In about an hour and a half I will be bringing home Augustus, AKA Gus, a very little, very cute miniature long-haired dachshund — our family’s first dog ever.
Gus is a friendly little guy with a face that melted our hearts. (Take a look and see for yourself). We have visited his breeder twice to play with him and help him become familiar with our scent. In the presence of his mother, father and pack-mates he is happy-go-lucky, playful yet laid-back…the perfect temperament. I know he will miss them and we are determined to make him feel loved and safe.
This morning I am humming that old Jackson Browne song, “Ready or Not,” composed when his girlfriend was expecting a baby. I keep thinking of the line, “take a look in my eyes, and tell me brother if you think that I am ready.”
Part of me thinks that we are ready. We’ve read the Dog Whisperer books and
watched dozens of the TV shows. We’ve learned the importance of having calm, assertive presence. We’ve learned about the proper interplay of love and limits, and how we should mirror the behavior of our pet’s mother for best results. We’ve scoped out the best places in the house for our pet’s new hangout, spent about $300 at the pet store on the right supplies and food; put electrical cords out of reach.
But yet I worry about not being ready. At age 58, I have never had a dog. My husband had several when he was growing up but hasn’t cared for a dog in decades. Growing up we had aquarium fish, including a red-tailed shark that nipped the tails of other fish. Most of our fish died pretty early, except for Andy, an angelfish that hung around for a few years. While my two grown children were small we had Jessie, our cat, who died in 2003. We now have Angel, a guinea pig, who is very low maintenance and happy staying in her cage and munching carrots.
So, with only our 14-year-old at home with us, we have had several years of things being easy. Our youngest child can dress himself, get his own food, go to bed without any pushing on our part. We haven’t changed a diaper, worried about potty accidents or used a baby gate in 11 years. We’ve spent many years helping our children become independent, to think for themselves and care for themselves. Without anybody else to really fret or fuss over, it’s been incredibly easy to just focus on our own needs. Am I ready to devote a lot of time now to putting our new pet’s needs first? To adjust to a new routine whenever we go outside or on errands?
Yesterday we were on a plane flying back from California when the in-flight entertainment included a documentary called “Why We Love our Cats and Dogs.” They interviewed people who said that their pets made them less focused on themselves. Even if they were tired, depressed or angry, the dog’s needs got them out of bed and into the world. Ultimately, that made them happier, better human beings.
I also re-read my brother-in-law Mike’s wonderful essay about his dog Molly, written just after she passed away. It gave me an appreciation for the joy that dogs can bring to our lives. Like us, Mike did not feel ready to take on a dog; it was something his children wanted before he accepted it. But over time he grew to love that dog like a child.
All of us are looking forward to experiencing that overwhelming love with our new pet, Gus. We are prepared for some adjustment problems, and despite being well-versed in Dog Whisperer techniques we know that we’ll be doing a lot of learning together with Gus while we adjust to each other. Yes, brother, I think that I am ready.