I have always loved animals: cats, puppies, birds, from pets to exotic. Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian or even a marine biologist. But if I’m being completely honest, I wanted to be like Eliza Thornberry and wished that I would wake up with the ability to talk to animals one day. I would pick out books with animals as the main character and read “their” perspective. I would spend a lot of my free time watching Animal Planet (back when it was good and centered more around animals) to learn more about them. Even though I loved all species, I always considered myself more of a “cat person” when it came to pets. I only had one dog in my childhood, compared to four cats. And I was okay with that. My best friend from elementary school through high school was my cat, Ozzy. Unfortunately, he passed away back in 2018 shortly after I had my first son.
Last October, my husband and I decided it was time to add a pet back to our family. Animal shelters were packed, and we went to Indianapolis Animal Care Services and adopted Onyx, a three-year-old black cat. She was in poor condition; feces matted her fur, and she was skinny and hairless in some spots due to stress. She was extremely friendly and cuddly with my husband and me, but she was hesitant and scared around our boys. There were many scratches and rough toddler play in the first months of bringing her home. I felt terrible and began to question if we had chosen the right cat for a family with kids. Thankfully after lots of redirecting and teaching our kids what behavior was acceptable and what wasn’t, Onyx adjusted. While she had learned to tolerate the boys, she still wouldn’t cuddle with them or even play with them.
I started talking to my husband about getting a puppy. A pet that the boys could play with and would want to play with the boys. I spent five months planting the seed with no prevail. Until I came across a friend’s Facebook post that stated her dog had a litter of puppies, two were left that needed to be rehomed. I immediately jumped on the opportunity and began begging my husband. He objected, saying, “A puppy is going to a be a lot of work.” I countered with, “I know, I promise I’ll take care of it all. PLEASE”. After 30 minutes of me relentlessly pleading with him, he caved in, and we went that night to get an eight-week-old Pit-Lab whom we named Korra. Now I can admit that my decision was a little rash. But I spent five months wanting a dog and developing reasons why we should get said dog. I already knew it would be a lot of work. It’s a puppy. I just kind of underestimated the actual work part. So, I developed a list of things I wished I had prepared myself for before adding a puppy to the family.
- Potty Training
If you enjoyed potty training your toddler (said nobody ever), then a puppy is for you! An eight-week-old puppy is not going to be house trained. Their little bladders need to empty almost immediately after eating or drinking and at least every one to two hours. Even then, be prepared for many accidents in the house, poop, pee, and even vomit; like babies, puppies like to put everything in their mouth, including things they should NOT be eating. I suggest puppy pads, lots of treats for when they do go potty outside, and a good odor/stain remover. We use the Only Natural Pet: Stain plus Odor Remover.
- Puppies Teethe Too
Another parenting “favorite” the teething stage. Babies get cranky, sleep less, and drool excessively. Puppies chew and bite…on everything. Your hands, the carpet, the couch, and any toys left on the floor. And it’s even worse with puppies because they already have their baby teeth, and they feel like razors. Yes, razors. We have been countering this awful phase with redirecting her to chew toys, firmly telling her “No bite” and walking away for a minute if she won’t stop, and patience. Lots and lots of patience.
- Sleepless Nights/Crate Training
Remember before your children slept through the night? When you would be up every hour or so, sometimes even more frequently? If, for some reason, you missed those nights, get a puppy. Again, their little bladders can’t hold much for long, so those frequent potty breaks occur at night too. We are also crating our puppy at night since she’s not house trained, which caused lots of howling, barking, and separation anxiety at first. As far as potty breaks at night, as your puppy gets older, they will be able to hold their bladder for longer periods of time. Until then, keep telling yourself, “It’s just a phase, and this too will pass.” To make crating easier, let your puppy experience crate time during the day too, to ease some anxiety. Give your puppy treats in their crate, some toys, and we have a little bed and blanket there for her.
- Cuddles, Kisses, and a New Best Friend
I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the number of cuddles and kisses I would receive after getting a puppy. While she is small now, I get the feeling she thinks she is going to be a lap dog forever. She’s goofy, smart, plays with our cat and our boys, and keeps us on our toes much like our kids. But not much feels better than finding another living creature that fits in so well with every member of your family; we were lucky to find a new best friend that we get to love for life.
I don’t think I can ever judge the term “pet parents” again. Cats can be aloof, but they are still family. Having a puppy makes me feel like I am living through the newborn stage all over again and as if I have three toddlers now instead of two. I had myself pegged wrong. I don’t think I can ever again consider myself just a “cat person.” My heart and love for animals have grown even more as we have opened our home to our precious pup. I hope that if you have just got a puppy or are on a quest to get one, my insight and tips have helped. Just like raising children, this will not be all rainbows and butterflies. Things will get destroyed, and your patience will be tried, but they are a part of our families to love and cherish forever.