For years I volunteered for local animal rescues and shelters, babysat my friends’ pups, and longed for the day when I’d have a place where I could finally have a dog. So, when I purchased my first home in July of this year, it wasn’t a huge surprise to those close to me that it was one of the first things I did. Looking back, I probably rushed into it a little too quickly-not because I didn’t know how to care for a dog, but because I wasn’t exactly ready. My house was lonely. I’d become accustomed to living alone in my old apartment, but this was a new place-a new place that was very old and had all of it’s own sounds. After a few weeks of staying up most of the night due to the anxiety of being in a new place all by myself, I just couldn’t take it anymore. So ready or not, I went down to my the Salt Lake County Animal shelter and I rescued Handsome Bub.
Bub didn’t care that I didn’t have a fence in my yard yet and would have to walk him, or that I was a lazy person and his walks would be fewer and further between than they should have been. He didn’t care that even though I’d been a Pitbull advocate for years, I’d never owned a dog of his size and strength before (Bub is actually an American Staffordshire Terrier which is larger than a regular pittie). All Bub cared about was that he was leaving the 4×4 kennel he’d called home for the last month plus, and that there were treats involved. He’d had a rough go over it over the previous month, as no one knew where he’d come from or why his owners never claimed him. All they could tell me was that he was well-loved by the staff and volunteers, but in spite of their working with him daily, his temperament had deteriorated the longer he had spent in their facility. The vet tech who’d worked with him most told me that if he hadn’t found a home that day, she would have probably taken him home out of necessity, even though her boyfriend was protesting another dog.
Bub is not without his faults-in fact he has many of them and it’s going to be a long hard road for us to get through some of them. After spending these past few months with him, I’m certain of one thing, his previous owners beat him pretty regularly. The first time I raised my voice to him he cowered so low I thought he was trying to melt into the carpet-he was terrified. This boy also does not like strangers. He will quickly warm up to women, and he absolutely loves children, but he is petrified of men. He’ll sit and shake uncontrollably around them, and if they get too close, he will react aggressively. When I am in my most stress-filled moments of worry for his mental health and how we’re going to tackle this issue, I remember where he must have come from and how he felt at the shelter, and I am reassured by the fact that he needs me. He’s a million times better off, and infinitely happier, here with me. This dog loves me unconditionally, so it’s only fair I do the same.
So here are a few things I learned after having Bub for 4 months as of December 29th-next Tuesday. His official gotcha day is August 29th.
Lessons Learned by a New Doggy Mom
Your whole way of life changes when you adopt a dog.
I didn’t realize just how much my life would change. I definitely can’t just take off for a weekend without thinking about responsibilities anymore-now I either have to pack Bub up and haul him with me or I have to find a puppy sitter. Also, I never sleep in anymore because Bub always has to use the bathroom around 5AM and he’ll whine until I drag myself out of bed to take him.
If you leave something out it’s fair game.
I’ve lost remotes, socks, entire bags of treats, a roll of painters tape, and various other casualties to Bub’s need to eat everything in site. Just the other day he snuck an entire bag of yogurt bones out of the grocery bag, which was on the couch, and devoured them while I was in the shower. Just like kids, if it’s quiet-they’re up to something! I definitely have to be better about putting things away from now on.
Dogs will eat anything.
Yes, anything. Poop, their own vomit, random things left out… It’s gross, but not always the end of the world. When Bub ate the painters tape I was terrified. He had a sick stomach and everytime he went to the bathroom little bits of blue tape came out. It turns out, that while some things can be harmful, you just have to watch them and make sure whatever they ate leaves their body and they return to normal (unless it’s something highly toxic). One day later and Bub was back to his playful self with slightly less colorful waste.
Crate-training is good for them.
Before I got Bub I thought there was no way I’d leave him in a crate while I’m at work all day. I thought that was a terrible thing to do, and the entire first week I had him he had free range of the house. It turns out, Bub would much rather be in his crate. When left out of his crate he barks, whines, and destroys everything because he feels anxious. In his crate he naps and doesn’t make a peep unless someone comes around the house and his guard dog instincts kick in. You still can’t leave them in a crate too long, but at least for Bub, the crate has relieved his stress immensely.
Dogs take sick days too.
One Wednesday a while back, as I was getting ready for work, Bub started acting really weird. He was whining, and he wouldn’t get up even for treats. Terrified by this, I immediately called in sick to work and called the vet. The vet couldn’t see me until the next day though, so they instructed me to watch him for the day and make sure there was no vomiting, diarrhea, or heavy breathing. If so, he needed to go to the emergency vet.
This is when my friend Blaire, who also has Pitbulls who eat everything, said she has a 24 hour rule. She gives them 24 hours to see if they’re feeling better before taking them to the vet (unless they’re acting severely off or showing the bad symptoms like loss of appetite). Sure enough, I was able to cancel his vet appointment the next day because he was perfectly fine. I did stay home one extra day to be sure, but it sounded like Bub just needed a sick day, and was happy to milk it so I had to stay home and take care of him.
“Indestructible” toys are not actually always indestructible.
Bub is a big time chewer, and he’s such a big dog that even some of the “indestructable” or “unbreakable” toys are gone in a matter of minutes. Huge tough bones? Devoured. I’ve only found a few really good toys that last him a good long time-and go figure that if he can’t destroy it he doesn’t love it that much. Half the time I think it takes him so much longer because he’s bored of it since it holds itself together. His most recent tough toy is the Benebone from chewy.com (they sent me this for free to try) which he actually likes and has been packing around the house with him lately.
I’ve also had a lot of luck with his Kong. I fill it up with things like peanut butter, dog treats, soft dog food, chicken stock, whatever-and he enjoys working at it. Sometimes I fill his Kong just in order to get him to leave me alone for a few minutes.
Dogs NEED training and training is pricey.
I know the only way to work through some of his aggression and confidence issues is with a trainer that is well-skilled with that time of thing. I’m sure most dogs can get away with basic obedience, but I am going to have to fork out the extra cost to get someone who is trained in his specific issues. Unfortunately that is looking like it starts at $300 and just goes up from there. Ouch.
Even with his issues and the money it’s going to take to help him get through it, I wouldn’t take back adopting him for anything in the world. He’s my best little buddy, and he loves me more than anyone or anything in the world.
A Few Bub-Specific Facts
Dogs have their own unique personalities, and while I’ve mentioned a few of his quirks and things above, I’d like to take a moment to share with you some of his specific personality/character traits.
- Bub is super clingy. He always wants to be under feet, follows me around the house, and doesn’t want to be apart from me.
- He’s not allowed on the furniture, but he tests his luck and tries to climb on the couch a lot.
- He’ll happily go in his crate, even if you’re not trying to get him to, if you have treats. Actually, he’ll do anything for treats.
- He always knows when I’m blue, and he’s the first one who is trying to make me feel better with so many kisses.
- He loves his winter coat. He didn’t at first, but since then he basically demands I put it on him. So adorable.
- He likes the snow a lot and will go dig around in it. He’s also happy to have you throw snowballs at him so he can try and catch them.
- He likes to play ball, but he doesn’t want to bring it back. He gets distracted.
- They said he gets along well with cats previously, but he definitely tries to eat the strays in the neighborhood.
- Bath time is his least favorite time, and wrestling a 70lb dog into a tall jetted tub is my least favorite activity.
- He’s pretty well behaved, but he’s also strong willed and will push his luck or sneak things when you’re not looking.
- My feet seem to be his favorite place to launch off of when he runs, and it’s super painful.
- He LOVES babies. In fact, when Kristina brings Katya over he just follows her around giving kisses and picking up whatever she drops. I swear he looks at me and goes “Mom, why don’t we have one of these?” Not gonna happen, Bub.