You all know that I am absolutely smitten with my pup, Augusta, so it was only been a matter of time before she made her official debut on the blog. She's been in my life for almost two years now, although I'm not quite sure how I lived twenty-two whole years without her; I feel like she's been with me forever. As crazy as it sounds, I believe she was meant to find me. We just jive.
Having a dog isn't always rainbows and unicorns, though. When I adopted her I was twenty-two and naive (disclaimer, I'm still young and naive), had no idea what I was getting into, and didn't really know what to expect. I did minimal research and picked the first pup I felt a connection with. I guess I thought it would be easy. Boy was I wrong. For the first six months of having Augusta in my home, I struggled. But I learned a lot about me, and even more about raising a dog.
I guess what I'm saying is that I don't regret one thing (I would pick my girl again and again, even if it meant going through the torture of house training a million times) but I do wish I had an idea of what I was getting myself into beforehand, just to be extra prepared. I was running the idea of this post past Michael (another one of Augusta's biggest fans, second only to me) and we both thought it would have been pretty helpful to have a few things in mind before making the big decision to adopt a living, breathing animal. So here goes:
One | Shelter pups come with baggage, but it's worth it
I adopted Augusta from a small, rural shelter in smalltown, rural Kentucky. I knew very little about her background; I just knew that when we met she was immediately drawn to me and I was drawn to her. She was a four-month-old stray pup, labeled as "Cute Puppy" with no name, and defined as a lab mix - she's actually not lab at all. She was small, timid, and terrified. I didn't really realize how greatly this would affect us moving forward until I got her home.
She had limited human interaction in the shelter and even less before that so she immediately developed into my shadow, becoming instantly attached and desiring affection always. She had terrible separation anxiety and destroyed several household items (doors, chairs, you name it) trying to get to me when I left her for work. She was scared of most all other humans, except my family, and didn't like to be around other people. She still doesn't. She has her circle and doesn't deviate from it.
I didn't know this going in. But what I came to realize is that most (not all but most) shelter pups deal with these things on some varying degree. It's tough to socialize them appropriately, to rid them of separation anxiety, and to get them to love people. I'm not sure if Augusta will ever be to that point. But she sure is worth it. She loves her people so strongly, and her bond with me & my family is undeniable. The love she gives me when I come home every day is worth a million years of fighting separation anxiety. She's my girl.
Two | Potty training is hard, like super hard
Aside from attempting to socialize her & shed separation anxiety, we struggled with housebreaking. She was a little devil. She's a smart girl and knew that she was supposed to potty outside, but she wasn't having it. It took me five solid months to get her to potty outside every time and it was rough. We both wanted to fight each other sometimes, but she finally gave in.
I had to get super strict with her about her pottying. We identified specific places to stop and make it happen and we stuck to it. I wish I would have known that strictness and consistency were the most important factors in house training. So be strict & consistent and it'll work, it just might take some time.
Three | Separation anxiety is a real, actual thing
Like I mentioned above, Augusta was strapped with terrible separation anxiety and it took well over a year for her to deviate from it. She still struggles with it on certain days she doesn't want to be left alone, but like most dog parents I have to go to work. She knows our schedule and waits by the window at 5:00 everyday waiting for us to come home to her.
Patience is key here. You just have to give them the attention and love that they need when you're with them. I learned that leaving the TV on Animal Planet while we're gone helps her a lot. Allowing her access to windows helped, too. She loves to spend the day watching squirrels and birds outside. She also likes to bark at other people walking by... oops. We hide small treats around the house for her to find while we're gone. We freeze plain yogurt mixed with dog food in her Kong for a special goodbye treat. Allowing her to do & have these things has helped her pass the time while we're gone in a non-destructive way. You've got to be willing to go the extra mile for your pup, especially if they have separation anxiety.
Four | Dogs are living things with feelings, emotions, & needs
Dogs are living, breathing things. They have needs just like people. Augusta has the most energy I have ever seen in a dog. This means she needs lots of exercise. Even if it's been a long day at work, I still have to let her run outside in our backyard or take her to the park or take her on a run. For her to have a good quality of life she needs immense amounts of exercise.
Augusta also has sensitive skin and a sensitive stomach. Because of this she has to eat special food. She can only be given a limited number of baths with a special type of soap. She sometimes has illnesses that require vet visits. She needs regular vet checkups. She's a high maintenance girl (as are many dogs) and I have to accommodate. She has feelings, too, as do all dogs. She wants to be loved, to have fun, to snuggle her people. I have to make sure I have time to do all of this for her to make sure she's happy. Be sure to be willing to do this for a dog before you get one.
Five | Set boundaries in the beginning
I'm the world's worst disciplinarian. I let Augusta rule the roost. She eats people food, she sleeps in my bed, she hogs the couch. Augusta does as Augusta wants. I wish I would have set more boundaries in the beginning because quite frankly, now it's too late. I don't wish Augusta didn't sleep in the bed, but I do wish she didn't eat (and beg for) people food. If there is something you don't want your dog to do then set those rules when they first come into your life. Don't wait.
Six | Adoption is an excellent option, and the only option for me
I adopted Augusta from a shelter, and a kill shelter at that. It saddens me to my core to think that there are sweet pups out there, just like my Augusta, that are put down every day simply for existing. For being an extra mouth to feed. For being unwanted. I used to want an Australian shepherd so, so bad. They're the dogs I grew up with on the farm. They're gorgeous. Having a pretty, stylish, pure bred dog is cool, but knowing that you saved your dog's life is even better. Paying for pets from breeders is what makes the cycle of pet euthanasia so repetitive - people want bred dogs, so dogs who are mixed breed are sent to shelters, unwanted and abandoned. If everyone who wanted a dog adopted instead of shopped there would be so many fewer euthanasias occurring in shelters. Seriously consider adopting as an option.
Seven | Having a dog will unquestionably change your lifestyle
Having a dog changes your priorities. When I leave work I have to go straight home to let her potty. I have to take her to the park. I have to love on her. I can't go straight to dinner from work or make plans with friends because I have to make sure Augusta is taken care of. When I go to Lexington to see my friends I have to make arrangements for Augusta, to make sure she is cared for while I'm with my friends. Michael is my co-dog parent. He makes sure that Augusta is taken care of if I work late and we are a pretty good team. My dad also helps a ton. Augusta loves him. He keeps her when we travel or have weekend plans with friends. My brothers and mom walk Augusta and feed her if I need them to. She loves them, too, and loves playing with them. Having a support system is huge when planning to adopt a dog, so make sure you have one in place.
Eight | You're gonna get attached
This is the truest of true statements. I am absolutely obsessed with my girl. She's my number one fan and I'm hers. I never knew I could love an animal the way I love her. It's true when they say that a dog is a member of your family. I couldn't imagine coming home and not having Augusta there. Michael has flat out told me that he never imagined to get as attached to Augusta as he has. It's an unbreakable bond. So be ready to become a crazy dog person, and think of your pup as your best friend, because that's what will happen. They become your favorite hello, your hardest goodbye, and the first thing you look forward to seeing when you wake up in the morning. My dog's my favorite little person, and yours will be the same for you.
Hi, I'm Madeline
Blogger, teacher, writer, traveler, reader. Welcome to Mad's Muses!
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