidence – for the majority of my life, other people have done everything for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been so grateful because I’m a terrible cook and a terrible driver, terrified of spiders and pretty clumsy when it comes to DIY. But I am now in charge of something so important and I’ve gone into full-on mum-mode. I’m giving the orders, I’m remembering his medication, I’m fishing bits of grass and poo out of his mouth, and for the first time in my life I’m the one responsible for someone else. That is major personal growth.
Social skills – you can’t go anywhere without at least five different people stopping you to ask how old he is, what his name is or if they can stroke/steal him. Seriously, he is a social magnet. I can be quite shy around strangers, especially in big groups but when the attention isn’t on me, it’s been great to talk to so many interesting new people in the street.
DILLIGAF (do I look like I give a fuck) – before being responsible for the welfare of this little alligator, I would never leave the house or even open the door unless I was fully made-up. When he had his accident a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have any makeup on at all AND I was balling my eyes out. Seriously my face was one massive red mess, with bits of tissue stuck under my eyes and I couldn’t care less. He’s put a lot of things into perspective and taught me that it’s OK to get ready in eight minutes instead of my ideal twenty eight. Who cares when you have a puppy to hang out with and take care of. Nobody’s looking at you.
Love – this sounds lame but even when I can’t muster the energy to go out in the rain and dig his fresh poop out of the wet grass, he trots over to me straight after to warm his belly and I fall even deeper in love. Every time. I’ve never fallen in love so quickly before. Nobody has ever been so happy to see me in the morning and even though I have a million things to get on with, I find myself just watching him while he sleeps sometimes. Watch him yawn, listen to the noise he makes, I bet you fall in love too.
Productivity – do you know how long 40 minutes is? WRONG, longer! When he’s asleep, in that 40 minutes I will clean the entire house, do all the washing up and get three loads of washing done. I kid you not, I now make the most of free time unlike ever before. I am looking forward to him being able to join us in other areas of the house, but it’s not worth the mess just yet. In the mean time I will enjoy the productivity of his micro-naps.
Teamwork – When Bandit couldn’t walk for a week, my God. We couldn’t leave him alone for a second. All he wanted to do was run and dig, the pain meds were strong enough to make him feel OK but we couldn’t let him hurt himself more. Rick slept on the sofa in the den for ten days. TEN days! Because I was in there all day when Bandit had the most energy and just couldn’t do it all night too. Rick and I have become so giving, I think we’re the most giving we’ve ever been?! We’re constantly trying to help each other out and I’ve never been so proud of our teamwork. I couldn’t have done this without him.
Although I’m 26 years older than this little 11 week old, I have no doubt that he will continue to teach me lots of new things about life and will continue to make me a better person.