Dog Parenting 101

Man’s best friend, the best companion to any person happy, sad or depressed. Research shows that pets make our lives healthier. But what about what makes their life healthier? Do we do everything in our power to make their lives as happy as they make us?

Adopting a puppy is a big decision. I only really understood the weight of that when we adopted Sophie. Here, it was not my mother who would be the default parent. It was me and H – we were the adopters, we had to sign the papers and we got visited by the NGO volunteers and we were the ones who were enquired about our lifestyle and our work hours. It was completely different from chipping in to help when I was at Bangalore home.

In Germany, adopting a dog is a lot money, but caring for him/her, even more. I often joke about how it’s easier to have a baby here than a dog. We pay a quarterly dog tax, and in case she needs the doctor, it’s far too expensive. There’s also the piggy bank for liability : in case she damages property or hurts some other dog or person. Plus food and pet supplies. That’s all the financials.

Dogs need space, movement and love. If you have an apartment (which is the case for us), it means ensuring long enough walks : not just for her business, but also for exercise and fresh air. Going out for Sophie means socialising with other dogs and running freely in a pool of grass, rolling on it so its smell masks her own. For us, it means spending quality time and being there for her, just like she is for us. It means fun and play and strengthening that bond of unconditional love!

Love, hate or indifference – it’s a two way street. When Sophie missed something, she took to letting us know by destroying something in the house. When she was left for long hours by herself, she would rip a letter, or poop in a corner, she would tear a cloth into little pieces or completely take apart pens and markers. Once, I was late from class and she had fed herself some kibble and the entire 5 kilo packet was lying open in the kitchen. Yes, they’re all tantrums, but not without reason.

photo_1467891627998
Evidence of one of her tantrum days.

Maybe she can’t talk, but she sure has her ways of communicating. And so do all other dogs. It’s a matter of listening and looking for the signs. We had a working rhythm before K was born. The stress of a sibling, the lack of attention gave her a rash all over her body. That, I’m happy to say, is also dealt with now. We make sure we spend time with her too, not just when we’re out. We heard her, and we changed and moved stuff around, because she is also part of our life and our lifestyle involves her. She obviously feels the difference because she’s not destroying anything, nor is she getting stressed out.

img_5824
Best friends in the making 🙂

Even with the imperfect days, she is in our day and all our plans. That’s what it means to be a dog parent. That’s what it means to include someone in your life, even a dog that can’t tell you in words to make time. It’s a massive commitment, and a huge responsibility. Just like making babies, it’s not for everyone, and that’s fine. But if it is something you want to dive into, make sure you’re giving it your all, otherwise don’t bother.