GREAT EXPECTATIONS

You think you are alone.  Everyone else sees your new little bundle of fluff as fun and exciting.  As the neighbors ooh and aah in delight over Oscar’s antics, you heart starts to sink.  What have you done?  How did you ever think that getting this puppy would add delight to your life?

It all starts with an image.  The image that we focus in our heads is one of the loyal, faithful companion.  The companion that is willing to dole out unconditional love to us after a hard day at the office.  We visualize ourselves tossing a stick on a beach just as the sunset is approaching.  We visualize ourselves sipping coffee at an outdoor café with our dogs patiently waiting at our sides and we visualize just how cool this dog will be as he lopes around the dog park, with only eyes for you.

And your journey begins.  You start to look for the breed of dog you think will suit your lifestyle.  You search for breeders and you comb the local pound in search of the ideal dog.  You decide on a set of criteria and you are determined to stick to it.  After all, if you stick to your criteria, the outcome should be great.  You hunt around for information at every place you stop.  The other dog owners are thrilled for you and more than happy to give out the name of their Veterinarian and trainer and your sense of elation gets even higher.  You are prepared, so this venture should be perfect.

The big day arrives and Oscar comes home.  You have done your homework, you feed him the best foods, you exercise and train him.  You are consistent with the house rules and wham…it hits you!  This wasn’t what you had visualized at all.

The initial honeymoon stage is over, the novelty has worn thin and Oscar becomes more of a nuisance than a companion.  He doesn’t seem to take to toilet training as quickly as your cousin’s dog.  He jumps more, chews more, barks more and digs more than you ever expected and now sometimes you wonder if you even like him anymore.

The fact is that almost everyone feels this same sense of doubt.  We worry about the choice we made, not the choice of dog but the actual choice to add a dog to our family.  
Taking a closer look at the rest of our lives, all the big events in life seem to go through the same initial stages.  Not that comparing a new car is like the arrival of a puppy, but the stages are similar.  

When I made up my mind to switch vehicles, the process was exciting.  I went to the car lots and got all the brochures.  I did my research and invested in the lemon-aid book, a guide to used cars.  All this preparation was part of the fun.  After laying out my criteria it seemed that I would never find a vehicle that had everything on my list.  Finally, the perfect vehicle was sitting on the lot, at the right price!  It was so perfect that it was difficult to say no.  After all, if I said no to this vehicle, then what was I looking for?  I signed on the dotted line and once again became excited by the prospect of my new van.  Upon picking it up, it was a delight.  It was peppy and had a great stereo system.  As I do a lot of traveling with my dogs, one of my main criteria was that the van had to have rear air conditioning.  Well, it did have that, but when I started to move the seats around to accommodate the dogs, I noticed a small glitch.  It was a bit more difficult to arrange them in the configuration that was originally planned.  This was a source of distress for me for a month or so.  I lamented over the fact that my old vehicle was perfect for the crate set up.  Eventually, I got used to the new van and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.  

As previously stated, comparing dog ownership to van ownership is not the issue here.  The issue is that all big events have stages.  If the facts were told, most new moms face certain doubts, coupled with feelings of joy and all the ups and downs that are left in the middle.  While most new mothers know that this is normal during the adjustment stage, others need help during this difficult time.

Death causes stages of emotions and grieving.  This situation is so “normal” that these stages are documented.  It is a sense of comfort to people to know that their reaction during this process is considered normal.

It seems then, that it would be considered normal to experience some kind of emotional upheaval when a dog is suddenly living in your house.

The great news is that this is just what we thought it would be…a phase.  This phase seems to start at the beginning of the second month after getting your dog and lasting, on average, about one month.  While weathering out this storm, many dog owners feel stressed and then add guilt onto the stress.  As their relationship grows and changes, a routine starts to take place.  They may not be living with the dog they thought they would have, but they are living with the dog they now love and wouldn’t change their experience.  As time goes on, the memory fades and before long it is inconceivable that any other dog would be as perfect as Oscar.

“At first, I wanted to send her back.  I thought I had made a mistake.  After ten months, nothing and nobody could make me give her up.”
      Citizen Canine, 2002