A – Z Survival Guide to Life
D – Dogs
The fourth installment in the A-Z Survival Guide to Life I am writing for my boys is D for Dogs.
Dogs have played a huge part in your childhood. We had the honor of spending a wonderful 9 years with Newman, the first Great Dane you ever met. He was such a great dog, so protective, so strong and sometimes a little territorial. I still miss him dreadfully.
Now we have the pleasure of having Maxie and Mikey in our family. Remember when they first came to our house? It was a week after Newman had died. I went into such a deep mourning and the house was so empty and lifeless with Newman gone. Your father decided not only should we get a Great Dane, but also a Golden Retriever (his favorite breed) – I must say that was one of his more brilliant decisions. And it was if fate, or perhaps Newman had guided us to a place south of Los Angeles – where we picked up Mikey. Just down the street was a Golden Retriever breeder – she had one more puppy – and that was Maxie. When Maxie and Mikey met – it was if they were blood brothers, from the same brood. So strong is their bond, they are inseparable. Even today, when we took them to the groomer, Mikey wouldn’t walk in, until Maxie was by his side.
I tell you all of this, because there are some very important things we need to discuss about dogs. I know you will have dogs with you throughout your lives. I know they will be big, silly Great Danes, and scrumptious fluffy Golden Retrievers. But dogs are like children, to raise a loyal and loving dog there are several things you need to think about.
Dogs need love – I know you two would never do this but if you are going to take on the responsibility of having a dog, he needs to be an integral part of your life, not just something to pay attention to when it is convenient or suits your whims.
On a side note – if a new girlfriend of yours says she doesn’t really like dogs, or she wants your dog put outside, when she is visiting – it is time to show her the front door. If a person you are interested in flinches when the dog comes up to her to say hello, be forewarned that she is probably only tolerating the dog. Watch for the subtle signs. If you are ever given an ultimatum of choosing between a girl and the dog, always, always chose the dog. If you don’t, you will regret it in the long run. Trust me on this one!!!
Dogs need routine – Mikey knows when it is dinner time, he is off his futon and standing ready in the kitchen at exactly 7PM. Dogs, like children, need to know what to expect at certain times of the day. They need to know they are going to get a bedtime snackie every night, if that is what they are used to. They need to know that they are going to go for a walk after you arrive home, or be able to go outside and lay on the pool deck as the sun is setting (Mikey) – again if that is what they are accustomed to. Routine is crucial.
Nothing will drive a dog crazier than being left for hours and hours by themselves. That is when they begin to act out, and become destructive – because they are unsure of what to expect.
Dogs need comfort – Dogs cannot be relegated to the backyard, they must be part of the family at all times. They need comfortable places to sleep, places they can call their own. They need to feel like they are part of the pack and not sequestered to one area of the house.
Dogs need guidelines – Dogs should have access to the same places their humans have. But, if you don’t want them clambering all over your furniture, you have to be firm, consistent, and set the ground rules when they are puppies. They need to know what is expected of them. And don’t decide when they are 3 years old, for example, that they should suddenly stop doing something they have been doing their whole lives (like sitting on furniture), because you will confuse them.
Dogs are insightful – Dogs are a very good judge of character. If there are people they don’t seem to bond with, there probably is a really good reason. Pay attention.
Dogs have needs – It is important that you hold off on bringing a puppy into your house until your life is stable. Make sure you are settled, you have an adequate income, and can provide everything you and your dog might need.
Remember they require routine immunizations and health checks.
They need fresh water, and need to be fed on a schedule. They need lots and lots of hugs, they need to be talked to, and included in the family activities. Sometimes it may be inconvenient to do some of these things, it may seem as if other things are more pressing, but when you bring a puppy into your life, you have taken on the responsibility of taking care of them, loving them. They are not an afterthought, because to them, you are everything. Make sure that you earn and maintain that trust and love. Having a dog in your life is not a right, it is a privilege.