*Featured in the May 2011 issue of The Kids Directory of Long Island*
If you should find yourself considering a furry addition to a houseful of small children my first bit of advice to you is this--don’t. But if you are the type to ignore that little responsible voice in your head (as I am) then here are a few things to keep in mind to make the transition a little smoother…
1) Abandon all notions of your children frolicking happily with their new best friend. Puppies bite. A lot. Small children don’t really seem to like it very much despite your assurance that he’s “just playing”. I anticipated having to battle with my kids to feed and groom the dog. I did not, however, anticipate having to fight with them to play with the puppy. Approximately 20 minutes after bringing Ozzy inside each child found themselves perched across the back of the couch with their knees up around their ears and they have scarcely moved from that spot since. If they can’t get somewhere by following the path along the back of loveseat, over the coffee table and up the side of baby gate, they don’t go. They like the dog, don’t get me wrong. They shout out a chorus of “aww isn’t he cute?” and frequently tell me how much they love having a pet. They even occasionally work up the nerve to lean over the edge of the couch and poke him as he runs by. But they still want me to carry them from room to room.
2) Puppy training is NOT the same as potty training. I was pretty secure in my notion that, having successfully potty trained four (soon to be five) kids, I’d be a whiz at housebreaking the dog. Well, I was wrong… to put it mildly. Potty training children doesn’t typically require one to stand outside in the rain at wearing pajamas and your husbands sneakers singing “go poopoos!”. Nor do you need to deal with the after-effects of deworming medication (I will refrain from expounding on that experience. You’re welcome. Trust me.). I’ve spent seven years up to my elbows in dirty diapers offering M&M’s for tinkles, yet training one little 10-pound puppy has brought me to my knees.
3) All toys are fair game. I wasn’t too worried about the chewing thing. I was warned, but having watched three dog training clips on YouTube, I felt fairly prepared. Surprisingly, The Dog Whisperer I am not. The kids’ toys end up in the dogs mouth, the dog's toys end up in the kids mouths, my toys (cellphone, iPod, sunglasses) end up in everyone’s mouths. My left flip-flop has puppy teeth marks, my right has a perfect impression of my 2 year-old's underbite. The kids’ socks, so carelessly discarded throughout the house, are being obliterated one by one. However, the $50 invested in doggie toys have not gone to waste. The kids will inevitably grab a squeaky toy, each of a different pitch and squeeze it relentlessly. Next Christmas, I’ll buy Barbies for the dog to chew and rubber mallard ducks for the kids.
4) Remember all that free time you had before? Yeah neither do I, but however little time you had before, forget about it. Every spare moment I once enjoyed is now filled with walks, potty breaks (for the dog, not you, never for you, but if you have kids you already know that), games of fetch (which consist of you throwing a ball and the baby bringing it back to you while the dog pees in your shoe), trips to the dog park (dog equivalent to an afternoon at Chuck-E-Cheese's, *shudder*), and baths (note: a vanilla scented wet dog still smells like a wet dog).
Lest I discourage anyone from adopting a man's best friend of their own, not everything has been terrible. Little Ozzy has stolen my heart. The kids love him (when he’s asleep) and he has added something to our lives that was missing before (a furry couch). I look forward to all of our days ahead with him and companionship he will lend to all of us. I look forward to the protection his massive paws will one day offer and the relentless love and loyalty he has already begun to show us. I was never much of a dog person, not in the sense that many of my friends are, but raising Ozzy has opened my eyes to what pets have to offer a family of any size.