Monday, May 14, 2012

Pet Ownership Post-College

Being 22 (almost 23!) with not one, but TWO dogs does often attract a lot of questions from a variety of angles.  My peers, especially those in college usually say, "I can't wait to graduate so then I can get a dog! It must be so great!"  My elders all say, "Why the heck would you do that? You're tying yourself down and pouring out your wallet!"  Admittedly, there is truth to both of these statements that I thought I should briefly address.

All throughout high school, I'd worked with dogs, Labradors, training them for potential guide work in their futures.  This was hard.  Sure, financially it was not a burden, as they were provided for by the organization, but my time was completely dictated by whatever current dog I had.  Also, the training requirements were on-going and quite demanding; it was all worth it and fun to do, but nonetheless did take a lot of time and practice. I'd never take back the experiences I had with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, but having done it for four years, I felt quite sure I knew what having my own dog would entail and decided I wanted one once out of school.  But a lower key kind of dog that wouldn't demand quite as much of my time.  This is how I found greyhounds, the notorious 40mph couch potato.

When I adopted Ferguson a month after I graduated, I was convinced I was ready to take up any challenge the dog offered me. And, I mean, I was, and our bond is quite unlike any other.  However, it is safe to say that he was not the easiest dog and that had Winry been my first dog, I'd have likely not have gotten a second for several more years.  Ferguson for whatever reason became hopelessly smitten and devoted to me, probably because at this point in my life, I was home all the time and worked in a  place where he was always welcome. I tried to do practiced separation that would have probably worked for the average dog, but for him, it was not nearly rigid enough, which I didn't learn until too late.  Here, things got sticky, and I feel pretty sure in saying that most other kids my age wouldn't have been able to work with him through his drastic increase of separation anxiety; heck, I had experience with it and it would often drive me batty.
"But I make super cute faces!"
So when kids my age say they want a dog, the first thing that pops in my mind is the painful ongoing months that was Ferguson's troublesome life-stage that made it ridiculously difficult to leave the house or do essentially anything without some serious help from my parents because for so many months he was not ready to be left alone for more than a few minutes.  This reason makes me feel like they really should not get a dog until they are quite stable with another person at home or having financial means to care for the dog as necessary, because there is no telling what kind of crazy behavior the dog might develop.  I am fortunate enough to work in dog daycare and vet care so that I could provide Ferguson with the behavioral and medical counseling he needed.

Having fun at the park!
Sure, having dogs is great, I won't deny it.  We have fun, I am probably healthier by walking them every day, and they are constantly doing adorable things that make me laugh.  That being said though, I sound like a teenage mother when I say, "It is great and I wouldn't trade them for anything, but I feel like most people should wait until they are fully stable before jumping in to getting a pet, any pet, because you don't know what life might throw at you emotionally or financially."

I think I totally deserve this button.
If you're thinking about getting a pet, don't just imagine the best-case scenario of what you want.  You really have to imagine the worst; if the cat/dog has a rare, ridiculously expensive illness, if the animal can't stand to be without you, if your favorite thing is to go out randomly with friends after a hard day of working, how you will ensure still being the best pet-parent you can be.  To anyone, I'd highly recommend fostering an animal first, (sort of like what I did with the Labradors), and even then, be amazed at what your own pet will throw at you!


Declan said...

Mum says she has lived with and owned dogs for over 40 years and she had a lot of the same problems with me that you had with Ferg... still do have some of them... so even age, experience and a settled environment can throw you a furry curve ball! Deccy x

Kini_pella said...

This is very true! As a first dog though, it might be a farcry from what everyone expects their first dog to be like. I did feel like I was equipped to deal with Ferguson, but I don't know if any of my friends would have had the patience! But, one and a half years, another hound, and low daily doses of fluoxetine later, he's a happy, no-longer panicky dog when I long as I stick mostly to routine!

Anonymous said...

This is why we have a cat... I can affirm that I would never have as much patience with Fergus & Winry as you do, as great as they are!

(This is Sarah, you can probably guess - I'm just being lazy and not logging in to Google.)

Sue said...

Very sensible advice there.

My Song doesn't like being left and if I could I would get a second Greyhound, but can't do that yet.

gyeong said...

It would be nice if everyone put such thought into adopting a pet, then our shelters wouldn't be so full of returned dogs and cats.

Molly The Wally said...

Great Blog!
Best wishes Molly

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

So true! Excellent post!

Teh Megan said...

I'm always very grateful that Phil doesn't have any special issues (yet). For most people that know me, they know that if they invite me somewhere, they are also inviting Phil (it was the same way with my former Dalmatian), which is very helpful.

Great post!

Pup Fan said...

Excellent points. I got Bella when I was 22 and just out of college - my roommate and boyfriend both helped out with walking and other things and that made a huge difference. I don't know how well I would have handled it all on my own at that age.

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