Life Lessons from my Puppy
About two months ago, we welcomed a furry addition to our homes. Raya is a “boxador” (boxer/lab mix) rescue puppy. She is a real sweetie who loves to cuddle with her mommy (me) and play hard with my husband/“daddy.”
Growing up, I never had “real” pets. We had a fish and hermit crabs, but nothing furry. I wanted a dog, but we were always busy—with school, friends, sports, work, and family. My husband grew up having dogs, so we knew once we got married it was something we wanted to get together. We waited until we bought our first home and lived there nearly two years to start searching for the right pup. We also needed to have flexible jobs close to home also that allowed us to come home to take care of her. Thankfully, everything fell into place very easily and before we knew it, we were bringing a furry ball of joy home.
We decided to rescue because, well, rescue dogs are the best. Raya was from a high kill shelter in Mississippi that got saved and transported to Maryland where we picked her up from. From what we know, her mom was in that kill shelter when she became pregnant with the litter of puppies Raya was from. I’m glad we were able to save this sweet pup and her mom, brothers, and sisters were all able to find good homes too.
After having Raya two months, I can tell you that I’ve learned a lot about myself and a glimpse of how challenging motherhood. I ended up getting very sick right after getting Raya, so I’ve had some very low moments, but those have been balanced out with much more high moments since becoming a dog mom. I’m grateful that we have wonderful neighbors that have been willing to help us care for sweet Raya. She has become an equal part of their family as ours. We cherish the sweet friendship that we are developing with them and other neighbors in our community.
Here are the four P’s that I’ve learned in the past two months:
House training and crate training were HARD. I didn’t realize how much work both of these were going to be. Getting up in the early hours of the morning, always being alert, and learning how to read Raya’s signals of having to go outside were not easy. I already struggle with patience daily because I am a planner and always looking ahead. I really had (and still have) to dig deep to have grace with Raya. Thankfully, I think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. She now sleeps through the night, is crate trained, and house broken. All of that required a lot of patience—coupled with tears, lack of sleep, and a little frustration, but we did it!
My husband and I try to spend at least 15 minutes a day practicing commands and tricks with Raya and rewarding her with treats and bones for good behavior. Right now, she knows how to sit, go to her room/crate, and is starting to lift her paw to shake. We are also working on our manners while on the leash and walking. We will enroll Raya in obedience school coming up and will have to practice everything we learn there even harder. Thankfully, Raya is a very good and treat motivated dog that she picks things up fast and is a decent listener. We need to practice daily so that we can continue to grow as good parents, and so that she is obedient.
Right after we got Raya, I became very sick with some stomach issues. I was hospitalized and on medication. I barely could eat and was exhausted. Raya was not house broken or crate trained at this time. It was extremely difficult and hard on me. I had no joy watching her while I felt like I was dying. I would sit there and cry wondering when she was going to learn and why I didn’t love her yet. The key was perseverance. I had to learn to push through the difficulties of being sick and teaching a puppy. It wasn’t Raya’s fault I was sick. It wasn’t Raya’s fault that she was a baby and needed to be taught to do those things. Thankfully, I have a wonderful, supportive husband who reminded me that it was going to be hard, but it would be worth it. He reminded me that it would take time and she wouldn’t be perfect, but we needed to dig deep and push on. He was right, as he usually always is.
After getting a puppy, I quickly learned that my priorities had to dramatically shift. We had to make something other than ourselves a priority, which after being married nearly 6 years was a little difficult. We quickly had to figure out a schedule that worked for Raya and for us. It wasn’t easy. And it’s hard to say no to things. I love to sleep and I had to prioritize making sure Raya could go outside over my normal sleeping schedule. We have to strategize when we want to travel so that we can accommodate her now. We can’t just go to a movie on a week night because Raya’s been in her crate all day and that wouldn’t be fair to her. Even though this all sounds very sacrificial, it’s been a blessing. I’ve been able to spend more time and focus on my little family more than I ever have before. It’s also made me really value the time that I spend with others when I am able to. I’m not chained at home because I have a puppy now, but it has made me look at things through a different lens. My family is my priority and everything else has to work around that and their needs.