Pandemic Puppy & the lessons we’ve learned

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During the pandemic, it’s either add a pregnancy, a few pounds or a puppy, right? Well, the first is definitely not happening and I chose to live in denial about the second. But the third….we TOTALLY did the third. Although we have had adult dogs before, a puppy is a very new experience for us. And let me tell you–we have been reminded of a lot of applicable life lessons in this new journey. 

Boy and puppy

Before bringing home our 8 week old Golden Retriever pup, many people told us that it would be similar {in some ways} to bringing home a newborn. This was hard for me to believe after bringing home two actual newborns, but they weren’t totally wrong. Although it’s not nearly as hard, it is still tough. Puppies need something–LOTS of somethings–but cannot tell you with their words. They are up multiple times a night due to small bladders. They are sleep training, teething, potty training and learning new routines. You spend ALL.THE.MONEY. It’s a lot, but it’s also so amazing. Puppy-rearing, like EVERYTHING in 2020, is a lesson in patience, resiliency, growth and love. 

Dog chewing on chair

  • Lesson #1: ALL behavior is communication. Consistency is key in life. If I want Murphy to curb his “baby shark” play bitting puppy tendencies, but I giggle and show him positive attention when he does it, I am sending the message that I don’t really mean what I say. By my inconsistent behavior, I am non-verbally communicating that he doesn’t really need to listen to my command of “off”. This has a broad application, doesn’t it? Think about it: Do I expect my kids to respect and obey me and if I do–do I consistently hold them accountable to it? Do I expect the adults in life to honor my boundaries and treat me well and if I do–do I respond with calm strength when their actions are unhealthy? I may say with my words that I expect to be valued and treated well by those around me, but if I absorb poor behavior, what am I really saying? Raising a puppy has really driven home that idea that ALL of what I do is communcation and I have to wonder if I am always happy with the messages I am sending. 
  • Lesson #2: You gotta play the long game. Puppies have ENDLESS amounts of energy and it would be so easy to fudge on training because frankly……we’re tired. There are short-term rewards to that for sure. But, if we give in on something such as crate training or house breaking because it’s hard, will we be happy later when we’ve created a long-term problem to avoid a short-term inconvienence? One dog trainer told us that “Puppies don’t understand ‘sometimes’, they only understand ‘always’ and ‘never.’ So if you don’t want something always, then it’s an option never.” How true is this in life? Building a strong foundation to your relationships now–putting in the heavy lifting now–so that you aren’t cleaning up dramatic messes later. Relentlessly teaching your kids important character lessons now–in the early years–so that later there can be less tension and more bonding. Friendship, even? What do I want life to look like in the big, overall picture, and do my current choices lead me there or am I too often taking the easy way out? 
  • Lesson #3: Being needed is exhausting, but someone was that for us once too. Life just doesn’t stop, especially when you are a Mom. Even our “downtime” is usually spent folding laundry or paying bills and now….remote learning. We only consider it “downtime” because we get to finally sit, amiright??? Being everyone’s “person” is sometimes too much and that’s just the truth. When you are puppy training, you have to be “on” all the time. I can’t check-out and let Murphy guide his own needs for 12 hours as a new puppy. As hard as it is to have to keep going, we have to remember a few things: 1. Someone did it for us when we needed nurturing and there may even be people still doing it. and 2. The fact that we are someone that others need means that we are in community, which is a pretty awesome reality. Granted, it’s important to carve out time to decompress and no one is going to schedule that for us. Still, the truth that we have a beautiful, full, loud life that we need a moment from sometimes indicates TONS to be thankful for. 

Girl with puppy

  • Lesson #4: You can love the whole, but hate parts. Not everything is roses–the past 6 months has most definitely taught us that. Even when we appreciate the big picture, it’s ok to be honest and say that there are things that are really hard. For instance, I LOVE our kid’s school and their teachers and the staff. I love that they care so much for their safety, health and education. But, I hate the pressures of managing remote learning while also working while also parenting. It’s more than we were meant to do and it’s hard. In the same way, I LOVE that we are raising a loving, patient, family dog who will be well-trained, but the process of weeding naughty behaviors is all-consuming for a time. You can love the whole, even if you don’t love all of the parts. 

We can acknowledge both the holy and the hard. The two together is the truth of this life. 

  • Lesson #5: Seasons end, memories stay. Do you remember every single second of the difficult newborn days or the cranky toddler years? You may remember bits and pieces, but not every last second, because that is not how memory works. You do remember first smiles, first steps, first words and that first smash cake. Seasons end–they aren’t forever. The difficult parts fade into our subconscious, but the specific sweet memories stay even when the season is over. When Murphy is one day an old, gray in the face Golden close to that rainbow bridge, will I remember every single accident on the carpet during the potty training stage? No. But, I will remember how our kids grew up alongside him, how he was there for major milestones and brought us so much joy and how he was a product of a committed, hard working family. The “puppy season” of life ends, but the abiding love you experienced during those seasons never leave you. 

Family picture with new puppy

Did you adopt a “Pandemic Puppy” too and need some training tips? Read Rachel’s insights!

Our pets are a part of the family and so it’s hard when a family member is gone. Needing comfort? Find us here. 

There are so many ways to learn a good life lesson, so we’ve got more great content in this post!

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Becky Clark
Becky Clark is a local Rock Island mama to 2 kids--ages 10 and 6. Becky has been married to her high school best friend, Derek, since 2005. Becky and Derek have been Quad Citians for 10 years, although they originally hail from the northern Chicago suburbs. Becky is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and provides therapy services part time at South Park Psychology in Moline as a contracted private practice clinician. She also teaches Social Worker courses online for Ashford University. Becky is very active as a volunteer at the kid's school as well as at their home church, Bethany Baptist in Moline. Becky loves spending time with her family, friends and her church family. She also enjoys being a tourist in her own town, reading, crafting and volunteering for ALL the things--much to her husband's dismay. The Clarks hope to add a furry {baby} family member to their brood this summer, ensuring that no one will ever sleep again. To follow Becky's clinical therapy business on Instagram, visit her at: https://www.instagram.com/12stonescounseling/ To schedule a psychotherapy session with Becky for you or your family member, call South Park Psychology in Moline at 309-797-2900 and ask to be scheduled with Rebekah Clark

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