Puppy prep, puppy-proofing

The Albert household prepares for its first pup

As the parent of kids coming up on 7 and 5 years old, those days of wondering what the heck did I get myself into? are largely in the rearview mirror. Parenting has its moments, of course, but things are so much more in control than they were before the kids could walk and talk and, to some extent at least, fend for themselves.

Since even before my wife and I became parents, I’ve wanted a golden retriever. No reason, really, except that I’ve always been drawn to them. So after determining earlier this year the kids were “old enough” to get a dog, we did some research and selected a breeder. We pick up the dog in the next week or so.

I’ve never in my life had a dog. Growing up, there was a stray that came around, and the day my parents finally decided we could keep him – we went to the store to get all the necessary doggy gear – is the day he took off and got hit by a car.

So I’ve basically been looking forward to the day I could have a dog of my own for the past 30 years or so. And when I tell people about our forthcoming pup, it’s hard to contain my excitement. It’s on a different level than having a baby, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

Perhaps that’s the reason I’ve been so surprised by how so many conversations have started. I’ll tell people we’re getting a puppy – a super-cute and friendly golden retriever, no less – and watch their reaction. Often as not, their reaction would be the same if I asked them to walk on hot coals from here to California. While doing the YMCA dance.

“Have fun with that.”

“Good luck.”

“Why don’t you just have another baby?”

“You’re going to have hair – really, super-duper long dog hair! – all over your house.”

It’s just a momentary thing, though – a natural reaction. Once they have a moment to compose themselves, they begin to talk about how great dogs are, how they’ve had them all their life, and about how wonderful it will be for the kids.

Truth be told, I’m ready for just about anything. Already, we’ve changed plans because of the pup’s impending arrival and pondered who can watch the dog as we tend to the few must-dos on our social calendar. I’m not that far removed from middle-of-the-night wakeup calls from the kids, so I’m not particularly concerned about those, and it’s not like we live in a museum, so if the pup chews on something he shouldn’t, oh well. And I fashion myself a decent disciplinarian with my kids, so it’s hard for me to envision the yet-to-be-named pup running roughshod over the Albert household.

Maybe I’ll be proved wrong. Maybe I’ll turn into an absolute mess and search for comfort in the eyes of strangers on the street. Hey, you’ve got a dog. Do you understand what I’m going through?

OK, that’s a bit much. Dog ownership rates wouldn’t be so high, their positive contributions to children and the family as a whole so lauded, if raising them were an impossible task. There’s a unique bond between humans and dogs, and I’m sure I could find some study somewhere that details what it’s all about.

But I don’t need to see those because I can see the pain in people’s eyes when their pooch passes away. I’ve read and edited enough stories about people losing their dogs that I know pretty well that dogs become important parts of the family.

It’s a relationship I look forward to establishing. I don’t know exactly what this dog will be like. I’ll hunt with him, but I don’t have preconceived notions of turning him into a hunting machine. My dad used to have a dog that would lie there until the bail on his reel clicked, and then would jump up, associating the click with the arrival of a fish. I hope my dog enjoys going fishing with me, and will be patient enough for it.

I guess at the end of the day what I want is a mild-mannered companion that turns into another member of the family. That’s not too much to ask for, right?

I look forward to writing about the pup again in a couple of months – after he’s been home for a while and I have some concrete experiences about which to write.

In the meantime, wish me luck.

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