Restless nights: Adjusting to Life with a Puppy

5:43 AM. I sit at the kitchen table and watch Pickle gobble down the mush of wet and dry food mix from her silver bowl, chasing it as she noses it across the floor. My eye lids barely stay open enough to focus on the clock, and all I want is to crawl back into bed under the warm comforter.

We’ve hit the two-week mark as puppy parents. Understandably, life around the house has changed in many ways, some expected and others not so much. We can’t look forward to those late mornings after a long night out with friends. Our Friday nights are more about reconnecting after a week of barely seeing each other, and not so much about bar hopping and late night movies.

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I have essentially become a stay at home dad, responsible for Pickle’s overall well-being. Kira (my beautiful girlfriend and Pickle’s momma) has taken the responsibility as being the bread-winner, leaving every morning for her salaried job to provide for us. In the meantime, the juggling act at home is between doing laundry, letting Pickle go potty, doing dishes, feeding Pickle, playing with Pickle, folding laundry, letting Pickle go potty … you get the picture. Notice nowhere did I mention the moments I get time to cook lunch or address my lack of personal hygiene the last two weeks. Our worlds have shrunk to the tightly woven carpet in the living room and our 25 sq/ft porch where Pickle pees.

Somehow, between all the 2AM wake up calls, the separation anxiety when we step to the other side of her baby gate, and her incessant need to nibble us with her needle like baby teeth, somehow we find the little moments of joy. When she is napping, or discovering new parts of her ever-growing world.

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And with it all, we refuse to complain. We chose to take this journey together, and our lives have changed in so many great ways. A month ago, I was shoveling dirt and hauling compost for a landscape designer, doing the grunt work to help create his visions. When Georgia Peaches informed us that we would be adopting Pickle, my girlfriend and I decided I would become a stay at home dad. I love Kira for having the faith in me to raise the new member of our home, and to take the risk of supporting our family while I try not only maintain the well-being of Pickle, but also build two businesses. Only now devoting my time to create and develop these projects, between all the blogging and posting pictures to Instagram like a proud dad. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better partner to help me through my journey to being a business owner, or to raise a baby.

For us, Pickle is our baby. She cries, she has accidents, she’s curious and constantly learning about the world. And we are the ones in charge of bringing sense to her mind and teaching her that the world is a great place.

The leaves are changing, and the warmth of summer is clinging to the air in Seattle. The past two weeks have brought changes to our lives that surpass the beauty and wonder of the autumn foliage. And every morning, as Kira and I wake to the whimpers and barking of our sweet little Pickle, we will hold a smile on our face, because we know it’s a new day of surprises.

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Ok, she’s Fixed, Can we Have Our Puppy Now?

I couldn’t blame her for being upset. If someone denied me breakfast I’d be pissed too. But her barking and howling seemed to have a feel of sadness, like she knew what was coming today. She was scheduled to get spayed, and the road to her procedure had finally reached its end.

The fiasco started a week ago, with a phone call to the vet clinic to confirm her surgery appointment. But instead of confirming, Pickle’s spay appointment was put on hold because the vet thought she was too small. This made sense to us, she was emaciated when she arrived from Georgia and was a small dog in general.

So we forgot about the appointment, planning on getting her checked again once she was bigger. The spaying was important, just on the back burner until it was approved. That is, until the text came yesterday from the rescue saying they wanted us to go ahead with the surgery.

Confusion ensued. Was Pickle too young, too small, was she ready for a hysterectomy? A series of panicked phone calls essentially led to me figuring out that the vet I thought was doing the procedure was not the vet doing the procedure. Long story short, there was an appointment at 8:30 the next morning at the Seattle Animal Shelter and Pickle was going under the knife.

And in the morning we were there, getting Pickle spayed and chipped. (Not sure if you’ve ever seen one of those chips, but holy crud!) After a big miscommunication with the rescue and having to scramble to even get the chip, here we were at the front desk checking in for Pickle’s procedure.

Now, I don’t know what it is with pets and the vet’s office, but the instant we walked through the door Pickle was shaking and whimpering. As I tried to hold her and fill out the preliminary questionnaire, her anxiety worsened and she almost squirmed out of my arms a couple times.

And then she was gone, behind the doors to the kennel area, only her barking and howling to escort me out to my car. Off I went to wait until the procedure was done and I got the call to take Pickle home.

When the call finally came, I struggled to hear the voice of the secretary over the barking of what I was sure to be Pickle. “I think she’s ready to come home,” was all I could make out. The SAS staff was very clear with helping to understand the procedure, assuring me that everything went normal, and steps necessary to help Pickle recover quickly and correctly, and Pickle weighed in at a whopping 8 pounds during her exam! She’s getting so big! Honestly, though, I was just happy to have my puppy back in my arms.

The car ride home was a bit heartbreaking. Every bump in the road, every time Pickle shifted in her crate, led to a slight whimper from the back seat. With each whimper, I don’t know which one of us was in more pain.

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The major positive to come out of all of this is that now we can officially adopt our sweet little Pickle. Washington State law prohibits rescues from adopting out dogs that are unaltered, so we have been in limbo with the adoption process for the past week. As her foster parents she won’t see any change in our status as her mom and dad, but now we’ll officially be her parents!

As far as the spaying, the challenge now is figuring out how to keep a 10 week old puppy from getting too active. We were assured that puppies tolerate the pain well and are generally so distracted with the world around them that they don’t play with their incisions. Luckily Pickle is only highly active in short bursts, and like any baby, enjoys her naps. Now we are crossing or fingers the recovery process is smooth for her. After being flown in from Georgia, separated from her siblings, shuffled between houses and now going through a stressful surgery, it’s time for her to just be a puppy.

UPDATE: We had quite the scare last night. Pickle did not handle the food she ate after her surgery and at around 5:30 started to throw all of it up. Her little stomach couldn’t handle the effects of the anestesia, and was rejecting everything.

By the time my girlfriend, Kira, got home from work, Pickle was clearly uncomfortable. “She looks emaciated!” was Kira’s shocked response to the skinny, miserable puppy that welcomed her home. “Call the vet, now!”

An emergency clinic in the U-District assured me it was just a response to the drugs, and I reluctantly took their word and tried to reassure Kira. Pickle would have to go the night without food, but was drinking water, so that made me feel better. She stopped throwing up, and found a comfortable spot on her blanket and slept all through the night (she didn’t even wake us up to pee during the night).

When breakfast time came, Pickle was more of her tail wagging self. She wolfed down her food and hasn’t thrown up this morning. We did notice, though, that she is hesitant to pee outside right now, either because she can’t hold it due to some uncomfortable effects of the surgery, or if it’s because the weather is miserable. We don’t know, but Pickle will get some slack, for now.

Potty Training … for Humans

Surprise, puppies don’t come potty trained.

We were painfully reminded of this fact the first night our little Pickle came home. She was stressed out with an upset stomach and her poo was, well, loose. To add extra trauma to our already unpleasant evening, Pickle is too young to be out on public ground where lots of dogs are able to go to the bathroom. Her immune system is not yet strong enough to fight off lots of the illnesses older dogs carry, and is still 5 weeks from being completely vaccinated.

Oh, and there’s the little, minor, not-that-big-of-a-deal issue of us moving into a new place that does not have a grass yard.

But we were “prepared”.

In a small 1-1/2 X 2-1/2 ft tub, we gave her the only yard that we could. We filled it with dirt, and a small patch of sod that we hoped she would take and adopt as her short-term potty spot. Our efforts, though, were futile. She had come from a foster home with a full backyard to roam, and this little patch of sod wasn’t cutting it for her. For two days we suffered through accidents and using the sidewalk as her only potty spot. Any sign of squatting, and out we rushed to the porch, first to the sod, which she would usually tear up and try to destroy, then to the sidewalk where at least she had learned to do her business. It wasn’t ideal, but at least she was going to the bathroom.

So we plotted. We schemed. We drew blueprints. And finally the three of us got in the car and drove to Home Depot. One cart load of planter boxes, grass plants, a bag of dirt and two bags of river rock later, we were in business.

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The result was turning our roughly 25sq/ft porch into a doggie play pen. (Note, we started with the grass tub in the upper right.) She was instantly drawn to the different textures and terrain. I was glad the summer I just spent working alongside a landscape designer paid off!

Soon, she was even using it to go to the bathroom!

Eventually I'll get a camera better than my phone.

I feel bad that we can’t expose our puppy to the world she sees off the porch, but better to be safe with her young, weak immune system. Luckily it has been a few days and the accidents inside have almost stopped, so she must have figured it out. I’m happy to say she only went “#2” inside the one time, and she whines and barks when she needs to go out when in her kennel. We are thankful to have a pretty smart pup 🙂

Some natural questions follow (at least in my head) about keeping the space clean. Well, we’re working on that. I made the joke this morning (much to the annoyance of my girlfriend) that date night now involved a bucket of soapy water, two scrub brushes, and soiled river rock. I think she’ll buy in soon.

At least Pickle has bought in and seems happy with the space. Soon as she’s old enough we’ll be able to branch out (and maybe even get our sitting area back) and we can dismantle the play pen. But for now, I’m just happy she’s not going inside.

Georgia Peaches Puppy Rescue

I would not feel right without sending a HUGE thank you to the wonderful people at Georgia Peaches Puppy Rescue for helping us to bring little Pickle (formerly Gracie) into our home! We are so happy to be able to contribute to such a great organization!

Georgia Peaches Puppy Rescue (GPPR) rescues puppies and dogs from high kill shelters in the southeast and places them in loving homes in the northwest. To find out how you can contribute (they have adoption, foster, volunteer and donation needs) please check them out at http://peachpuppies.org/.

I’d like to send a special shout out to Ranny Spengler and her family who fostered Pickle before we took her home. Ranney is an awesome 15 year old (yea, 15!) who arranged all of our meet ups and visits to meet Pickle. She is also a huge player in the GPPR scene and is bound to do some amazing things. I’d also like to single out Christine Noble for coordinating our visits and helping us through the foster and adoption process, and any of the staff that either myself or my girlfriend talked to. You guys are amazing!

Puppy Parenthood

I never understood the angst, the worry, the heart wrenching misery that passed the face of each customer that left their dogs to board with us. I grew up with and around dogs, and working at the boarding kennel had me around 20, maybe 30 dogs everyday. They were dogs. I didn’t see any reason for customers to be so choked up by being away from their DOGS for 3 days.

Then we got a puppy.

And everything became clear.

Leavin10580915_10154628325785711_8078712601226093434_og from the foster home (huge shout out to them for an awesome job!) the whole picture took place. What if our new puppy got sick? What if she got in the garbage and ate chocolate? What if she borrowed into her blanket and suffocated in her sleep?! All the irrational, crazy thoughts came flooding into my head in a flash, and I understood.

I was too young to remember raising my puppy when I grew up. She was 7 weeks, I was 6 years. In short, I didn’t raise her, my parents did. I didn’t worry about her shots, food, potty breaks, treats, training … my parents did. And even though I spent 17 years with that dog, and had spent the last almost 2 1/2 years in a dog kennel and dog sitting for friends, I was not prepared for the emotions that suddenly drudged their way up into my gut.

Worry. Angst. Nervousness.

All of my confidence was sucked away by a pair of muddy brown eyes. As my girlfriend and I welcomed her into our home, reality became about vet visits, proper dieting, safe potty breaks. Now, I understood why I had to console every pet owner that left their dog with us at the kennel. I understood that they were feeling what I was feeling, watching our new pup use her food dish and play with her toys for the first time.

This four legged wonder was more than just an animal in our world. They were loved family members. And now I belonged to a special club that I had once denounced and poked fun at, but now one that I have grown to appreciate:

Puppy parenthood.