For about a month now, I’ve been the happy – and exhausted – owner of a little puppy, a french bulldog named Biceps.
Most of you have probably already seen his little face on Instagram and Snapchat. I try to keep it under control, but it’s kinda hard to not capture every instant of his life! It fascinates me to observe him. I know he’s a popular little one and I couldn’t help but notice he’s completely stealing my thunder :P
Make no mistake: I’m very happy that he’s so social, and that everyone loves him, wants to pet him, play with him and the selfies. But I do have the feeling that I’ve been giving a truncated vision of what it’s like to raise him, that I’m giving the illusion that every day is made of cuteness, playfulness and pride, which is obviously not exactly the case.
Realising that made me want to write a few words about how it is ‘backstage’, behind the snaps and the pictures. Talk to you about the things that I don’t show, but that are a big part of our life together. Hopefully this will give some insights to those of you who would like to adopt a dog, too :)
Let me be clear: I don’t consider myself an expert. I might have read a lot on puppies and dog education, and sure, I’ve binge-watched more than my fair share of Cesar Millan, aka the Dog Whisperer, videos but I’m as clueless as anyone. Biceps is my first dog and I’m still learning everyday. However, as I am currently completely submerged in this experience, and I thought it would be good to share my personal thoughts and findings.
The first thing that you should take into account if you’re planning to adopt a puppy, and the most important aspect of being a dog-mom in my opinion, is that you have to be aware that having a dog will completely change your life. Not as in you’ll have to think about getting his food every two weeks and put the plants and the cables out of his reach; I mean waking up at 7.30 am every damn day to start your day with a routine of poop-cleaning + outing and hoping he will graciously accept to pee where he should + gently encourage him to finish his plate. Whether it’s sunny or raining outside, even with a hangover, even when you’re late, even when you went to bed at 5.30, even when you have other things to do and when you don’t feel like it.
I’m talking about coming back home during lunch every day to, again, take him out and feed him, and almost 100% of the time, scrubbing his accidents off the floor. Anticipating the least of your activities, whether it’s a casual dinner with friends, a holiday or an afternoon of shopping.
Adopting a puppy, it’s making the decision that he/she will become your #1 priority for as long as it takes. A puppy needs consistency and regularity, so don’t even think about improvising and “let’s see how it goes”. It’s annoying, and it’s frustrating, I know. But it pays off, definitely. The more strict and consistent you’ll be with your dog (and with yourself!), the faster you will notice results in his behaviour. Once he learns his routine and starts getting what you want from him, you will see progress everyday – which will bring tears of joy into your eyes!
Think about it thoroughly: a dog is a LOT of responsibility. Are you ready to do the sacrifices that will be necessary to your dog’s well-being, to fulfil his needs? Just know what you should expect, because there’s nothing worse than people who abandon or resell their dog after 6 months, because they’re not ready to deal with all the constraints.
Now let’s be honest, full disclosure: when I started actively looking to adopt Biceps, I had no idea what was coming. It was a selfish decision, 100%: I didn’t save him from a bad home, I didn’t adopt him from a shelter. No, my story is that I had been wanting a french bulldog for years, I knew it had to be a male and I had decided to call him Biceps already a long time ago. I wanted to find love and complicity in a pet that would celebrate each of my entrances like it’s Christmas morning. I wanted to be in awe of his cuteness, I could see myself taking naps with him, cuddling him when I was feeling down and go for walks when the sun would shine.
While I was getting ready to welcome him home, I quickly realise there were many other aspects I hadn’t thought of: I needed to be more responsible. I’m a little bit ashamed to admit it, but I guess I had underestimated the whole thing quite a bit. Now after reading a bunch of books and articles, I gained more confidence and realised I had to see things from another angle: my dog’s needs. It’s the key building a solid relationship with him: for everything to go as well as possible, and to allow a special bond to be created, you have to put his needs before yours, to put yourself in his paws. Try to understand what he’s thing about, what he’s trying to tell you. Try to anticipate his behaviours, and to take some distance in orde to make the right decisions: to not punish him when he peed on the rug, even though it pisses you off and you have no one else to direct your anger at. To not go and comfort him when he’s whining like a little wolf, because he has to learn to be alone. To not lose your patience when you’ve been outside in the rain for almost 10 minutes and His Highness hasn’t decided yet where or when he will defecate.
Having a puppy, it’s also a damn emotional rollercoaster. Everyday. It’s freaking out when you’re at work (“what if he swallows something he shouldn’t? What if he’s out of water?”), having terrible nightmares at night, googling some very disturbing requests (who would have known that someday, I would type the keywords “puppy” and “penis” in the same sentence?), wondering if his ears were looking the same two days ago and questioning your authority every time he eats his own feces.
And despite all the crap that he – literally – drops on me, every time he looks at me with his big eyes, or when he wakes up and licks my ankles for some reason, or when he goes to pee exactly where he’s supposed to, all by himself, my heart fills with happiness and I realise this is all so worth it. And that I actually was more ready than I ever thought I was.
After 4 weeks together, we became almost inseparable. He even sometimes follows me to my office. Lucky me, right? Oh and if you’ve recently received an email filled with typos, now you know why. I still have to teach him to hit one key at a time – we’ll get there.