Sandy walked up to my desk and announced “I think Timmy needs a puppy!” Being the resident “dog person” in my office it is not uncommon for co-workers to ask me various questions or tell me about recent stories they’d heard about pets in the news. But this announcement took me by surprise because I’ve worked with Sandy for the past 10 years and know her quite well. I lived and listened to her through her tumultuous marriage and recent divorce. Sandy has 2 children who live with her ages 11 and 8. Her 8 year old son had been diagnosed with Bi-polar Disorder about two years ago.
Curious, I asked her why she thought Tim needed a dog right now? She explained their neighbor had bought a miniature dachshund puppy from a breeder in Lake Geneva and her son was enamored of it. My insides screamed “Where do I begin?” First, there was the whole situation of Sandy adding another responsibility into her already chaotic life, then the issue of buying a puppy from a so called “good breeder”? I decided to try and talk her out of this step by step, point by point.
#1. Puppies are a lot of work
Sandy works a full time job plus has to be mom and dad to both her children. Puppies need a lot of time and patience to housetrain, and establish good behavior and manners. They need someone around them to teach them. Leaving a puppy alone 8-9 hours a day is not fair to either the dog or to you. A small breed dog like a dachshund cannot be responsible for accidents when left alone all day. No matter how responsible your children may be and at any age they cannot be held accountable for taking care of what essentially a “baby”. Sandy answered that her life was crazy already, what’s one more thing?
#2. Owning a puppy costs money
The initial investment can be hundreds of dollars, then the real fun begins. Vaccinations are a must and puppies are required to get more than an adult dog. Vet exams, tests, vaccines and heartworm medication are a must not to mention spaying/neutering the puppy sometime in the first year. One bout of diarrhea or vomiting can cost a lot of money to clear up. Food, toys, collar, leashes, treats etc are not free either. For Sandy, money is always tight.
#3. A puppy will not make Tim’s problems go away, it will just add more stress in your home.
Sandy had struggled to get Tim’s illness and behavior under control. His medication was constantly being changed and therapy visits were a weekly thing for them. He had to be hospitalized once when Sandy could not control him. Prone to outbursts, Tim could act out without much warning and this concerned me with a puppy around. Puppies can nip and jump and be annoying in any circumstances. Yes, Tim thinks he wants a dog now, but what about in 2 months when he tires of him?
#4. Good breeders are not necessarily good just because they have a website
Sandy had looked at the site and spoken to the breeder in Lake Geneva only to find out they did have a litter due in a month or so but they also had some “older puppies” who hadn’t been sold yet that she could get at a cheaper price. She was going to see them that weekend— but just to look. Ugh, I warned her to ask the right questions: how many types of dogs do they breed, ask to see the mother and father of the puppies, ask what the return policy is (any decent breeder will take any of their dogs back, anywhere, anytime) what are the health risks in the breed? Finally, I stressed to her, wait and think about this, there are a lot of good dogs out there, don’t make this decision by emotion only.
The following Monday she announced “We bought one!” Seems her boyfriend paid the hundreds of dollars for one of the “older puppies” and they brought him home, without asking any of the questions I advised her too. I tried to be semi-supportive and helped her with all the basic puppy behavior questions. I pushed her into going to puppy classes with him. The breeder told her he should only get to be 8 lbs but he quickly surpassed that, Sandy has no idea how big he will be? Rocky was the best dog ever for awhile until he developed a case of diarrhea and became very sick. Sandy had to put that Vet bill on her credit card. A few months later another Vet bill came. Grandpa paid that one. Rocky had an accident and they were worried something was wrong with his spine. Tim was hospitalized again after he got mad and threw the dog into a wall. The therapists asked him why he did it and he said “My mom and sister weren’t giving me enough attention”
Despite the obvious, that Sandy should never have adopted a puppy at this stage of her life for her son, the dog has turned out to be good therapy for Sandy. She adores him and can’t see living with out him when the rest of her life is so crazy busy. So the lesson I learned was no matter how hard you try to talk someone out of an irrational decision they just might not listen. I only hope and pray Rocky doesn’t end up in a shelter sometime soon because he is “too much” for the family. So many of these impulsive buys from “good breeders” do.
I also hope no one else at work asks me about buying a puppy, at least not for awhile…..