April 9, 2012

Bailey, The New Puppy: One Month and Counting

From a post almost a year ago a reader asked this question:


"When our dog goes to dog heaven, do we enjoy our less complicated life, or do we continue with the complications a pet brings, and continue to reap the rewards of having a true friend to share our lives? There is no right answer, but I'd like to hear what people say." 

As you know we answered that question by adding Bailey to our family a month ago. 30 days is long enough to assess the initial impact on our satisfying retirement lifestyle. What has she added to our life and where has she complicated things? 

The overall impact has been remarkably positive. She is a quick learner in many ways and an absolute people-person dog. She is happiest snuggled up alongside one of us. She will pick up a piece of dog food and carry to our side before eating it. She then repeats the process dozens of times until her food bowl is empty. 

If one of us is on the sofa and one in a chair she is torn, so she does what anyone would do: she divides her time between the two locations so she gets to be next to each of us. Bailey will sleep in the oddest positions if it means she can be touching our feet.

One day a week  or so ago Betty had to be gone all day, helping our eldest daughter with her daycare business. I would be alone with the puppy for 12 hours. That meant constant "bathroom" duty, watching where she was at all times while still trying to get my chores and work done. Truthfully, I was nervous. I hoped my patience didn't wear thin or my frustration level jump off the chart.

Bailey teaching me how to relax
Exactly the opposite happened. Being with Bailey for that long meant I had to slow down, stop working all day, and just go with the flow. Because the weather was beautiful and she loves to be outside, I spent a good part of the day on the porch, reading a book, writing on the laptop, and watching her. She learned that birds can fly and she can't. She discovered that helicopters make scary sounds. She noticed other dogs in the neighborhood when they barked. She delighted in rolling around in the grass and chomping on sticks. And, every few minutes she would come back to my side to be sure I was still nearby.

By the end of the day I realized I had one of the most relaxing and satisfying days in a long time. The puppy forced me to experience something other than my normal routine, and in the process fully enjoy my day. 

All is not perfect, after all she is a 12 week old puppy. She has particular corners of the dining room that will do just fine for potty breaks. She occasionally waits too long to identify the need to find the doggie door (our rug cleaner is getting lots of use). When one of us returns after being gone for awhile she tends to lose bladder control from the joy of seeing us again. She has yet to sleep through every night so an occasional wake up whine around 4:30 AM is still normal. She loves to nip at us, both to explore her world and to signal her excitement and affection. She is learning basic commands but having a leach attached is still a frustrating experience for her. 

We have figured out how to leave the house to run errands without sending her into a tizzy. Both Betty and I can be upstairs while Bailey is behind a gate, crying softly for a few minutes before lying down to await our return. She is developing the feeling of trust that tells her we will be back, she is not being abandoned. 

But, without a moment's hesitation I can honestly say that adding this young life to our life has been a tremendously positive experience. In just one month we find we miss her if we are gone for a few hours. Her unconditional love and "snuggability" are enriching us and our home life. She is teaching me patience and to live more in the moment. She is reminding me that a little urine on the rug is not a big deal. She is forcing me to experience a satisfying retirement on a new level.


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24 comments:

  1. She is adorable. All the best with her.

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    1. She does add a whole dimension to our lives.

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  2. My suggestion in two words: crate training. We are experienced dog owners/puppy raisers. Training your pup to maintain a sleeping and safe space in a roomy wire crate will solve a lot of the problems of puppyhood for you as well as Bailey. Either way, enjoy.

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  3. My comment was going to be having a crate too! You would be surprised how much they like it - makes them feel safe and secure. Whenever I had to leave my puppy alone at home (to do errands), I would put her in the crate. When my house was listed for sale and I got a call from a realtor that someone was coming over to view it, I put my puppy in a crate in the garage, and not a peep out of her. I always had a little toy/stuffie in there for her too. Anyway, it's your call, but to lessen the puppy's anxiety of being home alone, having a crate to feel safe and secure in is what I would recommend as well. Sandy

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  4. I smiled through this whole post.

    And I don't mean to be a smart aleck, but I'd be pretty frustrated if I had a leach attached to me too! (Darn spell check)

    I'm following your puppy tale with delight and interest, as getting a dog in my retirement years is one of my wishes. I still think I'd get an older shelter dog though.

    My Mom had a dog in her later years, and after almost getting rid of it because it was a chewer, a crate was a sanity and puppy saver. Daisy ended up loving her crate, would seek refuge in it when the grandchildren bothered her, and when it was decided to take it away when she grew into calm adulthood, she missed it and looked for it for quite awhile.

    CindyP.

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  5. What a great addition to your life. She looks like our Sydney, who's a cockapoo. I agree, nothing beats the unconditional love of a pet. My only concern about it during retirement is the restrictions on travel. If they can't go with you it's expensive to get a dog sitter or board them.

    Doesn't really matter though because I can't imagine my life without my dogs and if that means less travel so be it. Thanks for the post and helping me answer my own question. ;)
    b

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    1. Travel issues are the big unknown. With a friend as a dog sitter we have a reasonable priced backup but she won't be available all the time. We have built some money into our budget for kennels, but who knows what the total costs will be.

      As you note, Barbara, the cost is worth it. Her love is such a blessing to our life.

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  6. Great story Bob. We have some very good neighbors on our rural road. The retired couple across the road have seven kids living within a mile and they treat us as their second retired parents. So, getting a pet sitter is pretty easy for us. We have four vacation trips planned for this year (we are coming off one right now) so it doesn't really restrict us. I can't image our life with my 65lb sweety-pie Basset or our rescue cat Dexter.
    You are going to have to get a cat next to keep Bailey occupied while you are gone. I would love to have a nanny-cam to see what those two do while we are away!

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    1. Welcome home from Omaha. It sounded like a great trip. I haven't been to Omaha for years, well before that warehouse district came into being.

      It is rather amazing how quickly a pet can occupy such an important part in one's life. I'm glad, though, that Bailey will only be 15 pounds or so. 65 pounds would be a bit much for us to manage!

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  7. To Mark, Anon, and Cindy P,

    We do have a crate for her. She slept in it for the first few weeks we had her. Since then we have modified the laundry room as her private space: she has a doggie door to the side yard, her food and water bowls, a soft puppy bed, and the crate. She does retreat to the crate for naps or if things get too hectic. She never soils "her" area and learned to use the door very quickly.

    Recently, we started placing a gate across the entrance to the laundry room. She now quietly sleeps through the night and waits for us to come down in the morning.

    Since I wrote this post about a week ago she has gotten much better with not soiling inside. Only when she is excited will she realize too late to go out. She loves our backyard so we installed a second doggie door from the family room directly to the backyard. She figured it out in 30 seconds.

    Right now, the nipping is our major focus. She needs to get that under control.

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  8. We had a beloved Cocker spaniel for fifteen years. She died the day after my younger daughter graduated high school. For the next six years I resisted getting another dog, because I wanted to enjoy our entry into empty nesting. About two years ago I felt the nurturing urge come over me again, and we rescued a five year old English spaniel we named Lady. Her name is appropoe to her demeanor - very gentle and ladylike. We adore her like there is no tomorrow!

    I think of her as my spiritual guider - she reminds me to live in the moment. Her needs are so simple - food, companionship and her beloved daily walk - she reminds me to stop unnecessarily complicating my life. She appears to worship both my husband and me, which reminds us of the power of love in its simplest form.

    We leave her with my husband's sister when we are out of town. My sister in law adores dogs and takes care of Lady as if she were hers. Quite honestly, since travel is so high on our early retirement agenda, I'm not sure another dog would have been in our future had we not had built in dog sitting. But we do, and because Lady is so happy in her second home we can travel at will without worry. Though we do miss her terribyl when we are gone!

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    1. A dog as a spiritual guide: that is exactly the function Bailey performed on the day I had to watch her. That 12 hours was probably the most I have ever in the moment in many years.

      It is amazing how quickly one can become attached to a pet. If we are gone for more than an hour we wonder how she is doing. The answer is, just fine. But still.....

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  9. I'm glad Bailey is working out so well for you. Puppies are fun, but we're more of a "pick an older dog from the local rescue" people. We've had Bug, an 8-9 year old chihuahua, for a couple of weeks now. He's not the happiest dog in the world yet, but we're working on that. He is a friendly (chihuahua-friendly, not labrador-friendly), laid-back, house-trained (mostly)companion to us and our other chihuahua, who recently suffered the loss of both her best buddies to age and heart disease. The cats' noses are a bit out of joint, but he leaves them alone and they don't bother him.

    Travel isn't on our agenda, since we have health issues and multiple animals, but the budget doesn't stretch that far very often, anyway. I can't imagine life without the critters, and I hope your family and Bailey have lots of years together.

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    1. Our first choice would have been a rescue dog. But, allergies for both Betty and my daughter restrict the breeds rather severely. Cockers and Poddles are it, neither of which show up very often in shelters.

      Thanks for your well wishes. I think we are off to a great start.

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  10. We are currently dog sitting our daughter's cocker spaniel while she is in Italy (drat her for not taking me with her...) and enjoying it very much. Daisy is a perfect dog--sweet, companionable, leaves the cats alone, eats, does her business outside.

    I'm so glad you have darling Bailey!!

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    1. She goes to Italy while you get the dog? Let's think about that for a minute. Actually, we can relate. Our youngest daughter is living with us at the moment and is very helpful with the dog. She is going on a mission trip to Eastern Europe next month for 9 days and we'll stay with the dog. We will miss her, as well as her help with Bailey.

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  11. Awww, the pic of Bailey curled up is so cute! Your stories about her are reminding me of my first dog Bandit. I got him when he was a 12 week old puppy too, and I went through almost everything you have written about. I finally took him to an obedience school after about a month because I was at the end of my rope, and it ended up being a great decision. They finished housebreaking him and taught him the basic commands, then worked with us together. From then on he was my best friend. Sadly he died a few years ago - old age and arthritis finally got the best of him.

    It took several years before I was ready for another dog, and I adopted Oliver from a rescue group. He was 3 when I got him so a lot of the 'training' had already been done. I too wondered how getting another dog would impact my semi-retirement, and I haven't regretted it. The school also boards dogs, and I trust them implicitly. I factor in the boarding cost into any vacation plans right now, but I plan to try him out in a hotel this summer.

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    1. We found out a little black pepper works will as a deterrent on the edge of various area rugs that she likes to chew. And, if we dampen our hands she will lick them instead of nipping at them. We praise her and slowly she is learning what pleases us.

      The Petsmart nears us has vets as well as a doggie day camp and overnight facilities that we will try once she has had her rabies shot at 16 weeks.

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  12. I love the way she led you to have a very different and relaxing day. That itself is worth its weight in gold! She looks adorable. Glad having her is an enriching experience for you and your wife.

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  13. Bob, I can not imagine my life without a dog. Sweetie, my Westie, is getting older. As a single person, not retired, she is ideal for me. I work the night shift. She in turn has developed my sleep routine. She always wants to be by my side. I can definitely say that her positives in my life out way any negatives. Actually, there are not many negatives. This is a great post. I always enjoy everything that you write. May you have many wonderful moment with the new puppy. I am sure there will be much unconditional love in your home.

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    1. Like Sweetie, our Bailey is happier within inches of us. There are a few times during the day when she goes into what we call her "crazy rabid squirrel" phase (from the movie Over the Hedge)where she runs around full tilt, with wild eyes, nipping at everything and anyone. Then, we have to separate ourself from her until it passes.

      She is learning to go outside when needed, though there are still occasional mistakes. Luckily our carpeting is old and is scheduled to be replaced in the fall, so she can't do much serious damage.

      Overall, we are quite happy with our decision.

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  14. Bob,
    I really like your article on the new pup. Pets are so consoling, caring, and loving. Really do not know quite how I did without them for so many years. During my working years, and there were many, I always told children and the wife that we did not have time for pets. Now I have two boxer dogs and has my life changed.....for the better.

    In reading your article, it would be easy to put myself in exactly the same story. I have had my boxers for 5 years now. I first started with one male boxer puppy that a retiring co-worker kinda forced on me. I reluctantly tuck it in. Then six months later, the same co-worker retired and was planning on moving to Arizona to live. He asked me if I would take his male and female, as he was moving into a condo that did not allow larger dogs. Well, I was shocked. But after talking it over with my wife and a one week trail period, we took full custody. This pair was also the parents of the puppy we took in. It took about 3 weeks for the three to become full members of the family, so there was no turning back.

    I began dog walks twice a day. Exercising was something that I had not bothered to do for years. I could go on and on about the changes that they brought to our lives and how they have became like children to us, but I am sure no one is up to how long and dragged out that could become.

    I will say that we just do not realize just how important our pet companions are to us until we loose one. At 2 1/2 yrs old, our little once little puppy Diesel, that first boxer of the three, was diagnosed with chronic renal failure. We spent a lot of time, money, and effort to make him comfortable. But CRF is incurable for dogs and he passed away one year later. The day was January 14, 2011. I still think fondly of him every day, and not a day goes by that the feelings we had and continue to have are that he was like a son to us. Crazy, huh?

    Sorry to drag on, so on to why I am committing. As you know, dogs, and boxers in particular can get extremely excited over the simplest things, including their family members coming home. I have found the perfect way to handle this and you will be amazed at how wonderful it works, even though it is a simple and quick fix. You simply have to practice it every time.

    Here it is: When you or your wife come inside the home, or anywhere the dog is at, simply keep your hands up at the waist or higher, and your head up and ignore the dog. Do not acknowledge the dog, do not pet or look at the dog until you are at the place in the house where you are ready to give attention. I know it sounds simple, but it really works. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

    Steve

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    1. Bailey gets so excited when we return (whether it has been 30 minutes or 4 hours) she piddles due to excitement and becomes quite agitated with nipping and such.

      We have started doing exactly what you suggested. We walk in through the garage door and straight out to the backyard without even looking at her. Then, we greet her and she goes wacky..almost immediately peeing and then running and bouncing with joy and excitement. It lessens the accidents in the house and allows her to burn off some of her energy.

      She is our fourth dog and is likely to become just as important to us as the previous three.

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  15. You've got a great blog to follow! More power to you!

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