Dogs and The Bigger Life Lessons

The first time we took our new dog to the vet, I was an emotional train wreck. She started rattling off shots that I thought he already had at the shelter, the dog was wild while my husband tried to calm him down, and my bill was about $140 over the $50 I anticipated. “What the hell had I done?” was resounding loudly in my head as I literally broke into tears in between the Vet going in and out of the room.

It helps to start from the beginning. How did we get here? Well, growing up, we could never have a dog. We had a three-day stent with a cat named Kenny, but my mom also cut that short real quick. So like most kids, the things that your parents constantly tell you no about often create a nagging desire to do it. So, once I broke up the boyfriend who told me I needed to re-evaluate if wanting a dog was going to be an issue later, I set out to get one at some point.

But … I lived in an apartment for over four years where you couldn’t have dogs. My husband and I had been offered two during that time, a toy poodle and a little mixed pup. My heart broke every time I had to say, my apartment doesn’t allow them. So, the moment that we bought a house, my heart was set.

Now, mind you, I never had a dog but settled I wanted a big one. I mean listen, I was willing to take the smaller dogs if they were given to me. But with my pick, I always wanted a dog that I felt like could protect me if need be or at least deter someone from messing with me. “In the spring,” he told me as we moved in the dead of winter. He wanted us to get settled with the dog before cold temperatures. And when my birthday arrived in May, I was all over trying to manifest this dog.

I started looking at shelters seeing what they had. We realized a Rottweiler was not the way to go at this time, thankfully and visited a shelter where we met a dog named Harold. He was hyper, I was timid but there was something about his eyes and the fact that all the other dogs were going nuts and he wasn’t barking which I appreciated.

We took him out on a walk, but hubs thought he was too strong for me. A Pitbull and Boxer mix. So, we kept looking around. Went to another adoption event, but missed all the puppies and younger dogs. And my mind was still set on Harold. Even after my hubs tried to convince me that maybe we could just visit Harold and take him out on walks, I thought I had to have him. So we got him. We put in the paperwork and put him in the car. He was ours and I had no idea how much our life was about to change.

Three days in, I was crying telling my husband that maybe I had made a mistake. I was so adamant about getting a dog but had no idea what it fully entailed and how drastically it would change our daily routines. We don’t have children, so we were used to coming and going as we pleased, napping during the day, and otherwise living our best lives. And my childhood want, changed all of that.

I also had to travel a lot for work over the summer which left my husband alone managing a dog that was jumping baby gates like hurdles and still trying to adjust to this new place and family. It was taxing and I remember crying in my hotel room bathroom thinking I was going to have to march back into the shelter and say, “I’m sorry, I’m a stupid human who thought I could take care of this dog.”

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At three months in, I can say that the hyper-anxiety has settled. I’m not quite as much of a basket case and we installed a door to our finished garage where we can keep the dog when we leave and at night, so we’re a little better off than in the beginning. But I started to see the whole situation with the dog as bigger metaphors and life lessons as I normally do. Nothing is ever just about the thing. So, here are a few things I’ve learned in this process.

I wish I made more mistakes as a kid. I love my dog. We named him Coltrane because Harold sucks. But I can honestly say that after being in it, I would have waited a lot longer to get a dog. We have a lot going on, we’re busy people and I thought it was about the walks and picking up poop that people were complaining about, but it’s a lot more than that. A dog is legit like having a toddler that you can at least leave alone for a couple hours. But it’s intense when you go from just you two to the three of you. I was having emotional breakdowns because I felt like I made a mistake. Which I kind of did, but it’s okay. It’s okay that I bit off more than I could chew and now it was just about pivoting and making it work. Because I’ve always been so meticulous and safe, making mistakes is like this world ending tragedy for me. Where most people are just like, yeah … not that deep.

I won’t give up. I felt so defeated in the beginning. I’d never grown up around dogs, so I was even still a little afraid of the dog. SMH. Maybe I still am, but at least we know each other a little better. But I’m so much more committed now. Although on trying days like when this psycho cat attacked us, I still get anxiety, I’m committed to making sure this dog doesn’t go back to a shelter. All he wants is to be loved even when he’s working our nerves. And I won’t give up on him no matter how tired I am on our 6:30 am walks. (Which ultimately have made me a lot more productive btw. Getting up earlier helps me get more done.)

I needed a dog before a kid. Wow. What a life change. I know there are some people that hate when you compare dogs to kids, but listen. I know I was having post-dogdum depression. I was having terrible thoughts, I wanted him to go away. Listen, it was real. So, I can only imagine how much more struggle it is when you have a child. I am glad that I got to experience this life-jarring thing before I’m responsible for another human. I’m terrified of my child needing therapy because of me. So I want to work out as many kinks as possible before making that decision.

Life is just as unpredictable as Coltrane’s behavior. We will have an amazing day with the dog where he behaves. Walking on the leash well, not tearing up things in the house. And then the next day it looks like the garage exploded because he went on a rampage. No two days are the same outside of his eating schedule. And for a control-freak like me, I need to be reminded that there’s a lot not in my control.

Lastly, although I could go on with what I’m learning from this experience is that you will never be able to do everything right to get the result that you want. Sometimes I feed him, play with him, walk him long and he still does what the hell he wants to do. So, I have to learn to stop trying to do everything so right. I don’t have to get anxiety if I don’t give him at least 30 minutes of play because I can do that and he’ll still be trippin. I have got to let myself off the hook. Even when it comes to me being the one who pushed for a dog and was completely overwhelmed afterward. Having this dog is teaching me to give myself a whole lot more grace.

It’s a lot of work. I’ve been tested in new ways. I’ve had to pray over myself and the dog a lot. But at night when I’m sitting on the couch and he jumps up and lays his head on my lap, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. One I can only imagine is hugely magnified when it’s your own offspring. And well that, that makes you crazy enough to want to get up and fight another day. And that’s really the key, taking it moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day as my Pastor would say.