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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Buying a Puppy this Christmas? Read This First...

It's that time of year when many can't resist the cuteness of a puppy, panting through the glass of their local pet shop. But wait...if you want a dog, do you really need a "puppy" as such? What about a dog that really needs a home?

About a year ago, we adopted a new family member. The dog.

Hubby really wanted to get a dog. Actually, he wanted another baby and I basically said, "No thank you. I'm done. Shop is CLOSED." I think he thought a dog seemed like a good second option. Besides, as a kid he'd always wanted one. He was fulfilling a childhood dream, you might say.

I was resistant to the idea from the start. You see, I have three kids. Three young boys. And believe me, they are work. Lots of it. I have more than enough to keep me occupied, thank you very much. And the idea of a new puppy added to the mix? Not so appealing. Having to train it and look after it (because I knew even though Hubby wanted it, it would be me who was going to have to care for it, being at home all day and all) was just not something I felt ready to do. Yet.

But Hubby did his usual, "Oh it'll be fine" trick, and promptly started checking out websites for the perfect family dog.

Before too long, he professed to have found the perfect breed for our family. The Irish Wolfhound. Have you seen one? Imagine a kind of miniature HORSE if you will. (Or click here to see what I'm talking about. Yikes.)

Clearly, the Irish Wolfhound wasn't going to work for me. I'm sorry - but I just can't have a dog that is bigger than me. Besides, they apparently live for around only 9 years. Poor things. The boys would just get attached and then....gone. Oh dear.

And because I'm so busy with my boys, and still dealing with a very (VERY) demanding toddler, a puppy just wasn't going to work for me. Did you know you have to often get up during the night to look after them? That they can't be left alone for too long in the beginning because they develop bad habits? (You know, like chewing up all your plants in the backyard, or tearing down your favourite sheets and ripping them to shreds with their teeth? Just sayin'.) And they start on extra feeds during the day. Just like a baby does.

And so, after expressing my concerns over a puppy, Hubby changed his tact. "What about a slightly older dog that needs a home?" he suggested. It was then he found a website called PetRescue, and through that, he found "the dog".

A couple of weeks later, we drove out to Londonderry, about an hour's drive out of Sydney, to a shelter called Save Our Strays, where a very friendly lady by the name of Francine introduced us to the dog. We were told he was a Staffy x (but really, we've seen so many different breeds of dog in him, it's hard to say for sure). He was incredibly timid. He submitted as soon as the boys got near him (went down on his tummy), which Francine assured us a very good sign for our situation. And sadly, he was 19 months old at that stage, but had been in the shelter since the age of 4 months. We asked why she thought he hadn't been taken home by anyone yet? (We were worried it had something to do with his personality.) "He's just not cute enough. But I think he's gorgeous." We did too. Well, mostly the boys and Hubby did, but I could kind of see the appeal.

We went home to think about it. It was a big decision for us to make. The shelter gave a two week trial period for each dog. And although that was appealing to us, and a good fall-back plan, we really wanted to avoid having to return a dog. I mean, imagine you're the dog, and you just get out of the "joint", and suddenly you find yourself back in. Awful. We wanted to get it as right as we possibly could.

Eventually we decided the dog could come to stay. And soon after that, friendly Francine was driving the dog to our house. (A lovely gesture, and as it turned out, a handy one because he thew up 3 times in her car during the trip. Nice.)

Francine brought him in to our backyard, and sat with him until he settled in. And then she left. I'm quite sure had she looked back, she would have seen Hubby and I standing there, like two deer stuck in headlights. We had no idea what to do next.

And yes, in the beginning it was a steep learning curve. I'd had dogs as a kid, but I'd never really had much to do with caring for them. And although we had a few incidents with him (including one particularly looooong wee in our family room the first day he arrived - we have tiles, thank goodness), he settled in fairly quickly. (In his defence, he was probably marking his new territory.)

To date, he has had no training, and yet when we whistle, he comes. He "stays" when he's told (mostly) and has been great with the kids. The toddler has squeezed his snout, pulled his tail, poked his eyes and kicked him. But he hasn't reacted at all. He's a great dog.

In the end, I felt good about how the events had turned out. We managed to escape the demands of a new puppy, and we got a great dog that we saved from a pretty ordinary life. Before he arrived at our house, and had his own kennel and a lovely, soft mattress in the family room to sleep on, and leftover gourmet food to eat (to a dog anyway), he slept in a concrete kind of cell. Spacious enough only to walk around in, with the odd play in the neighbouring fields. In fact, in his 15 months there, he had never been taken for an actual "walk". How sad is that?

And yes, perhaps we've been lucky, but during the incessant research we did prior to purchasing our pup, I did read that often dogs that are adopted from a difficult situation can be extraordinarily loyal, because, quite frankly, they are grateful for their new life.

Besides, I've also read some horrible stories about the way in which puppies are bred in puppy mills for sale in pet shops. As a result, I would never choose to purchase one from a pet shop. (You can read more about that here through the RSPCA website.)

Yep. We are very happy with our addition to the family, and this month, we celebrate a whole year since he came home. He's a great fit.

Here's a piccie of our happy "puppy" (as Hubby refers to him).

The dog

If you've thought about getting a dog, and don't know where to start, PetRescue has a great website that is Australia-wide. They don't just have puppies and dogs, but all sorts of animals that need a good home. You can check out their website HERE. And remember: a pet is for life.

Merry Christmas to ALL the pets (and their owners) out there!

Until next time...


Tara@Waffling Along said...

We have two cats. Fat Cat was born when a stray popped into a friends house for a feed and voila, had a litter of kittens, and Cat was from the Animal Welfare Shelter. I am with you, why buy from the pet shop when you can find a lovely pet desperately in need of a new home from an animal shelter.

Ami said...

Great post Jodie! You know what a fan I am of rescuing dogs instead of 'buying' them! Puppy kinda looks like our Kelpie too!

And you're right, a puppy is for life, not just a few days at Christmas. They are a big committment, but can be the most fun! Every afternoon when I walk in the door I think: Happiness is, being greeted by our pup who is just so god damn happy to see us. No strings attached, just unconditional love.