Everybody loves puppies. Even those who dislike dogs like puppies. If you’ve just decided to get your own furry ball of happiness, welcome to a better, happier life. But think twice and adopt once.
Here are a few things to think of BEFORE you get a puppy:
- Do I have enough money to spare? Money isn’t everything, but it is the most important question you should be asking yourself. Your set-up costs for bringing a puppy home and the first 3-4 months are going to be more expensive than average maintenance costs later on. You want to make sure that neither you nor your puppy has to survive on ramen noodles during that time. Also, in case of a medical emergency, you want to make sure that your little fur-baby gets the best possible care. On the whole, we spent approximately $600 in the first month for our little pup, Imli, and continue to spend around $250-$300/month 2 months later (she’s 4 months old now), despite using coupons and discounts. That does not include her training classes, but does include her $275 adoption fees.
- Do I have enough space? Puppies only need a little crate when you’re away, but as they grow up, you want to make sure they have enough space to move around while you’re at work. This question helps you narrow down the dog breed by its size.
- Do I have enough time and energy?
- Young puppies need to be fed every few hours and taken out every few hours, this requires flexible working hours.
- Dogs in general like the same routine every day, so if you work varying shifts, you may want to reconsider your decision.
- Once they grow up, dogs will want to play, exercise and get attention from you, otherwise they will become moody and destructive. Like you’ve probably read in many guides, a tired dog is a happy dog… can you give them enough time and exercise? This question will help you narrow down the dog breed that suits your lifestyle the best based on activity levels of your future dog, as well as yours. This exercise is best done by everybody, even previous dog owners, as our activity levels change over time and our compatible breed (or even species) does too.
- Dogs are not for the lazy, or the clean freak. You will have to take them out for a walk in the rain, snow and they will come in dripping wet, and track in lots of dirt with their little paws. And don’t forget, the poop won’t scoop itself!
- If you are a frequent flier, remember that frequent and/or long separation is hard on your pet. Ensure you have a support system of friends/family who will care for your pet when you’re away so that you keep her kennel stays to a minimum.
- Do I have enough experience handling dogs? This will help you narrow down your breed by their temperament and also, age. Young pups are more pliable than older dogs, but also need a lot more training to get the basics right.
- Other factors such as children and other pets in the household are a big factor to consider as well. No matter how good you are with dogs, it might just be a good idea to go with a breed that is known to have a calm, mellow temperament in such cases. It just gives you peace of mind when you are not supervising your kids/pet-kids.
In the end, ask yourself, why do I want a puppy?
- If you want the playmate you cuddled with after returning from school and in between your play times, remember that being a pet-playmate and pet-parent is very different.
- If you think this is going to be a good training for having children, think again… a puppy is not a training class.
- If you want your kids to have a playmate, remember that your puppy will be your pet-child first and then their playmate; you will now have to take care of one more child.
A puppy is a highly intelligent living being that will need love, care and engaging attention for the next 10-15 years of your life. It will be a lot of work, especially until they are 6 months old, and then some.
Things will go wrong. Your expensive shoes and furniture will get chewed on. Your puppy will choose your expensive Persian carpet to have an accident on. Even older dogs will go back and forth with their good habits. Make sure that you are emotionally mature to handle a puppy’s mistakes and tantrums, whether intentional or otherwise. There are no shortcuts to achieving a well-behaved puppy, but it can be achieved with patience and consistent training.
Finally, double check all your thought process before you bring the little ball of cuteness into your life.
And please, adopt.
About me: I’m just another animal lover, who thinks my pets make me a better human being. I have fostered many stray dogs and kittens, but this is my first time as an official pet-mom to a lab/shep pup. I’m still easing into my new role, but there are things that I’m absolutely sure of, like this post. This list of things to consider before adopting may not be exhaustive, but it helped me decide, and I hope it helps you too. Please think clearly before making this commitment, so you give your pet its forever home.
Next up: To buy or to adopt?
How do I pick a puppy from a litter?
Last fall, we put up a birdfeeder in our backyard that turned our suburban Seattle backyard into a mini-zoo. There were chickadees, nuthatches, jays, robins, thrushes, towhees and many other birds. To keep the squirrels from destroying my birdfeeder, I kept a ground feeding tray for them.
Soon I could recognize the lovable pests. There was the mischievous fat squirrel, Rascal, the competitive brothers (I later realized they were mates) Chip and Dale, and some other regulars. By January, our backyard pets associated me with the F-word… FOOD.
Most of them were happy co-existing with me, but one little guy decided to go where no squirrels dared. One day, as I watched him finish his food from behind the window, he stood up on his hind legs, clasped his hands, looked straight into my eyes and waited expectantly.
I thought I was going nuts, because lately I’d been staying home so much. Then it happened the next day, and the next. I put a finger against the window and he bounded right up to it, pawing at the glass and looking back and forth from me to the table where I kept the food. This little guy really was talking to me!
And so started an extraordinary friendship. Every time I went downstairs for breakfast or lunch, he ran up to the window and assumed his hungry-puppy pose. He was tuning himself to my routine! He bounded around excitedly in a flash of gray fur when I spotted him, and soon stayed put at the tray when I went to refill it.
Then he started balding along his spine and shoulders. At first, it was just a little bit, but then he lost hair at an alarming rate. It was still March and quite cold, so I feared he would freeze to death. Frantic, I found a squirrel lovers’ forum, The Squirrel Board, to determine whether this was molting or something else. They were stumped, because it looked like Mange, a common fungal skin disorder, but he didn’t have scaly skin, a major symptom of Mange. Mange was a possibility as Seattle is wet almost all year through. They suggested the antibiotic paste Ivermectin 1.87%, but wrong/over dosage can be lethal, so I refrained from treating him yet.
To make things worse, as his fur thinned I realized my squirrel, Patches, was a she. It was early spring and she was probably a nursing mom, and I wasn’t sure how safe Ivermectin would be for her kits.
I eventually found a blog by a squirrel rehabilitator, which made me quite certain her skin condition was Dermatophytosis, and the best way to treat her was to give her a good diet and virgin coconut oil. So I gave her Kaytee Forti-diet for hamsters and gerbils, half a walnut with quarter teaspoon of coconut oil and some powder from cuttlefish bone (normally found in the pet bird section). It’s the closest I could find to the recommended KayTee Forti-Diet for Rats and Mice.
By March end, Patches and I had become inseparable. She scampered up to me as I sat out, held my hand with her little paws, put her little snout in my palms and nibbled away. She liked to show off, too. When other squirrels competed for food, she’d call for me. When I went out and other squirrels backed off a few feet, she’d scamper up to me boldly and hang out, showing her fellow squirrels how close we were. She knew I always gave her second servings and after that, the walnut as a dessert, so she pleaded (read demanded) only twice. Sometimes she’d ask for some other food. No I’m not nuts, people, this squirrel talked.
She was a big bully too. Sometimes this 1.5 pound creature sat near my feet and growled, trying to dominate me like she bullied the other squirrels. A loud clap and an admonishment worked and after a few times, we finally established the alpha in the relationship and she recognized my saying “good girl” as a cue to scuttle away.
But her condition got worse. By April, she was completely bald waist up. Her exposed skin turned gray but not scaly, so I finally guessed it was another form of Mange, called Notoedric Mange. Desperate, I started administering the Ivermectin hidden in her walnut, hoping that her kits were old enough to handle it as well. If she didn’t show up for a few days, I agonized that I’d killed her. But Patches is a super squirrel. In three weeks, she stopped balding. In four, she had fine fur on her upper body. By end of May, Patches had turned into a fur ball. She did develop some fresh bald patches on her lower body, but she managed to grow it back, so maybe that bit was molting.
I was delighted I could do my bit for my furry friend, although I was terrified I may have killed her kits. But I recently saw her hopping along with a little squirrel, I really hope it was her kit.
As our rental lease expiration approaches, with a heavy heart, we’ve decided to wean our backyard pets so they’ll be self-sufficient by fall. So starting June, we now feed them just once a week, unless someone looks obviously hungry.
I haven’t seen Patches in weeks, but last I saw her, she was happy, healthy and bullying other squirrels as usual. Thanks to her, all the animals in our yard see us as friends, and many other squirrels now eat right next to us as we sit out. But no one has talked to us. The Jays, however, have learned how to ask for food, and the little chickadees stay put, grumbling impatiently, when we go out.
Although I miss her sorely, I know it’s for the good. Patches taught me so many things, and she gave me the greatest gift of all—her trust. Coming from a wild animal, it’s exhilarating and fulfilling like nothing else.
She’ll always occupy a special patch in my heart, for I know she’s a one in a million squirrel.
Want to see Patches in Action? Watch here
I’m just another squirrel lover who somehow managed to treat a wild squirrel. Please check with an expert or a squirrel lover’s forum if you see a sick squirrel and want to help.
Notoedric Mange was my best guess and Ivermectin did work, but I’d like to know what Patches really had. If you know, please tell me!